Too Many Unanswered Prayers: Why They’re a Good Thing

Have you ever have a moment when you realize, “Wow, I was meant to see this!” or “Strange — I just read about that yesterday.”

I had one of those recently.


I occasionally read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and a line caught my attention on p. 86:

The more you pray, the more answers you can receive.

As soon as I read it I thought: “Yes! I was meant to read this and learn from it!” Because in church the day before I had written on a piece of paper:

Do we have more unanswered prayers because we’ve prayed more — or are we praying that all will be well?

Why (Seemingly) Unanswered Prayers Are Good

The thought came to mind in church and I just wrote it down. Sometimes I like to try and capture what’s on my mind so I can share it later on Twitter or Facebook, which I then did after reading in Jesus Calling. I realized, however, that what I wrote speaks to something deeper in our experience as believers.

Why would unanswered prayers be a good thing? Like so many, I have prayed many years for people I care about and wonder why more isn’t done. Why do prayers seem to go unheeded and I don’t see the progress toward what I believe is a good reason to pray? I constantly pray for my kids to be safe and to grow in God, but often the progress is slow to see, the results not easily visible. And by the way, I do believe all prayers are answered, but that’s not the point of this blog post.

What Prayer Really Is – Or Should Be

I have learned through my years of praying along this spiritual journey that praying isn’t a formality so much as it is a conversation. An informal one at that. It’s a conversation with a friend. Or for me it’s the development of a relationship with my Father, with God. When I pray to him my heart goes out to him. His heart goes out to me.

It’s important for us to remember praying is one part of an ongoing relationship. A very significant part, to be sure, because it’s our lifeline to connect with someone we will be spending eternity with. We can’t see him now, but one day we will. We don’t hear his voice speaking in our ears, but one day, yes, we will stand or sit across from him and talk. One day our faith will find its end in full and revealed company with the Most High God, the Eternal One — our Creator.

The intimacy is real and starts here on this earth and in this life. We are counseled to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” We do this here and God has suggested we do it as we grow in our relationship to him before the Day when we will actually see his face. In just one more verse we also read how God knows how give good gifts, like a good father does.

It’s Not About the Gifts

Do you see? It’s about the relationship, not the gifts! The gifts are the bonus of prayer, not the reason to pray. It’s enough to simply have the relationship, but God goes beyond simply saying, “Yes, I’ll give you good gifts when you ask,” to “Yes, I want to spend time with you and we can get to know each other.”

It’s when we see prayer as a big part of the relationship to a loving Father that we find the freedom to come to him again and again with all parts of our lives to share with him. We do ask. We do give our burdens over to him. We do plead for someone to him so he can do what only he can do-work in the heart-when we cannot. We do share our tears with him, and our joys and we praise him for those joys.

The Freedom to Risk More

And, we are able to risk more. We risk unanswered prayers precisely because we are spending so much time with him to seek him first, and all these other things will be added. We don’t know when or how. But our role is to trust. We don’t trust in the answers to come, we trust in a God who will give those answers in his time and in his way. Why limit God? Why would we put him in our own little boxes? Prayers may be answered in ways we never could have imagined. If we were looking for this answer over here and perhaps we even saw it, what if God had something over there or another way altogether to answer us?

God wants to partner in going places we’ve never been. I believe God wants us to pray more risky prayers at the edge of our comfort zone. Ones where we might even cringe inside as we pray them. Something like, “God show me today who I need to tell about you.” Or “God, you do whatever it takes to reach me or to reach my ___________” Or “God you work in me however you want to bring me places where my faith needs to be strong and you can show up in powerful ways.”

You get the idea. When we begin to move our prayers further and further out even as we draw closer and closer to him, the risks might even feel less and less significant. The biggest risk is not taking God with us when we go.

I’m Wondering: What’s risky for you in praying? What’s the edge of your comfort zone?