When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers

At week 20 we learned that our little girl would be born with a birth defect known as Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH).

Do you know how often I prayed for a miraculous healing? Do you know how often I prayed God would give our family a ‘Red Sea’ moment – a moment where God would do the impossible? Do you know how often I prayed that Davy would be born and the doctors would be baffled because they wouldn’t be able to find a hole in her diaphragm?

Every single day for 22 weeks.

Yet, here I am, 58 days later, sitting with my sick daughter in the NICU with a heap of seemingly unanswered prayers.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to our family. In our first year of marriage we got THAT phone call. You know the phone call I’m talking about. The phone call when you pick up the line, hear the voice on the other end and all the air is sucked out of the room your standing in because you intuitively know something is wrong. Our phone call was Chelsea’s dad letting us know he had pancreatic cancer.

Do you know how often we begged God to heal Chels’ dad?

Every single day for 6 months.

Every single day for 6 months until we got the second phone call letting us know we needed to get to Lubbock because Dave was fading fast. He ended up passing away later that night.

The natural question that flows out of experiences like this is, “Why didn’t God answer my prayers?” There are many answers for that question (and much digital ink spilled on the topic), yet today I don’t want to answer the why but the what. Unanswered prayer is a universal experience so what do we do when prayers go answered? 

What do we do when God doesn’t answer our prayers – or doesn’t answer the prayers in the way or time frame we so desire?

The first thing we can do is trust in God’s character. The infinitely wise (Rom. 11:33), good (Luke 18:19), and loving (1 John 4:8) God of the universe will do what is right (Gen. 18:25). Just like any good Father He won’t always give us what we WANT, but He will always give us what we NEED to bring Him the most glory and us the most good within His greater purposes. The first thing we can always do, whether God answers our prayers or not, is to trust Him (Prov. 3:5-6).

Second, we can lean into God’s strength. Paul prayed three times that God would remove the “thorn” in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-8), but God chose not to remove it. Instead, God used it as an opportunity to teach Paul to lean into the sufficiency of Christ for sustenance by reminding him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Sometimes God isn’t answering our prayer so we’ll lean into his strength and not rely on ourselves; therefore, we must lean into the strength that God alone provides.

Third, we can joyfully conform to the perfect will of God. The greatest example I can think of this is Jesus himself on the Mount of Olives. He begged God, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:39-42). We all know the rest of the story. God didn’t take the cup from him. He drank the full wrath of God, crucified on a Roman cross the very next day for the sins of the world. Jesus, conformed to the will of God, in joy (Heb. 12:2), knowing that it was perfect and that there were greater eternal purposes (Rev. 5:12).

Now is any of this easy? Hardly ever. I’m an impatient, entitled, broken man who wants things done his way. However, God is kind, patient and gracious towards his children (Psalm 145:8) as we learn to deal with unanswered prayers or prayers answered differently than expected.

I must also remember that prayer is a gift which provides an avenue in which to communicate with my Heavenly Father, not simply a special request hotline. The religious minded think that if they pray rightly God will love them and answer their prayers. This is wrong. The gospel-minded know that God already loves us, whether we pray rightly or not, and that prayer cultivates intimacy with our Heavenly Father, which is better than any answered prayer. This truth frees us to not evaluate God’s love for us based on whether He answers our prayers or not, but simply on the fact that He sent His son for us – out of love (John 3:16, Eph. 2:4-5).

So as I sit here with my sick daughter and an unanswered prayer staring back at me I can trust that the infinitely wise, good and loving God has greater purpose for Davy’s life. I can trust that just because one prayer wasn’t answered doesn’t mean He won’t answer it in another way or time frame than expected. I can trust that simply because one prayer wasn’t answered doesn’t mean He won’t answer future requests. There are spiritual things and future eternal purposes that I can’t see or comprehend and may never understand on this side of eternity.

Therefore, I will continue to pray, trust God, lean into his strength and joyfully conform to His perfect will for my life. How long you ask?

Every single day until He comes back or takes me home.

Davy Update & Prayer Request

It’s been a hard 3 days for our Davy girl. She has been struggling from pretty intense withdrawal as they ween her off the drugs that she’s been on over these last 58 days. She also has been struggling over the last days with her breathing and was reintubated around 1 am this morning. It was the right move because Davy was working her little lungs to hard and she wouldn’t be able to sustain it much longer. Davy is doing better today but we still have a long way to go.

