The Problem With Both “He Will” And He “Won’t”

800px-Cloudy_sky_1_(Unsplash)I’ve had my share of unanswered prayers.

Let me rephrase. No prayer goes unanswered; there are answers we like, answers we don’t, and answers we’re still awaiting. It’s better to say, I’ve had my share of answers I’ve disliked.

Some I still dislike. We must carry some bitter answers for years before we glimpse the Romans 8:28 in them.

Fortunately, this didn’t drive me away from God, just turned me into a bookworm. I read much fine academia on why God doesn’t grant every prayer. I also absorbed my share of theological self-righteousness, because some of those writings are so steeped in nastiness towards spiritual error that their authors probably aren’t much closer to God than those they criticize. (As the man said in Ratatouille, negative criticism is fun to write.)

I emerged from that leg of my race with a solid theology of suffering and an expectation of nothing from God.

Especially when it comes to faith.

I know why God doesn’t grant every prayer, even if prayed in faith. It comes down to what he wants to do in a situation. He’s more qualified and better positioned to pick the best path for us. He is also running 7,399,999,999 other plans that have nothing to do with us (!).

But I can get too far into this.

If we’re bad at knowing what’s good, and if (to be honest) denial and disappointment have such spiritual value, why would he ever grant a prayer? Why bother asking for anything at all?

Veteran followers won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve won prestigious awards from the International Overthinking Society, but this really is where my thoughts ended up. I’d approach every prayer with skepticism – without exception. I wasn’t making myself expect a “no”; it was just my gravitational pull.

To explicitly say “God never grants prayers” would have been ridiculous to my own ears. But, well, sometimes the lies we’re believing aren’t evident, showing up only at crunch time.

I knew something was off. But in my overly literal mind, surrender was the only honesty I knew.

So I felt stuck between two paradigms.

Between “he will, just have faith!” and “he won’t, grow up”.

Then I arrived at a revelation for which I can only credit the Holy Spirit.

Neither paradigm requires relationship with God.

You can go through your entire life “believing in faith” for any impermanent, worthless thing you desire, and never hear a word from God. Some do.

You can go through your life praying for very little, beating your desires down harshly, justifying it all with theology – and never hear a word from God. Some do.

But engaging him – seeking his will, listening for answers, accepting both possibilities, trusting that sometimes it glorifies God to fulfill a desire, sometimes to supply something better – is what requires relationship. 

So God makes that kind of prayer the most effective. It’s a brilliant setup. Otherwise we’d content ourselves with one of the two paradigms and walk away without relationship.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6)

Not doubt…what?


Not doubt his character.

That’s the application of faith that can be trusted. No matter the answer, we can trust his character and must not doubt it.



24 thoughts on “The Problem With Both “He Will” And He “Won’t”

  1. Love this. I have definitely found myself on both extremes and I am currently trying to find the middle ground of faith that He is listening and wants to fulfill my deepest desires, but when He says no, it’s a setup for something better than I can even understand at the time. I even have to know that His better doesn’t always look like my better.

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  2. I think you’re right. I also think a lot of it has to do with being in line with God’s will for you and His timing AND His overall plan at drawing you closer in trusting Him. There’s a confidence that grows over time. God’s with us for the long haul. Grace and blessings my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Amen!
    I agree with you, it’s in the attitude we display that hastens or delays our answer.

    Prayers tend to be delayed or not the answer we want because of many factors. One of the heaviest is doubt. If you yourself have doubts then what’s the point..?.. You’re starting out with a negative spirit. With this attitude do you really think your prayer will even reach His ears..? Another might be we approach it with the ‘I wants’ and not ‘if it be Your will, Father’. One must take into consideration His will in our lives. Are we living up to His expectations..? His love? Yet, another can be in the way we phrase the prayer, we’re not too specific, we tend to generalize.

    As you have mention, God knows us, every hair on our head is counted. He knows exactly what we need when we need it most, on the spot or not. Is this so unimaginable that we doubt as you have said ‘His character’..? He knows our hearts and how sincere it may or may not be.
    Just maybe, the answer given can be directed at someone else. Our duty, response is not to give up when prayer is delayed but anticipate that it will come. Hope is powerful! Searching within ourselves, truthfully, are we asking for the right reasons..? Are we believing with all our hearts regardless of it being answered or not. Our we solid with our relationship with Him, if it doesn’t happen..? Knowing He has His reason if it wasn’t meant to be. God sees way into the future of each of us and just maybe that prayer in that future self was not beneficial for us (and/or someone else).
    Again as you mention and I too believe, the prayer also has to fits in with God’s plan for us. We can’t see what the future holds for us, there are many twist and turns in our journey home, we must trust His providence. Everything is done in God’s time, not our own. And a positive attitude goes along way. He loves us, and everything is done for our good, our refinement, our justification, our sanctification.

    Our world consist of instant gratification, God works differently in our lives, according to our belief. Just maybe He’s showing us patience, humility, trust.
    Our Heavenly Father and His Son are looking for sincere followers, looking for camaraderie, looking for a solid and steady relationship in both good and bad times. Before we doubt God we should look within ourselves and see where we are in our relationship with Him.

    Thank you Brandon for sharing. And for letting me add my two bits (although a bit lengthy). God bless you wholeheartedly in trusting His judgment, in knowing the reasons behind the ‘not right now’ prayers. ~Aida

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  4. Good one. I, too, am a charter member of the overthinkers club who owns a virtual library of theological tomes. But it’s the Bible that always sets me straight. It’s all about faith in what I can’t see and nothing about that comes easy for me. Yet I know that’s the answer so I just keep on having faith in my good, good Father.

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  5. Wonderfully worded, Brandon. I think if we’re after the answer, then our prayers are manipulative. If I asked my friends for stuff, and didn’t react well toward them when they didn’t give me what I want, everyone would say I had shallow relationships. Yet, like you pointed out, we tend to either fall into the “genie/bottle” paradigm with God, or denial of the paradigm. What about focusing on the Giver rather than the gift? So glad you posted this. Blessings upon you!

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  6. Cool post, Brandon. It’s all about relationships.

    Somebody once taught me how to surrender a whole area of my life to the Lord in prayer, so like ask Him to come into my finances and make His presence known in that area. That really helped to open my eyes to how He works, to how He moves to solve our problems for us. We can get so single task focused, falsely believing He hasn’t answered our prayers because we just don’t see how broad His hands are. Our wants, needs, and desires, are usually too small and fixated on one thing. When we can step back and look at the whole picture, it can be really eye opening as to how present He really is.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Brandon, thank you for putting into words what most of us can’t. You express so much of the heart of every growing believer. PRAYERS That Bring the House Down is one of our books full of His answers from His Holy Word. I would love to send you a free PDF copy if you would like to read it. Blessings as you continue to commune with our Lord.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Amen, and remembering to start out our prayers with praise and thanksgiving is especially important. So many people come to God with their lists of requests or desires and not their praise and thankfulness of what they have already been given freely. God bless Brandon!

    Liked by 1 person

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