Unanswered Prayers

I can’t even begin to count how many times in my life I’ve asked god to just give such-and-such guy a nudge toward liking me. I am telling you, I probably sounded like a whiny child asking god for this type of thing, even though I do not think it hurt to try. I don’t think a single one of those requests actually worked. However, I am constantly reminded of Garth Brooks’ song, “Unanswered Prayers”.

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

If you aren’t a country music fan, you may not know that the song starts out like this:

Just the other night at a hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame
And as I introduced them the past came back to me
And I couldn’t help but think of the way things used to be

She was the one that I’d wanted for all times
And each night I’d spend prayin’ that God would make her mine
And if he’d only grant me this wish I wished back then
I’d never ask for anything again

Boy does that sound familiar! God, if Johnny would just fall madly in love with me and we could get married and live happily ever after, I swear I’ll never ask for anything, ever again!

Looking back, I’m so glad god didn’t answer every one of those prayers, or any of them. If he had, I wouldn’t have met my husband, with whom I just celebrated my first anniversary. That is exactly the point Garth is making in his song, and the thing I must always remember if I’m asking god for something.

There are two reasons it’s a good thing god didn’t answer (either because he knew it wasn’t right for me, or because he wasn’t listening, but either way):

1. I would have blatantly lied to god by saying “I swear I’ll never ask for anything again.” Perhaps god knew that, or maybe not, but I would not have kept that promise, so it’s a good thing I wasn’t put in a position to have to try. For example, my requests to watch over my family, or help a sick friend, or to get me through the storm safely would have been forced to be ignored. I’m sure god doesn’t just stop listening if a prayer is answered under these circumstances, but I’d be carrying an awful lot of guilt today if I cared to.

2. I would not be where I am today — my life could have gone in a completely different direction, perhaps for the better, but likely not. There is, of course, no way to know that, but knowing some of these people today, I wouldn’t be in a good relationship based on personalities alone, let alone goals, ambitions, dreams, aspirations, or even physical location.

Many, many people have given up on god because some major prayer wasn’t answered, but I tend to think that god knows what he’s doing. If god doesn’t answer a prayer, it is probably not because he’s abandoned you. I like to believe there’s just a higher plan, and we can’t always see what that plan is on first glance. No matter what, our lives twist and turn in so many different directions that there is really no way we could know for a fact how one thing will affect another.

For example, my grandfather passed away fairly unexpectedly after a heart surgery. He was doing better, and then he was gone. I could have blamed god, asked him why that happened to such a wonderful man. My grandmother could have given up on god after all her years of faith. But we didn’t, because we needed to believe that perhaps that was the right thing to happen at that time. We don’t necessarily know why, but often we justify these types of things by saying “he’s in a better place” or “he wouldn’t have wanted to live in a nursing home anyway” or “he’s no longer suffering”.

I’ve stopped asking for such direct help from god, not because I don’t believe in him or because I think he can’t make it happen, but because I don’t know for certain that having something happen will necessarily be the right thing. So, for example, rather than saying “god, I really want to get this job — please, could you help me land this job?” I might say “god, please give me the confidence and the strength to do well in this interview so that they ask me back for a second interview.” That way, it’s on me, and I’m not relying solely on some miracle from god. In cases like my grandfather’s, rather than saying “god, please save my grandfather’s life, I’m not ready for him to go yet” I would say “god, please watch over my grandfather and help him through this struggle. If he can’t make it through this, please help him through the transition as painlessly as possible”. The outcome in this case is beyond my control, but I’m not asking for a miracle, I’m just asking god to do as well as possible given the circumstances. And if the outcome isn’t what I’m hoping for, I have to trust that it’s for the best, or at least for a reason that I cannot fully see.

So, last night, as my husband was snoring away contentedly and I was unable to sleep (I have no idea why!), I took a moment to thank god for bringing me to where I am today. There are still things I want in life, but I know I’ll get there eventually, and by the time I do, my goals and dreams will evolve again. In the meantime, all I can do is appreciate what I have, thank god for the help along the way, and especially for giving me those little disappointments that kept me moving forward and becoming a stronger person.

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