Dear Christian Sister,
I am a big fan of country music. I grew up listening to the Judds, Garth Brooks, and George Strait. Now as an adult, my favorite songs are still from the 80s-90s. I love the storytelling, the sound of a fiddle and a steel guitar.
One song that remains a favorite of mine is Garth Brooks’ “Unanswered Prayers.” In the story, the character sings about what he prayed for as a teenager and how as an adult, he thanks God for not giving him what he asked for. He realizes that God has blessed him greatly and to have received what he asked for as a young man, would mean he missed out on the life he has as an adult. He is grateful for “unanswered prayers.”
It is a poignant song about not receiving what you prayed for, but realizing that God had a better plan for your life. I love this song because, although not a worship song, it points the listener to God’s goodness and sovereignty.
But I do have an issue with the writer’s theology.
There’s no such thing as an unanswered prayer. Sure, it’s a common phrase used even in Christian conversations, but God answers all our prayers. Sometimes he just doesn’t give us what we want. He may tell us to wait. He may even say no.
God is not a genie. A prayer is not a wish. God doesn’t always give us what we ask for. He is sovereign. He has a plan and knows what is best for you and your sanctification. He has woven together the story of eternity and will bring everything to pass in a way that best glorifies Him.
When we say that God hasn’t answered our prayers, we deny His character and we attempt to glorify ourselves. This idea of unanswered prayers implies that God is not good, He is not sovereign, and doesn’t know what is best for us. It says that we know what is best for ourselves, for others, and for the bigger picture of eternity. We also say that our individual desires are more important than God’s desire for His own glory. Rather than bringing glory to God and submitting to His will, we are saying that our glory is more important that His.
Romans 8 tells us
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:26-27)
We are so weak, so finite, that we don’t even know how to pray. So how dare we challenge an all-knowing God by saying that He didn’t answer our prayers?
If you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit helps you pray, Christ is your intercessor, and the Father hears your prayers. This passage reminds us of the weakness of our humanity and magnifies the grace that God has provided to us.
When we pray, we are engaging in relationship with all three persons of the Trinity: Holy Spirit, Son, and Father. What a privilege for depraved humans to be invited into relationship with our holy Creator?!
Jesus, Himself, prayed to the Father, showing his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Paul implores us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17).
So I encourage you, sister, to pray. Acknowledge who God is. Acknowledge and confess your sin. Be thankful for what God has blessed you with. And make your requests known to our God, who is holy, good, and sovereign. He hears your prayers and He answers them all, according to His perfect will.