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When Prayer Goes Unanswered




When Prayer Goes Unanswered

Jessalyn Hutto

I have lost two children in the womb . Two darling little babies, at different stages of developement. I had the highest hopes for each of them and prayed often for their safety, growth, and healthy delivery. I prayed for their souls even before they had fingers and toes, for their future before their brains were even fully developed. I asked my God for their lives, and he refused my requests.

I was asked recently by a sweet sister in Christ if I now found it difficult to pray. From our perspective my prayers for my children were unanswered. It would be easy to assume that God either didn’t hear my prayers or that he simply didn’t care about them. Even worse, someone in my position may begin to doubt the reality of a God who doesn’t “answer” prayer. It is the perfect situation for an unbeliever to say, “Ha! You see? He isn’t really there; you are waisting your time praying to a God who can’t hear you!”

When we are faced with the unthinkable we are often faced with a crisis of theology. Suddenly what we believe about God becomes imperative to how we respond to his providence. Perhaps you have been in a similar situation or are going through one today even. It is all too common in this sin drenched world for us to face the effects of the fall. Death is all around us. Pain and suffering seem to sweep through our families as often as the flu. Hopes and dreams are too often crushed into tiny pieces of disillusionment. All the while our prayers can sometimes seem pointless.


Our prayers are only pointless if the point of prayer is to get what we want from God. If God is a genie who simply grants wishes no matter what their consequences, then a God who doesn’t grant your wish is broken and the lamp you rub as you pray might as well be sold in your next garage sale.

But this is not the God we serve. This is not the God we lift our hands in worship to. The God we entrust our deepest desires, our greatest hopes and biggest dreams to is the all knowing, all powerful, infinitely wise Lord of the Universe. The Galaxies are the work of his hands (Psalm 8:3) and yet he stoops down to provide food for the tiny birds of the air (Matthew 6:26). He is infinitely big and yet infinitely personal. The God we pray to hears our prayers (1Peter 3:12), even when it is too difficult to put them into words (Romans 8:26).

The problem isn’t that God can’t hear our prayers or that he isn’t powerful enough to grant them. God is not limited. The problem is that we are limited. Unlike our heavenly Father, we do not know what the future will bring, we do not know what he plans for our families, we do not even know what is best for our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:1). We can only see what is right in front of us; we can only ask for what seems to be the best thing at the time. But God doesn’t see like that. He sees the past, present, and future all at once. In a sense he lives with us (in our time) and yet, he also lives outside of time. His purposes are beyond our comprehension because we are limited to the here and now. He is not.

This is precisely why we bring our prayers to him: because he is the only one who has the power to answer them and because he is the only one who knows if they should be answered. I have no desire to pray to a God who will blindly answer my prayers no matter what the consequences. I would much rather spend my time in communion with the God who works out everything for my good, the God who has a glorious plan for his elect, the God whose purposes will not be thwarted.

Jesus taught us to pray according to the Lord’s will (Matthew 6:10), not our own. His will is perfect, ours is not. We can be confident that he will answer prayers that specifically echo his revealed will. Prayers such as the sanctification of another believer, that glory would be brought to the Lord through your circumstances, that he would provide a harvest of believers to missionaries across the world. Other things are not as clear. As I prayed for my little babies, I did not know if it was the Lord’s will to bring them into adulthood, but I did know this: He calls me to make my requests known to him and to trust him.

Sometimes he chooses to use the prayers of his children as the means of accomplishing his perfect will (1 Kings 17:21-24) and sometimes he doesn’t (2 Samuel 12:18-22; 2 Samuel 12:23). He always uses them to develop in us a reliance on his power and wisdom. Prayer is more than an ask and receive exchange between you and the God of the Universe. As Wayne Grudem so beautifully puts it:

God wants us to pray because prayer expresses our trust in God and is a means whereby our trust in him increases. In fact, perhaps the primary emphasis of the Bible’s teaching on prayer is that we are to pray with faith, which means trust or dependence on God. God as our Creator delights in being trusted by us as his creatures, for an attitude of dependence is most appropriate to the Creator/creature relationship. Praying in humble dependence also indicates that we are genuinely convinced of God’s wisdom, love, goodness, and power-indeed of all the attributes that make up his excellent character. When we truly pray, we as as persons, in the our character, are relating to God as a person, in the wholeness of his character. Thus all that we think or feel about God comes to expression in our prayer. It is only natural that God would delight in such activity and place much emphasis on it in his relationship with us. (Systematic Theology)

When I prayed for my children I was conversing with my Heavenly Father, who loves me and knew that their little lives would only be with me for short while. He had a plan for their lives and for their deaths. His will was to bring glory to himself through their short lives and the sanctification that such a loss would bring about in my heart.

As I shared with this dear sister:

“Some ways that the Lord has blessed me through my miscarriages are more obvious than others. I have been tremendously blessed by the opportunity to be a witness of God’s goodness even in the midst of trials. I have had the privilege of sharing in many women’s sorrow as they pass through the waves of miscarriage and loss. I have had a new appreciation for grief and been able to mourn more appropriately with those who mourn. My own character has been altered through the experience of pain and suffering. My spirit is quieter, slower to speak, more willing to listen to people, as these were the things I so treasured in others when I was going through my own trials. My relationship to my husband has grown by leaps and bounds as we have had to rely on one another through such dark times. We share a particular loss that no one else will ever be able to comprehend and that unites us. I have been able to look into my Savior’s face and acknowledge that he is indeed good and been able to feel his very real presence in the darkest of hours. These are no light blessings… they are the blessings that produce endurance, and joy in the faith. Physically, I have been blessed with two wonderful children-one of which would not have ever been conceived if I hadn’t lost my first precious child. This was the Lord’s will for me and I rejoice in it.

Would I have ever asked to miscarry? No. I will always pray for the safety of my children and hope for their safe delivery, but I am confident that the Lord does not bring any trial our way that isn’t good for us and that won’t draw us closer to him.”

And so dear sisters, I encourage you to continue in prayer. Remember that no request, if it be in line with this revealed Word, is to great. Our God is able to answer the most impossible of requests (Matthew 17:20). But do not be disheartened if he does not seem to answer your prayers. Do not think him unkind, unloving, or powerless. Instead, find in him the wisdom that knows his purposes are good and his will is perfect. Know that if your request was not answered, he, in his infinite wisdom has chosen another path for you-a path that he has planned from eternity past for his glory and your good.

Pray without ceasing to the one who is able to answer your prayers, but always with the desire that his perfect will be done, whatever it entails.