  • Infection – Pray against infection for our Davy girl. There is potential that she might be getting sick and I don’t want her to have to fight that off in the midst of her recovery.
  • Wisdom – Pray for the wisdom of our medical team. They continue to make big decisions for Davy every single day (along with 30 other kiddos) and could always use your prayers.
  • Overall health – Davy has been struggling with a lot of things over the last few days (lungs, stomach issues, potential infection, etc.) and if you could pray for her holistic health we’d be grateful.

31 thoughts on “When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers

  1. Scott, this is so, so good. Total truth and completely understandable and relatable. It’s so hard when our prayers go seemingly unanswered, or at least answered differently than we hoped. The wisdom and insight you’ve shared for navigating through those times is perfect. Thank you! Continuing in prayer for your sweet family.

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  2. Once again God has spoken to me through your blog today. I understand so much of what you are feeling with Davy as I go through Mark’s illness with him. I continually ask God why has this happened to such a good man. Why has He given us this path to travel. I will say, He has placed many wonderful people in our path as I am sure He has done for you, Chelsey and Davy.
    You continue to be in my prayers. Hugs to you all.
    Georganna

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  3. Scott, while reading your blog I am struck by yours and Chelsea’s unfaltering love and faith in God. This blog has strengthened me personally. Please know that I continue my prayers for complete healing for Davy and believe in answered prayers in God’s perfect timing. Love you three!

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  4. I don’t know you, but a friend of ours (Vicki Lancaster) posted your blog on FB. I have shared it with my family, as we too have some unanswered prayers at the moment. You stated everything we know, but we find hard to do. And I’m so grateful to have read this, because I will most definitely join you in praying for your sweet girl. Thank you for being honest, and real, and offering us the truth to remember. I hope to read a blog very soon of healing for Davy. 🙂

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  5. Your story and Davy’s story has spread Scott! I pray for you all and Miss Davy each night. She has touched so many people, you will have a lot to tell her when she is big enough to understand her impact on everyone as just a tiny little thing. God bless her!

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  6. Scott – your faith amazes me and always opens my mind to new thoughts. I am truly blessed by reading your blog. God has a plan for everything and so often we don’t see / understand the plan. Some plans we will never understand but just have to trust that it is right. Hugs to you and Chelsea and I can’t wait to read about the day y’all roll out of the hospital and start life at home as family.

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  7. The first 75 blogs of my “new-August 8 th” blog were all about the unanswered prayers of our family and trying to make sense of it. The next 20 have been written about the Spirit and in the Spirit of the One who brought me through. I’ll be praying He answers yours. You know He will one way or the other. Perhaps just not in the way you were expecting. He is love. We live in a fallen world… There is always Hope!

