When I talk to kids about prayer – my own kids or kids in my ministry – I talk about the fact that sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we want or expect, and sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers at all. Prayer is how we talk to God and build a strong relationship with him. If we pray about something, but don’t see the outcome we are hoping for, we have to remember that God is not our fairy godmother and prayers are not meant to be a wish list for the things that we want.
That’s what I say.
This is what I’ve been doing.
Everyday for the past 18 months, I have prayed for answers. I have prayed for resolution to problems. I have prayed for things to be easier. I have prayed for God to take away everything that is hard, uncomfortable, messy, painful and ugly in our lives. I have prayed a wish list. And God hasn’t answered those prayers the way I want him to answer.
In the months I have been praying those prayers, I have watched my son retreat further into his anxiety and pain. My husband and I have struggled to be the best partners and parents we can be, and haven’t always succeeded. My daughter has become increasingly confused about her relationship with her brother. In the months I have been praying those prayers, my family has been breaking, and I have had many, many moments when I have been angry that my prayers have gone unanswered.
But they were not unanswered prayers. What I was asking for was the equivalent of “Hey God, could you just make all of this brokenness go away? Isn’t there a magic wand you can wave?” He can’t do that. That’s not the way it works. What He did give me was strength and perseverance to keep looking for answers, hope that there won’t always be so much struggle, and people who love me even when I have been at my most unlovable. He gave me what I needed, not what I wanted.
When I stopped and looked around, I realized He had been listening all along. He had been listening, and answering my prayers in a way that has helped me to be stronger in myself and stronger in my faith. When I started actually DOING what I tell the kids to do, there was no doubt that God is at work in my life.