Being Thankful for Unanswered Prayers??

Something that’s been on my mind quite a bit lately is the matter of unanswered prayers. Most of us spend so much time and energy on how badly we want our prayers to be answered that we don’t think about all those prayers He chooses to leave “unanswered” — which are all-too-often forgotten over the course of our lives.

I suppose it all began a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon a couple songs that my old roommate in college used to play in our apartment. Much of it was the 70’s/80’s rock music like from Queen and such, but there was one song in particular in his playlist called “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks that I remember rather vividly. I think what made it really stand out to me was that my roommate didn’t seem to be particularly religious  at the time, and he certainly wasn’t much into Country music, especially in the early 90’s!

Anyway, there’s a surprising amount of depth to that old Garth Brooks’ song, particularly the central verse of the chorus which says, “That just because He may not answer doesn’t mean He don’t care… Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

If you haven’t heard the song in awhile or have never heard it before, it’s worth a listen to (live: — full: The lyrics are:

Just the other night at a hometown football game011-_XL
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

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

She wasn’t quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams
And I could tell that time had changed me
In her eyes too it seemed
We tried to talk about the old days
There wasn’t much we could recall
I guess the Lord knows what He’s doin’ after all

And as she walked away and I looked at my wife
And then and there I thanked the good Lord
For the gifts in my life

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

It probably won’t be until we’re in Heaven that we find out just how many of our prayers God purposely didn’t answer — and often for our own benefit! Over the last few years, it’s been rather comical about how the prayers that He HAS answered for me haven’t turned out nearly the way I had hoped or expected they would. Though I’ve been a Christian for more than twenty years, in many ways my “real” prayer life didn’t begin until a few years ago. I have a list of my most important prayers, and I’ve been keeping track oprayer2-620x499f how He answers (and doesn’t answer) them for awhile now. And He has indeed answered many of them…

Usually my reaction when He does choose to answer those prayers in His own way is, “Thank you, Lord, but that really wasn’t what I meant!” or “Really, God? Is this really the best plan? Say, what about this other one?” Another gem that comes to mind is: “Oh, Lord — I just gotta see how You’re going to use THIS one for good, because I really don’t think it can happen!”

While some of us keep a prayer-journal concerning our answered prayers, what happens to all those “unanswered” ones? We seem to usually forget about those, don’t we? What about when He chooses NOT to answer certain prayers, even the really important prayers that might redirect the entire course of our lives? It’s one thing to be thankful for God choosing not to answer a prayer about a high school crush/flame (or an adult crush, for that matter) as in the song above, but what about those really big important prayers?

What about when you’ve been praying your heart out and fasting until you can’t remember what food tastes like and God still doesn’t answer you? What about when God chooses not to heal your marriage or your spouse in the hospital? What about when He chooses to not heal one of your parents, or even your child who is suffering terribly? What about when He allows a precious life to be taken long before it should be? What about when He allows someone innocent and helpless to be horribly, cruelly hurt? How are we supposed to react when not only the cheese falls off our crackers, but the entire train of our lives completely derails and careens down that mountain?

To be honest, I don’t really know how to answer those very difficult questions, except that God is good and that He has His reasons for answering — and not answering — those prayers. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, omniscient, omnipresent, and completely sovereign. There is nothing He doesn’t know and nothing He doesn’t see, hear, and feel.

He knows our innermost thoughts, our hearts, and even the innermost thoughts of our hearts — and those of everyone around us. He knows how certain people will react in certain situations and allows things to occur that we often won’t understand — but He does. He knows the future because He has ordained and determined it. He is everywhere at every moment for all time — He was, is, and always will be. He is the All-in-All.

There is nothing too difficult for Him. There is nothing He cannot fix, change, or even undo, despite how impossible it may seem to us. It would be nothing for Him to heal our broken marriages, screwed-up families, dysfunctional homes, our broken nation, this suffering world, or even this entire fallen universe! He is the God who parted the seas and then rained manna and quail down on millions of people in the desert day after day for forty years! He could simply think it and that is what it would instantly be!

How are we supposed to respond when God falls silent? How are we supposed to hold onto that tiny mustard seed of faith when He seems nowhere to be found? How do we continue to trust Him though He doesn’t seem to be meeting our needs? Indeed, how now shall we live when He chooses not to answer our prayers even though we desperately want Him to?

I’ve come to believe that 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 holds much of those answers: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”


Wait a minute — “always” and “in everything”?! Lord, do You really expect us to give thanks in literally everything? Even when You’re silent and the Prayer Store seems to be closed for the summer? Give thanks even in the bad times? Even in the heart-wrenching, curled-up-on-the-floor, sobbing-into-the-carpet times? Are You sure we’re supposed to give thanks in literally EVERYTHING?

I’m afraid so. He really does mean, “In everything, give thanks — everything!” Not just the good stuff, but the bad stuff as well — even the really, really bad stuff (no examples needed!). We are to give thanks for not only all the answered prayers (quirks and all), but all those unanswered prayers too. I may have my little prayer-journal, but He has the entire archive of my life from the instant I became a living soul until the moment I die and then beyond into Eternity — and everyone else’s too!

In everything, we should give thanks — though we may not even remotely be able to see why, and though we think there is NO possible way He can ever use this thing for good. But He can. And He will. Through His Word, we know that He — and only He — can somehow use everything for good all the time.

Thank you, Lord. I trust You. I will worship You for these — and many, many other — unanswered prayers. I will love You though it really, really hurts sometimes. I will love You though I’ve been terribly disappointed in so many ways recently. 


About Chris Hambleton

Chris resides in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where he is employed as a software developer and consultant. He has authored more than a dozen books, as well as developed several websites, software applications, and written software-related articles. His other interests include traveling, hiking, running, studying the Bible, reading American history and politics, and literally devouring good fiction books.
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