Unanswered Prayers—When Your Desires Go Unmet

What happens to you when you pray and the many requests you have shared with God go unanswered? How do you approach God when your desires go unmet? How do you respond to God when nothing happens and you’ve prayed, prayed and prayed some more? 

I don’t know about you, but oftentimes I feel deflated and frustrated with God when my requests go answered. Hope turns to hopelessness. The confidence I once had— the great expectation I shared with God— morphs into a total disappointment and my faith hangs by a thread.
Do I truly believe God is good when my prayer request go unanswered? Do I truly believe “all things work together for good for those who love God?” Do you?
War room or no war room, prayer list or no prayer list, when we pray, we approach God with our requests seeking His best for us. We go into it trusting His heart, not ours. We approach Him knowing He could seemingly withhold the very thing we desire or want. 
Indeed, God’s plans do not unfold like any of our plans, and His deeds exceed anything we can do, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so His deeds top anything we do and His plans eclipse our plans. He knows better, does better and it’s all good (Isa. 55:8–9).
Yet, it’s a tough thing to remember when I’m talking with God because most of the time I approach Him with an I-want-what-I-want-when-I-want-it attitude. I rush, I hurry and say an on-the-go prayer that gets the job done and makes me feel better. Hurry up God!  I need… I want… Please…
I’ve stopped myself a few times over the past several months to focus on God’s character before I unleash my requests on Him. Many times, I have walked away in awe of Him. And guess what? This has led me to celebrate God’s unanswered prayers. I rejoice in all His answers even if He withholds the very thing I so desire. Want to know why? 
Because my focus no longer stays on what I want, but on what God wants for me. I learn to deeply trust in Him.
Because I shift my trust from myself, my flawed ways and what I know, to trusting in His character. 
Because I can give thanks for His faithfulness, His character, which leads to joy. I know that even if I don’t like God’s answer, I can respond with greater expectations and hope.
Because I believe the many times—many, many times— God has said no to me, He has had a greater yes—totally above and beyond what I ever imagined— in store for me. 
Because I remember I have a good Father in God, who desires to give His children what’s best for them even if He has to deny them the very thing they desperately want. God is good and loves me unconditionally—He loves His children deeply.
So if you find yourself with unmet desires or unanswered prayers keep praying, keep talking to God. Don’t despair or lose hope. For, “…I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Phil. 1:6, NLT).
I know how badly it feels to want a yes to an unanswered prayer— hang in there, God’s got you. I know what it feels like to have a desire go unmet—give thanks and remember God is good!  I know how desperate it feels to pray, pray and pray some more and nothing happens—stay still and know that He is God. 

Raquel Wroten (MAMC, Dallas Theological Seminary) was born in McAllen, Texas but has lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area most of her life. Raised by a single mother, Raquel grew up knowing the meaning of diversity, creativity, and chaos through her four brothers and three sisters. The greatest gift she ever received came from her mother who taught her that living as a believer doesn’t mean perfection, it means grace. Raquel met her husband Rick at a church retreat in Oklahoma on a cold November weekend. They dated for a year and got married in June 1992. A couple of years later, Rick graduated with his ThM, and they welcomed Joshua. . .then Abby. . .and surprise, it’s Anna! Intermixing their cultures, the Wrotens have established a variety of traditions along with interesting combinations of food. Raquel believes that ministry begins at home so she finds new ways of serving those she calls her own. Raquel serves as editor of DTS Magazine and enjoys writing (in English, Spanish and Spanglish), cooking, coffee, education and serving up a feast for her friends and family.

One Comment

  • Doug H

    no. But there’s a but.

    Last Sunday, the common Lectoinary took me to the passage in James 5 that deals directly with prayer and God's answers.  That was a great adventure.  It helped me to remember that God has an answer, but that His answer is sometimes "no."  The Apostle Paul had a prayer answered with no.  But there was a but.  God did not remove Paul's "thorn in the flesh" but He promised Paul that His grace was sufficient for him.

    My conclusion was that God's grace and God's presence are most powerful in our lives in those seasons when God does not answer our prayers with miracles.  Instead, He gives grace and perseverence and hope and love and friends and family and all sorts of sustaining gifts that really are powerful in our lives.  I also concluded that consistancy in prayer is the thing that allows us to see our difficult situations through eyes of faith.  Then we are able to see God's answers, even when God's answers are not exactly the miracles we had hoped for.  Yes.  God does indeed have us.