Maybe it's because of the circumstances in which I've found myself over the last couple years, but I've developed a bit of a pet peeve related to God and prayer.
It seems to me that people only say "God answered my prayers" when they get positive results... or a "yes" from God. Unless they get what they asked for they assume God didn't answer them. There is even a hit song by Garth Brooks alluding to this:
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
I have several issues with this line of thinking. Not the least of which being that it reduces God's role in our lives to that of a wish granting genie we turn to when we need a miracle rather than a loving father with whom we desire to build a relationship.
Can you imagine if we operated under this assumption within other relationships?
me: Baby, can you pick up a quart of milk on your way home?
husband: No, I don't have cash or my debit card with me today.
me: You aren't listening! I need you to pick up a quart of milk!
husband: I have no money with which to purchase milk. I won't be bringing any home.
*husband arrives home without milk*
me: If you truly existed and loved me like you say you do you would listen when I ask you to bring home milk.
It sounds insane. And it is.
The basic truth here is that God listens to all of our prayers and he answers all of them, too. Not all of them receive a simple "yes". Sometimes it's "not yet".
And many times God says "no".
I can't tell you how many times I prayed for a pregnancy. How many times I prayed for a biological child. How many times I prayed for the ability to conceive. I prayed for these things for YEARS. Here I am.... no babies , not pregnant, not even the hope of conception. Does that mean God wasn't listening or that I was not given an answer?
God answered me quite clearly. The answer was "No". He didn't do it to be mean. He didn't do it out of spite. He didn't do it because he doesn't love me as much as people with "yes" answers.
He said no because he wants me to follow a different path. He said no because he can see what blessings lie in store for me if I trust him rather than insisting on my own way. He said no because he loves me.
Being a Christian means trusting God with our lives. It means holding onto the promise that he will never abandon us and that his love will never ask us to endure trials without purpose or benefit to us. It's not easy, I'm not saying it is, but it's exactly what we signed up for when we prayed our first "I believe" prayer.
So can we all agree to stop saying "unanswered prayers" when we really mean "God said no"?