The Prayers God Doesn't Answer


A friend and I were talking the other day about the prayers we are glad God didn’t answer. We had prayed for specific future spouses, college acceptance letters, dream job openings, effortless body types, and many more embarrassing items -- begging God to make it happen while He had other -- much kinder -- plans for us.

But at the time, when our crushes started dating someone else, or we didn’t get into the college we had hoped to, or they gave the job to someone else, our hearts were crushed and we struggled to maintain our belief in the kindness or presence of God.

Until years later … we see it all so clearly. His will was much better than our wills.

This is something to keep in mind when we pray.

Jesus beautifully displays the tension of wanting something so deeply but still craving the will of God even more during His final moments before the Cross. Let’s take a minute to look at it again:

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:39-44)

Jesus is facing an incredible amount of brutal suffering -- not just physically, but emotionally. He is about to watch his friends betray and abandon Him while His enemies mock, ridicule, and begin to torture His body. No one in their right mind would agree to do this -- and we see the resistance to the approaching agony in Jesus’ prayer.

But His request is framed and supported by an even deeper desire than simply avoiding suffering.

He desperately craves what His Father wants.

Why? And how does that answer affect our prayer life?

We know the end of the story in regards to Jesus’ suffering. He drank the cup, He suffered immeasurably, He died. And then He rose again. He defeated His enemies. He rescued and freed those who trusted in Him. And He secured an imperishable inheritance for us who believe today.

That was the will of the Father. God always knew what would happen on the third day. And yes, while the cup set before Jesus was bitter, the sweetness of triumph was waiting just over the hill.

This knowledge changed how Jesus prayed.

It should change how we pray too.

Looking back on my own life, I prayed so many prayers with no desire for what the Father wanted. I wanted MY will, not His. I wanted what made sense to me right now, instead of waiting on Him to reveal His kind intentions for my circumstances. I wanted easy, not suffering. I wanted to escape, not be encouraged enough to persevere. I wanted comfort, not conformity to Christ.

But realizing that my prayers are sometimes self-focused has emboldened me to pray reckless prayers that are supported by the ultimate desire for God’s will -- not mine.

When I believe that His will is truly the best answer to any of my prayers, I can relax in my requests to God. The Word encourages us to rest:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:28-29)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)

So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:11)

Indeed, the LORD will give what is good, And our land will yield its produce. (Psalm 85:12)

Friends, His will for us is good.

So let us approach the throne of grace boldly, surrendering what we think God should do and when He should do it, and wait expectantly to see the unfolding of His good will.

And perhaps we can thank Him now for all the prayers He didn’t answer … because He has something much more redemptive, glorifying, and holy in store.

Kaysie Strickland is passionate about words + actions proclaiming the reckless restoration available in the gospel. She is married to her best friend on earth, adores her son Charlie, drinks lots of coffee + tea, constantly rearranges the furniture in her house, loves gardening and DIY projects, and enjoys serving women through the ministry of Homes & Havens. You can find her on Instagram | FacebookTwitter | Blog