How do you handle it when you are disappointed in the results of prayer? Hasn’t everyone had some puzzling or disappointing outcomes even with the most fervent or faith-filled prayer?
Sometimes we think we have to slide those little disappointments under the rug and not talk about them. We don’t want to give prayer a bad name. We don’t want to suggest that God isn’t faithful or that he failed us or that his Word isn’t one hundred percent true. We don’t want to admit we don’t have answers.
The truth is that God is always faithful and his Word is one hundred percent accurate every single time. Psalm 33:4 reminds us; “For the word of the Lord is upright; and all His work is done in faithfulness.” We therefore are all the more dumbfounded in those times where our experience does not seem to match that truth.
Perhaps I can offer a small personal case study of a disappointment I had recently with a very simple straightforward prayer. Perhaps my “end results” will provide some fresh food for thought on the disappointments hanging gloomily in the back of your own prayer closet.
I approached the Thanksgiving holiday with much eager anticipation but also a little dread. I was looking forward to my destination (my daughter’s house) but was dreading the nine-hour drive. The dread was mostly rooted in the iffy weather in November and the possibility that I would have—yikes!--wet or slippery roads going or coming. I like to drive only on DRY pavement.
I decided to be very proactive about the possibility of bad weather. Prayer was my chosen option. Not only did I pray in a very intentional and specific way requesting 100% dry roads both going and coming but I also decided to add the prayer of agreement for extra insurance.
At the end of the Sunday service before the trip I approached my pastor and another associate pastor for prayer over my trip. I asked them to be very specific and as they prayed I felt the request sail on into heaven with a green light.
And so it was for the “going” part of the trip. Though rain threatened more than once and fog was present often, the roads were always dry as a bone. I breathed a sigh of relief. My prayers were already 50% answered. The night before I left to return home the sky was so beautiful and clear I thought the second half was pretty much a done deal. That was not to be.
During the night I was awakened to steady rain—where had that come from? Oh well, I thought, this will have passed through by morning. My prayer will be answered just like the first half of the trip. As I left my daughter’s house it was only sprinkling; I fully expected it to stop shortly. It didn’t.
I drove for nine hours in mostly pounding relentless rain with dense fog added to the mix several times through the mountains. I felt grateful for the times when my windshield wipers didn’t have to be on max setting but that wasn’t very often.
So what happened to my prayer? That’s what I was mulling over for several hours on the long ride home. I had plenty of time to think about it and plenty of time to work through a series of emotions. I felt disappointed. “You know how I hate to drive in rain Lord”. I felt somewhat confused. “Did I do something wrong? How could I have prayed more effectively?”
I felt angry too. “God, you could have answered this simple little prayer without breaking a sweat. Why didn’t you?” It was that question which drew me into deeper introspection. Eventually I asked a different question. Why did I have such an aversion to driving on wet pavement anyhow? Why was I so focused on that prayer to begin with?
Of course it is quite normal to pray for traveling mercies and to ask for good weather for a long drive. But in all honesty my motivation was actually rooted in anxiety initiated with an expressway accident that shook my confidence some years before. Though I never let it stop me from going anywhere I was much more wary thereafter. I really needed pristine conditions on highways so I wasn’t driving with a knot in my stomach and hesitation in my gas pedal.
Admitting that caused me to take stock. How was this trip going? Did I have anxiety; was there a knot in my stomach? Surprising the answer was NO. The weather was making not one iota of difference on this trip. Rain and all, I felt confident to drive at full speed. The semi-trucks were not bothering me at all; I wasn’t afraid to pass even in the mountains. Traffic was very light which was a bonus blessing. Also, considering the time of year, I might have encountered sleet or snow – potentially more dangerous than rain.
The closer I got to home the more confidence I felt. The effects of that previous accident were over and I couldn’t recall ever having prayed for that. God gave me something better than dry pavement—he healed me of needing it. Remarkable! At the end of the trip I had a new appreciation for God’s wisdom.
If God did exceedingly abundantly beyond what I could think or ask (see Ephesians 3:20) regarding such a small matter, what is the real truth about disappointments in prayer on much weightier matters? Is it worth taking another look beyond the focus of what DIDN’T happen, how a prayer WASN’T answered?
When all is made known plainly what is the end result? “For the word of the Lord is upright; and all His work is done in faithfulness.” Believe me, you can count on it!
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