Jackie Baker tugged at her mother’s dress. “Momma, can I get the chocolate bar?” she asked, pointing to the sweet treat in the racks by the checkout line.
“No, sweetie,” her mother said. “We have cake at home, remember? I don’t think you need more sugar.”
Jackie turned away and tapped her foot. After a few seconds, she turned back and said again, “Momma, can I get that chocolate bar?”
Exasperated, Mrs. Baker tried to explain it again: “No, honey. Be patient. We’ve got cake at home. You love cake even more than chocolate!”
Jackie frowned. “Just give me an answer!” she howled, drawing the attention of nearby shoppers.
Mrs. Baker put a hand on her forehead. “Honey, I did answer you. And I said that you can’t have chocolate right now!”
Jackie shook her head. “No, no, I want chocolate now, Momma! Please give me the chocolate!”
“Jackie, I told you already, no chocolate today!”
“Just answer me! Tell me I can have the chocolate bar!”
Mrs. Baker groaned and put her shopping basket on the conveyor belt as Jackie continued to pout. “Maybe you should just get her the chocolate,” the cashier suggested.
“No, no,” Mrs. Baker sighed. “Trust me, in a few hours, she won’t even remember that chocolate bar. Besides, it’s not healthy to give her that much sugar in a day. But I guess she’s too young to understand that.”
“You don’t love me,” Jackie whined, sitting down by Mrs. Baker’s feet.
In the end, Mrs. Baker and Jackie left the grocery store without the chocolate bar. By the time they exited, Mrs. Baker was red in the face; it seemed as if the whole store had noticed her howling child.
What were you thinking as you read the story? Who did you side with? Did you understand Mrs. Baker’s point of view, or were you rooting for Jackie to get the chocolate bar? Most likely you saw Jackie as a little brat, right? After all, her mother told her no chocolate, but she kept insisting that she needed to have it. By the end, you were probably fed up with Jackie’s denial and outrageous behavior.
Oh, how often our prayers go something like this.
We see that big, shiny chocolate bar in the grocery store and we convince ourselves that we need it. So we beg, we plead, sometimes we even bribe God so we can get it. But when He says no, what do we do? We pitch a fit. And by pitch a fit, I mean we go on the internet, find some blog post about prayer, and say something like this:
“Prayer DOES NOT WORK! I mean, I asked God to heal my grandma, and she still died. Wow. you’re all stupid to believe in god. He doesn’t answer prayers, okay????”
Sometimes they’re slightly more coherent, sometimes even less. Sometimes they’re chalk full of “facts” and statistics. And you know what? I intentionally chose a deep and serious topic for my mock rant, because that’s what people really complain about. Unless you’re twelve, chances are you’re not complaining that you didn’t get those new shoes at the mall. Your mind is stuck on much bigger things.
The thing is, we go around saying that “God doesn’t answer prayer,” all the while not realizing that He’s standing there with His hand on our shoulders, saying, “I’m sorry, my child, but you can’t have that chocolate bar today.”
And what do we do? We pitch a fit.
Is it perfectly acceptable to be upset and maybe even angry with God because your grandma wasn’t healed? Yes. It’s painful, it’s sad, and I’m not saying that you can’t grieve. But to go around saying that God didn’t answer your prayer is, well, childish. Just like little Jackie, you’re blinding yourself to the greater truth.
The thing is, when God says no, He’s got a better plan in mind for us. Maybe we can’t have the chocolate bar now, but the cake will come soon enough. God says no because He’s our Father. Have you ever known your earthly father to give you something that would be bad for you? If you asked him to dump poison down your throat, would he do it? I sincerely hope not! God sees the end goal of everything. He knows that the thing you’re praying for won’t work out the way you think it will. He’s doing it because He has something much sweeter in mind.
Yes, hungry kids pray to God and they’re still hungry.
Yes, abused kids pray to God and are still abused.
But don’t go pointing the finger at God!
Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe you are the answer to their prayers? You sit up on your high horse and complain that God isn’t helping out. Thing is, sometimes their answer is you.
But I digress. This is another post for another day. Let’s get back to a personal level.
Yes, I know it’s hard. Sometimes when God says no, that means more pain and suffering in your life. It just does. It’s not an easy thing to understand, and I totally get that.
The thing is, if you’re an unbeliever, you can’t understand this. I don’t think most Christians even do! We have to use faith that God knows what He’s doing. We have to believe in the cake! (And fortunately, God isn’t GLaDOS.)
Unanswered prayer is not a thing. Did Mrs. Baker answer Jackie’s question earlier? Why yes, she did. Just because it wasn’t the answer Jackie wanted, that doesn’t mean Mrs. Baker never answered her!
Too often when this topic comes up, people (typically atheists) tend to pull up this verse:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
– Matthew 7:7-8
My response to that would be this verse:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of Him.
– 1 John 5:14-15
Notice that “according to His will” part. It doesn’t contradict the passage from Matthew; rather, I think it adds onto it. I mean, if I ask God for a million bucks right now, will I get it? Probably not. If God wanted me to be a millionaire, sure. But most likely that’s not going to happen. Not unless it’s in His will.
That’s what I was talking about earlier with your dad and the poison. Do you know any father that would give something awful and dangerous to his child? (That’s actually talked about in Matthew 7:9.) Probably not. But even if the kid really, really wanted it? Would a good, loving father put fire into his kid’s hands because they asked to hold it? No! Neither would our heavenly Father do that.
“This isn’t good for you,” He says. “I know it hurts, my child, but I have better things in mind for you.”
Even better, thing of the young, sick child who must go through surgery to get well. Is it going to hurt? Yes! But if he asks his dad to cancel the surgery, to make sure it never happens, what will the dad say? “No, my son. I know it’s going to hurt. I know you’re scared. But in the end, it will make you feel so much better. And I will be right there, holding your hand through the whole thing.” And the same is true with our heavenly Father.
Sometimes, we never see those better things. Maybe our lives impact someone else. Maybe our “unanswered” prayers become inspiration for someone else. For example, Corrie ten Boom. If you’ve never read “The Hiding Place,” go find it now, because it’s spectacular. In short, she was forced out of her home into several concentration camps during World War II. God answered many of her prayers, though not in the way she expected. She prayed many times to be free. God said, “Wait, I’ll free you one day.” She prayed for her sister Betsie to be healed. God said, “No, it’s time for my daughter to come home to me.” And yet, through all that, God used those events to inspire people like me, decades later. He used them to shape Corrie and the people around her. It was amazing.
So, why are you writing about this now, Rosie? Why this specific topic at this specific time?
Because we had an “unanswered” prayer today.
Today was our first official day of sports camp. Yesterday we practiced and handed out flyers in the area. We talked to people, let them know that it was a free that started at nine on Tuesday.
This morning we showed up early and set up. 8:55 came and went. 9:00 came and went. 9:15 came and went. 10:00 came and went. No kids. Nada, zip, zero. We circled up and prayed–several times–for at least one kid to walk through those gates into the park. Nope. Not one.
God looked down at our little group and said, “Just wait, children. I have something better in mind.”
It was hard. It was disappointing. And yet, it was a life lesson. Sometimes God says no. Sometimes He says that something better is coming. We might not know what it is yet; we might not ever know. But I knew going into this that God would send as many kids as He needed into that camp. He sent none. That must mean something.
We have two more days. We advertised a little more today, and we went on a prayer walk around town. Maybe God will say no again. Maybe we’ll wind up playing a fierce game of soccer like we did today. Who knows? Only God. Whatever He does, He has a plan. This is not in vain.
So whether tomorrow we have one kid, one hundred, or absolutely none, I know that God is working. I won’t gripe and complain because we didn’t get a candy bar today; somewhere down the line–maybe very far away, but there all the same–there is cake. Sweet, delicious cake, and God will show us why He said no to our “unanswered” prayer.