Persevering in prayer when there is no answer

I get a little antsy when an answer I am expecting takes longer than expected to arrive. OK, maybe antsy isn’t quite the right adjective. Anxious, irritable, practically beside myself with frustration—that’s more like it.

Recently, I found myself in the unfortunate situation where I was waiting for two responses—one pertaining to a health insurance issue I was trying to untangle for my parents and the other related to a freelance editing project I was working on.

The longer the delay, the more frustrated I became, until I wanted to bang my head against a brick wall in frustration. It wasn’t pretty, let me tell you.

These two issues were resolved eventually (as I knew they would be), and my stress level went down considerably as a result. But my reaction got me thinking about how this relates to prayer, and—more specifically—to heartfelt, pressing prayers that seem to go unanswered.

You know what I’m talking about, right?—those requests that you faithfully take to God day after day and month after month, with no apparent result or even any indication that He is actually listening.

It’s not like you’re asking Him to do something beyond the realm of His control. He’s omnipotent, after all. He simply has to speak the word and whatever it is that you’re asking Him to do will happen.

But when He doesn’t—for reasons known only to Him—it gets to be a bit much after awhile, doesn’t it? Maybe even to the point where giving up—on praying and even on God Himself—might seem like the most logical course of action.

The best plan isn’t always the most logical one, of course. I can’t tell you how or why God does what He does, but when answers to pressing prayer needs are not forthcoming, the following four steps might help you move forward.

• Focus on God’s character.

Who God is does not change with our feelings or our circumstances. So try to turn your attention away from the notion that your prayer isn’t being answered and center it directly on what you know to be true about God—His character, His sovereignty, His love for you.

You wouldn’t let a child you love experience something painful—something that was within your power to change—if you didn’t have a good reason for it, would you? Nor does our perfect and wise heavenly Father allow hard things to happen our lives if He doesn’t have a reason for them. There is always purpose, even if we can’t see it.

• Look for answers in other areas.

Just recently, while devoting a lot of energy to praying for the trial that was most current and urgent, I started noticing some obvious answers about a few issues that I have quietly prayed about for years. It was almost a relief to see evidence of the fact that, while my heart was consumed with one situation, God had been working in others all along.

• Count your blessings.

I know. There’s nothing new about this one. But when you intentionally look for something—anything—that you are thankful for, you’re sure to find it. Finding one blessing makes you notice another, until you gradually start seeing God’s touches everywhere. (And if you record them in a journal or on your phone, you’ll have examples of His faithfulness at your fingertips when your faith starts to waver.)

• Keep praying.

Resist the temptation to give God the silent treatment, even if it feels like He’s giving it to you. Keep the lines of communication open and the words flowing. And, as hard as it might be, don’t limit your conversation with him to that One Big Request.

Maybe the delay will make sense to you someday; maybe it never will. In either case, you can rest in the confidence that the One who holds the answer hears every prayer and loves you with an everlasting love.

Lois

Who God is does not change with our feelings or our circumstances. Click To Tweet

P.S. I’m linking up this week with #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, #HeartEncourgement and Grace & Truth.



41 Responses to Persevering in prayer when there is no answer

  1. Mountains of expectation bow down when we focus on His character and faithfulness in the past. Seated high above our circumstances, He is trustworthy even when we can’t see Him working on our behalf. I love that you point out looking for answers in other areas. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision on that one thing forgoing other vital areas. Wonderful post, Lois!!

  2. Christa says:

    Trusting God’s character is key for me in times of waiting. I know He is good and He wants good for me … always. So if He has me waiting, it is good!

  3. A little antsy describes my entire week of trying to close on our house we are selling, Lois! I’ve found myself focusing on the faithful aspect of God’s character, reminding myself of all the little pieces He is attentively putting in order to bring about what needs to happen. I needed to be here today to realign in these truths. Hugs, Crystal

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I hope all the details are coming together with the house sale, Crystal. I know those feelings well … “home sales” could take a up an entire chapter in the story of my faith walk. 🙂 I’m so glad you found some encouragement here this week … many blessings as you get settled in your new home!

  4. Brenda says:

    Love that you noticed answers to other prayers while waiting for the answer to your most urgent prayer. What a sweet God He is—reminding you of His faithfulness, that you can trust Him with it all. <3 — And, I was thinking while I was reading your thoughts on not removing pain from your child that would eventually help him—it made me think how hard it must be for God to see us hurting, just like it is when we see our children hurting, but know it's better that we don't rescue them. Oh, what a beautiful God we have. <3

  5. “It’s not like you’re asking Him to do something beyond the realm of His control.” SO humbling and ultimately encouraging. He knows exactly what He’s doing, and isn’t doing it within the limits we have. Thank you for these excellent steps, Lois!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’ve always found a lot of encouragement in that too, Bethany. If God loves us with a perfect love (which of course He does), than what He allows or doesn’t allow in our lives is filtered through that love and is always for our good. Even if we don’t like it! Hugs, friend!

  6. Diana says:

    “Who God is doesn’t change….” that is the most powerful line I heard today. The time of waiting is not fun for anyone ,but the reward of waiting is joy

    Your neighbor from #heartencouragement

    Diana

    • Lois Flowers says:

      That is so true, Dianna. I remember how hard it was to wait for our first adoption to be complete, and yet when it was … pure joy. Thanks so much for stopping by this week!

