Let’s face it, most of the time we have no idea why God does or doesn’t answer certain prayers. Sometimes the way He grants requests, or redirects us, or just flat out says “no” seems arbitrary  or inscrutable. But sometimes in life God gives us a glimpse at just how LITTLE we know, and how beautifully He orchestrates things for our good. 

I love praying. But I’ve found the issue of unanswered prayers very troubling in the past few years of my life. Why does God refuse the requests of the children He loves? Or worse… why does he say nothing. Or seem to DO nothing?

It is so important to first remember God’s posture toward us when we pray. Isaiah 30:18 says God “longs to be gracious to us… and he waits on high to show us compassion.” He is eagerly waiting to take action on our behalf, and to show us His amazing mercy. Wow. So why doesn’t it feel like that?

When you’ve witnessed God move mountains on your behalf… seeing him wait in silence feels agonizing. Unfamiliar and even cruel.

A good friend once told me I reminded him of the widow in Luke 18 who pleaded her just cause so much, that she annoyed the heck out of the judge. He was so tired of her constant pleading that he finally said “Yes! You can have whatever you want, only stop pestering me!” (paraphrase) The passage also says if an unjust judge will relent and give justice, how much more will a just God?

But we’ve all had moments in life where He doesn’t seem to answer. These moments mess with our faith and make us question God’s character, when it is our understanding that is at fault, not God.

We don’t always get insight about why God says no… but this month I did.

The Why

My son was due November 2nd. I’d tried EVERY natural induction method I could to kick start labor.  We did acupuncture, to shiatsu massages, eating all the right foods, and doing all the right activities. The baby didn’t budge. We’d been to the hospital twice on false alarms, but nothing happened and it seemed like my body was at a standstill.

I had been praying every single day for weeks, “PLEASE God, can you just make my water break? That way everything would be clear. I wouldn’t have to worry about timing, counting the hours of every passing day, worrying every time I left the house. Best of all, I wouldn’t risk the painful process of inducing. If the water broke, labor would naturally progress. I’m being driven crazy, God please just break the dam water.”

Every day my stomach would just grow bigger, and still the water wouldn’t break.

I felt so frustrated with God why he wouldn’t just answer such a SIMPLE request! It’s not like I was asking for a pain free birth, or a sinless child. I wasn’t asking for the moon- just for Him to naturally start labor. Break the water.

But nothing.

Sunday morning I had a strong sense we needed to go to the hospital. Something didn’t feel right…  I felt swollen and thought the baby was too high. So we went, and on the drive to the hospital I KNEW, “Today I’m going to find out why God wouldn’t let my water break.”

After I was checked in and hooked up to the monitors, my doctor said my water levels had increased significantly and could be dangerous, so she broke the water for me. There was a huge release and in a matter of moments, I could hear my son’s heart drop significantly and then disappear entirely. He’d either shifted onto the umbilical cord, cutting off his oxygen supply, or his body had gone into complete shock. It was deadly silent. I found myself pleading again… but this time, that he would simply live.

If my water had broken at home, my son likely wouldn’t have made it.  But because God waited, we were at the hospital, the doctor and nurses moved quickly enough to recognize what had happened, solve the problem and stabilize the baby in a matter of minutes.

I realized, that it was not my request, but the DENIAL of my request that had saved my baby boy’s life. Thank God He didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted Him to.

Getting Out of Your Head

Do not lean on your own understanding. You might be pleading with God again and again for something… I can’t speak to your specific request. But I can say, that IF God is saying “no” or “wait,” it is for your good.  Perhaps if you got it in YOUR way and YOUR timing, maybe it wouldn’t satisfy, or it wouldn’t be God’s best blessing. At worst, maybe it would destroy you.  God loves us enough to give us what’s best, in HIS estimation, not our own.

Whatever your unanswered prayer is… don’t ask for it today. You can ask him again tomorrow. Instead THANK GOD that for some reason He hasn’t given the green light.

God’s no is as good as His yes.