Do you ever wonder how God decides which prayers to answer? You know, when you’ve poured out your heart to Him. Your prayers are for good things that line up with scripture. There’s really no reason God shouldn’t give you what you ask. No earthly, human reason anyway. Why does He seem silent and unbending at times like that?

It’s hard to fathom the reasons why it’s given to one person and not to another. Doesn’t Romans 8:28 promise that all things work together for the good of those who love him? Well, you love Him, but the good you want to work together just doesn’t materialize. You’ve heard all the sermons and good intentions from others; if God doesn’t answer your prayer, it’s because He has something better in store for you. Sometimes it’s hard not to roll your eyes when you hear this yet again. I get it, I really do.

I’m not here to tell you that your faith just needs to be stronger, or that something better is coming along. Today I want to ask you to consider something else. What if God is answering your prayer, but it’s not in the way you envisioned it? Are you willing to embrace God’s plan and trust in Romans 8:28?

The desires of our heart shape the dreams and supplications we whisper to God. It can be devastating to have them denied time and again. I speak from experience. Years ago, as a teenager, I thought for sure I was going to marry young and have 6 kids. I had no reason not to believe that since I came from a long line of people who did just that. I hoped and prayed and planned for that day. 

As the calendars turned from one year to the next and the desire remain unfulfilled, I cried out to God. I pleaded and questioned and, yes, even threw a tantrum or two.  All to no avail. There was clearly something wrong with me to make God unwilling to grant this request.

Then the hard years of my mom’s illness came upon us. We pulled together as a family to give Mom everything she needed. Two of my siblings lived out of state at the time, and my third sibling lived close, but her husband was busy serving in the military, so she was often alone with their two kids. The siblings wanted to help, but their lives didn’t allow for it at that time. Mom, Dad, and I all knew they were where they needed to be and doing what they needed to be doing. 

On the other hand, there was me. Single, living close by, and able to step in to help with whatever Mom and Dad needed. I was grateful for the chance to help. It was hard emotionally, but the time I spent with them yielded many special memories for me. As I nurtured and cared for my parents, God opened my eyes to the fact that this was the deeper desire of my heart that I had prayed for all those years. I thought it was the husband and children, He knew I was meant to nurture and care for others. He hadn’t been withholding anything from me, He knew exactly the gift He had placed in me, and He knew the reason that my desire was so strong. He placed it in my heart for such a time as this.

The last year of mom’s life, I was laid off from my job at the beginning of January which freed me up to be there for my parents every day. I also helped my sister navigate the obstacles she encountered as an often “single” mom. I’ve lived vicariously as I’ve attended dance recitals, first days of kindergarten, graduations, celebrated wins, and mourned defeats with my siblings’ children. Through them I’ve had the chance to experience a taste of parenthood 

Eventually during those years of nurturing and loving my family and their families, I saw the fingerprints of God all over my life. Remember those six kids I wanted? Yeah, God gave them to me; He just gave them to me as nieces and nephews. Six amazing men and women who have enriched my life were all part of God’s plan.

Romans 8:28 really is right. God does work everything together for our good. Sometimes God withholds our requests because it’s just not the right thing or time. Sometimes God grants our prayers in exactly the way we asked of Him. And sometimes, God answers our prayers in a way that we would have never have dreamed, but in a way that was exactly the right way. 

How have you seen God work in your life in ways that was not exactly what you requested, but fulfilled the deeper desire of your heart? If you are comfortable, please share in the comments.

Person silhouette picture courtesy of  Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Flower picture courtesy of Javi Corpa on Stocksnap