  7. Lois, what a beautiful, truth-filled post. The one point I haven’t really considered when in a waiting time is to look for answers God’s given in other areas of my life. SO good! We need those reassurances that He is still working, especially when we’re not seeing answers in an area of life where we really feel like we need answers.

    He’s always working. Sometimes, we need to open the eyes of our heart to see His fingerprints.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      That’s beautiful, Jeanne … the idea of opening the eyes of our hearts to see God’s fingerprints. Sometimes we literally have to pry those eyes open, don’t we? But evidence of God’s hand is always there, somewhere. Thanks for your faithful encouragement, my friend! Praying for you and your dear ones today!

  8. Linda Stoll says:

    Thanks for all these ideas for positive ways for us to step away from our default modes of frustration, disappointment, and defeat, Lois.

    Plenty of wisdom you’re sharing from your own experience. I’m appreciative …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      That’s a good way to describe it, Linda … stepping away from our default modes. That takes a lot of intentionality, doesn’t it? But yes, having something proactive to step TOWARD really helps. Many blessings to you, my friend!

  9. Lisa notes says:

    These are such proactive steps to take in our waiting. I think we all hate to wait, but we don’t have to waste the delays. Thanks for the encouragement, Lois!

  10. Wow, is this ever good stuff.
    Thanks, Lois, for sharing your frustration and the lessons you learned. I am in perpetual need of work on my waiting game.

  11. I love the “look for answers in other areas.” I don’t do that often!

  12. Dear Lois, you are so wise and humble! During some times of silence, I’ve learned to focus on God’s character and count my blessings. Thank you for the encouragement to keep praying and look for answered prayers. Blessings as you grow in God’s grace!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you for your encouragement, Alice. 🙂 One of these days I need to dig deeper into the whole topic of God’s character and how various aspects of it become more meaningful to us through different seasons. I have a feeling that would be a fun conversation, don’t you? 🙂

  13. colleen says:

    Thanks Lois, for these great tips. I have to admit that quite often I find myself saying, “Yoo-hoo, God, are you listening?” I will keep your tips in mind when it feels like He is saying no!

  14. KellyRBaker says:

    This is wonderful, Lois! I love these four points, especially the one to focus on God’s character. So good!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thanks, Kelly. I think the point about focusing on God’s character is the most meaningful to me too. It has been hugely helpful during some pretty intense struggles in my life, that’s for sure! 🙂

  15. Trudy says:

    When God’s answer is “no” or “wait,” it can be so hard. I’m learning it helps me, too, to focus on God’s faithful, unchanging character instead of my feelings that He isn’t hearing me. It’s been a long process and a continuing one. Thank you for encouraging us to persevere. Love and hugs to you, Lois!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Yes, I know what you mean about the long and continuing process, Trudy. I guess that’s what this life of faith is, isn’t it? One step at a time, one prayer at a time, answered prayer at a time. Hugs back, friend!

  16. Lesley says:

    I agree, waiting for an answer is not easy! Your advice on how we should deal with waiting for an answer from God is great. I especially love the one about looking for answers in other areas- it is easy to get fixated on one thing and miss what God is doing elsewhere. I heard a story this week from someone who finally saw an answer to a prayer about 30 years later so it’s great encouragement not to give up.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Wow … 30 years is a long time to pray for something, Lesley! I guess that’s another example of how God answers in His own time, which often is not OUR timing! Have a good weekend, my friend!

  17. Meg says:

    So lovely and timely, Lois. I truly needed this. I just got a call that I was not chosen about a job position, and sometimes is it easier to focus on everything BUT the right and lovely character of God. I am going to, and keep hoping for continued direction. Thank you!

  18. My teen has had these questions about not hearing God. I’m going to tell him about your tips. I also believe that sometimes God doesn’t answer when we’re right where we’re supposed to be, that we just need to keep on doing what we’re doing – and that will eventually lead us into God’s answer. This is something so hard for young adults to grab hold of – and older adults like me, too – but I’m getting the hang of it!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I hope the tips help your son, Maryleigh. I think you’re on to something about keeping on doing what we’re doing … God’s answers always come when He decides the time is right, don’t they? (Which isn’t always when our impatient little selves want them!) It helps when you’ve seen this play out a number of times over the course of many years … I guess that’s one of the benefits of being much older than a teenager! Thanks so much for stopping by this week. 🙂

  19. Lois, you share so vulnerably. And I do the exact same thing. Your tips are the perfect remedy.

  20. I love this! I was recently reading about Moses and it dawned on me that he wandered in the wilderness for year and years. And he never got to enter the promised land. BUT he was able to see God’s faithfulness on his journey. SO that has been a reminder to me that God is faithful in everything even when I’m in the wilderness.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      And don’t you just love how the Israelites were always reciting their history and the various ways God delivered them from Egypt and as they wandered in the wilderness? I think that remembering specific acts of His faithfulness is so helpful in the midst of a trying wait or a long season in the wilderness. We need to tell those stories over and over again, to ourselves and our kids. 🙂

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