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  8. Scott ~
    I am truly touched by your story, therefore I shall be Bold as a Lion! Let me apply the Word of God and wield my sword. I boldly DECLARE, with God, things that are NOT as though they were! ( Ro. 4:17)
    I join with you in prayer to claim Father’s Promises for your Beloved Daughter. I send His Word now and it will not return void to Him for His Word is QUICK (already there!), POWERFUL (already working!), and SHARPER than any Two-edged Sword ( any laser beam that can cut on it’s way in and on it’s way out!)…and by our words, we have what we say according to Mark 11: 22-24) We choose LIFE and Blessing! ( Deut. 30:19 )
    DAVY, I HAVE GOOD NEWS FOR YOU: “… BY HIS STRIPES YOU ARE HEALED!!! (Is.53: 4-5) Hallelujah (/)!!! 👏👏👏
    I say that your heart is WHOLE and it’s no longer broken. I say that you have no birth defects in your little body! You have a disease -free future! Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia an all manner of infection is under your feet, in the Holy name of Jesus, our Lord! IT IS WRITTEN: … in Phil. 2:10-11!!!👏👏👏
    I speak SHALOME PEACE to you Dearest Little One. There is NOTHING broken, there is NOTHING missing in you! You have Fulness of LIFE! Your Life is ABUNDANT NOW! (John10:10) Thank You, Father! Make the thief give back 7 Fold!
    We will NOT PERMIT him to take any Ground from us. (Mark 16:19) we RENOUNCE (Websters Dict.) = not follow; not obey; not even acknowledge … this lie from the pit! We Believe the Report of the Lord which is the Truth about Davy! This is OUR Reality … “the Heritage of the Saints.”! ( Is.54:17)
    [ Facts are real, but the Truth of God Superceeds those facts and denies them to stick around and have value!]
    [Satan is already on a huge rampage against the “body” of Christ through Davy’s body and we resist his attacks now with the Word, (1Pet. 5: 6-10 ] Thank You for Your Grace upon Grace, Lord. We SUBMIT to You and The Healing that is in Your Wings, we resist every symptom, they cannot stick around! Amen!!! (Jas.4:7)
    Thank You Holy Father, that You hear us and Faith pleases You. (Heb. 11:1,3)
    This is the standard of the Holy Spirit of Truth that lives in us, Who raised Jesus from the dead and He will quicken Davy’s mortal body, … by whose Stripes you were healed.” ( 1 Pet. 2:24). Oh Jesus, You are BIGGER than ALL of this! It may be too strong for us, but You rendered it powerless at Calvary!
    This is NOT OUR BATTLE! What are You going to do, Father?! (2 Chron. 20:6-7,15b 17, 20). We will STAND with You and Worship Your Majesty and Dominion in Jesus!
    We ask You to Preserve and Rejoice Davy’s Soul now and Revive her to Your Salvation! (Ps. 98:1-3)
    For Greater is He that is IN us than he that is in the world. We won’t have it any other way than the Truth that God wants Davy WHOLE more than we do!
    Hope against hope, Abraham (didn’t consider his body now dead) … was fully persuaded and believed that He Who had promised was able to do it! We will be Strong in Faith and give You glory! This is The Blessing Of Abraham, even Righteousness. (Ro. 4:17-25) My righteousness is of You, Jesus.
    Scott, Be BOLD and of a good Courage and speak these things over her, if even only in your heart, for …”they said within their own hearts…”, let it be your Faith that arises and says, “NO!!!!!” I won’t have it any other way but God’s Wholeness! … I WILL Believe God Only and not be afraid… and I am established in His Righteousness! (Is 54:14)
    We say: Davy, You are being taught of The Lord; oppression is FAR from you and FAR from your family; and from terror. Do NO be afraid, Father loves you!
    Scott, you will not fear; for it shall not come near you. This weapon formed against Davy and your whole family has NO chance of prospering, for it has already been defeated and is vanquished! ( Is. 54:13-17)
    The Lord is my LIGHT and my SALVATION ( WHOLENESS , Spirit, Soul and Body), whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Strength of MY Life, of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps.27:1, all chapter).
    We Rejoice at Your Goodness, Lord and Your wonderful Mercy that Endures Foerever!!!
    BELOVED, Be Blessed and BE REFRESHED IN JESUS Lovely name! I love you with the 💓 of The Lord Jesus, for you are a part of me through Christ!
    ~ S. Jones

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  9. “The gospel-minded know that God already loves us, whether we pray rightly or not, and that prayer cultivates intimacy with our Heavenly Father, which is better than any answered prayer. ”

    Love this. A very reassuring and encouraging truth.

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  10. Prayers going up from Spicewood… After raising 3 kids to adulthood, the youngest w/special needs as a result of illness at 5 months (she’s now 30! & a gorgeous reflection of God’s love:) I related your blog on this subject. My husband gave a sermon a few months ago on unanswered prayer & our human perspective many times of, “IF God is good & loving, then why does He allow this…?” But when we know God intimately, we say, “SINCE God is good & loving, how am I going to respond?” You spoke to that so beautifully. When many disciples left Jesus after He said some very, very difficult things, He asked those remaining, ” Will you go too?” And Peter said what my husband and I have often echoed, “Where else can we go? You ALONE have the words of life.” Thank you for sharing in such a trying time. Blessings, & we’ll continue to pray for healing for your precious baby girl!

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  11. Scott, your words resonate with my heart. My husband was killed suddenly in a car accident just over two months ago and I find myself asking incredible things of God. It is a struggle to pray these miracles of God with expectancy (Psalm 5:1-3) and to live with patient endurance (Revelation 14:12). I’ll pray that you and I can continue to trust that God’s grace is enough until, like you said, ‘He comes back or takes me home.’

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