When I’m old and gray (ahem, grayer, that is), I hope to look back on my life and reflect on an abundance of incredible experiences and accomplishments. I’ve prayed my way through 33 1/2 years and God has been faithful to bless me with far more than I deserve. However, this same life has included and will include many more prayers that go unanswered, at least in the way I desire or expect.
If you’re an Okie, you probably remember a time when Garth Brooks was on everyone’s radar. I was never a huge country music fan, but I can sing along with a few little ditties when I hear them. One song that I remember vividly is “Unanswered Prayers.” If you’re not familiar with the song, Garth sings about running into his old high school flame and recalls how hard he prayed for this girl to be his forever. While he is filled with nostalgia at seeing her again, he has gained enough perspective to know that his life worked out in the best way possible despite his one-time efforts to convince God otherwise. He goes on to express his thankfulness for the gifts in his life, including the woman who eventually stole his heart, became his wife and showed him the importance of trusting God at all times.
By the way, when I started writing this blog, I did not remember the controversy with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. So do me a favor and put that bit of information aside so I don’t have to go back to the drawing board on this post, mmmkay? Geez, what is it with people and their inability to stay faithful? But that’s an essay for a different day.
Where was I? Oh yes, the inspirational song. I was touched by the song and have always admired people who are able to easily put issues and events into perspective. I am not one of them. I can remember many times when I didn’t get what I was clearly the most important thing I’d ever asked for in my entire life. Time and time again, I responded with anger and disbelief. In not so many words I said to God, “You said ‘Ask and you shall receive,’ right? Well?????” I shed tears over a great many “must haves” that did not become my reality…..boys, leadership positions, jobs, etc.
But, just like Garth, I look around at my life and am so very thankful for the journey that led me to where I am today. And I know that my unanswered prayers are far more trivial than some of yours. My heart goes out to those who have been praying desperately and for years to hold a sweet baby in your arms. I ache for those who expected to be married at this point in your life or prayed for a marriage that didn’t ultimately survive. Worse still, I can’t imagine the intensity of the pleas uttered by those of you suffering through the pain and uncertainty of caring for a seriously ill child.
I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t and I won’t try to give advice to those in these difficult situations. Need I remind you that I’m taking my own advice from a past-his-prime country singer? All joking aside, what I know in my heart and which guides my thoughts is that God’s timing is perfect in every way and He will always know more about where I’m headed than I do. While I may not have the perspective to embrace that on a daily basis, I believe God continues to ask me to have faith rather than to use him as a wish list akin to the one my children submitted to the Bass Pro Shop Santa last month. When I get stuck in the cycle of asking “Why not?” or “Why not NOW?” perhaps I need to recognize that His gentle “No” or “Not now” is actually a “Yes” to something far better.
While I am an adult and I have numerous responsibilities in life that require me to take control, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that I am but a child who must rely entirely on my Heavenly parent for guidance, direction and the kind of unconditional love I do not have the capacity to understand. The parallel to the earthly parenting journey is strong. When I tell my daughter “no” or to stop talking back to me, I know that I’m doing it out of love and because I know what’s best for her. It’s my JOB to teach her and mold her, even when she responds with anger. And, as hard as it is, I know that the pain and tears that come now will pay off in the long run.
I also hold firm in the knowledge that these lessons serve many purposes, the greatest of which is her ability to submit not only to my will as her parent but ultimately to God’s will in every circumstance throughout her life. Isn’t this the lesson God continues to reinforce in me?
And even as I’m writing this, my mind drifts to all the things I want and think are important right now. And, believe me, I will pray for them because that’s what God wants me to do. The hard part, however, is the knowledge that the answer may not come as easily, quickly or favorably as I desire.
While those of you who regularly read this blog already know about some of my New Year’s resolutions, my ultimate resolution is to live life with God in control and remain comforted by the fact that His promises belong to me even if I don’t know when or how they will be fulfilled. I will simply live God’s way and enjoy what I have this minute, this hour, and this day. The rest truly is up to Him.
What are your thoughts on “unanswered” prayers?