Prayer And The Goodness Of God

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I listened as two of my friends were talking.  One was telling the story of an answer to prayer- not a great miracle, but a difficult situation where she had prayed and things had worked out.  My other friend responded, “God is good!” and, to my surprise, I felt uneasy.

At first I was unsure where this feeling was coming from.  I had no doubt that God had acted in answer to my friend’s prayers, and of course I agreed that God is good, but there’s just something that concerns me when I hear people talking as if answered prayer is “proof” that God is good.

This is not what my friend was doing in this situation- she was simply celebrating how God’s goodness had been shown- but I have heard other people talk this way, stacking up a list of answers to prayer, almost as if they can convince themselves if they gather enough proof.

It scares me when that seems to be the basis of people’s faith, because where does that leave us when the miracles don’t happen?  Does it mean God is not good if our prayers are not answered as we want?  If that’s our foundation it won’t take much for the whole thing to come tumbling down because there are many different ways God can answer our prayers.

Sometimes God says yes and he intervenes to answer our prayers in miraculous ways.  I have seen this on countless occasions- people being healed, lost objects being found, situations being transformed.  It’s amazing, and it does remind us of God’s power and goodness and his care, even for the small details of our lives.  It’s definitely something to celebrate.

But other times the answer is no.  We pray desperately for something that we deeply desire, that seems good, and the answer is no.  The healing doesn’t come, the relationship doesn’t work out, the answer we get is the opposite of the one we want.

Does that mean God is no longer good?  Of course it doesn’t.  Sometimes he has a better plan which we just don’t understand at the time but is revealed to us later.  Other times we have no idea why our prayers were not answered as we hoped.  We live in a fallen world and everything that happens is not good, but God does promise to work for our good, even in painful and difficult situations.

Then there are times when the answers just don’t come- when we pray and pray and we know we’re asking for something good, and it’s not that God says no, but he doesn’t say yes either.  We swing between faith and doubt, between hope and despair, between contentment to wait for God’s timing and wildly searching for the key that is going to unlock the door to the answer we’re looking for.

It took me ten years of praying about a situation before I got the significant breakthrough I was looking for.  There were many ups and downs along the way, and at times I thought it would never happen.  I still don’t know why it took so long, but I do know that God used the time of waiting to draw me closer to him, and that, when it happened, it happened quickly and it was absolutely worth the wait.

Sometimes there’s no clear answer from God and we just have to trust.  Over the last four years I have been praying for a friend struggling with mental health issues.  I have probably prayed more about this than anything else in my life, and there has been no clear answer from God.  There have been little answers to prayer along the way, but there have also been times when I think she’s making good progress, only for her to encounter another massive setback.

I don’t know what God is saying and I don’t know how this situation will turn out.  All I know is he is good, he loves her, he has a plan and I have to trust him, even when I don’t understand.  My faith can’t be in a particular outcome; it has to be in him.

The word God has led me to focus on this year is “Surrender” and I think that’s the key in prayer- we surrender our concerns and our desires to God and we trust him, knowing that however things turn out, one thing is for certain: God is good!

If you are struggling with a situation where a prayer seems to be going unanswered, I would recommend the book “God on Mute” by Pete Greig (UK link,  US link) and the song “Blessings” by Laura Story.  Laura Story has also written a book “When God Doesn’t Fix It” which I haven’t read but hope to do soon.  You can read a review here.

>      #FridayFive        Holly Barrett

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26 thoughts on “Prayer And The Goodness Of God

  1. Carly, thank you for this encouragement. I really struggled with this recently, when in every way I was being prepared for something awful to happen, despite prayers for it not to, but was met with someone trying to convince me that God would bring a miracle. It really angered me because in that moment all I needed reminding of was that God was with the person I was praying for in the terrible loss about to happen and the grief to come. The loss and grief have hit and I’m thankful that God has shown His Presence in many other ways and I’m trusting Him to continue to work in and through this terrible hard in the life of the person I love so dearly. I do not understand why this had to happen, but I do know God is in the business of redemption and restoration…some of which we may not see until heaven.

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    1. Thanks, Anna. I’m glad you found it encouraging. I’m sorry for your loss and the grief you’re experiencing. Praying that you continue to know God with you. It’s so hard when we can’t understand what he’s doing, but comforting to know him with us and that his ultimate plan is for restoration.

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  2. Hi Carly! It’s always so confusing…we celebrate His gifts when they are right out there in front of us. But as you say, what about the quiet times? The times we can’t see or feel the presence…
    I love how your word for the year is folded into these thoughts. How can we understand how God works? His thoughts are not ours, his ways far above. But He is Love. Even in those raindrops.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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  3. This is so true, Carly. God’s goodness is immovable and never changes whether or not we get answers we want. Thank you for this reminder. I always find Laura’s song so comforting. She found the good in the bad. She wrote it in a time of unanswered prayer concerning her husband who had brain cancer. They were able to remove the tumor, but it resulted in acute memory loss and significant vision problems, and their lives were changed forever. And yet their story comforts many today. Yes, God is good all the time, no matter what happens to us. Blessings and hugs to you!

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    1. Thanks, Trudy. I’m glad you like the song too. I haven’t heard the complete story behind it but I read a review recently of a book Laura Story has written telling their story so I’d like to read it and find out more. It’s definitely true that God has used their difficult story to bless a lot of people, and it’s always encouraging to remember that he works for good even in the bad.

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  4. Love that song, and love this message. I hear you. I agree so much- sometimes those words make me pause, too. He is good all the time, but “good” is not defined by “what I want.” I try to be more specific in response to praises and answered prayers so that I don’t slip into feeling like God’s goodness is all about what I want. Thanks for this exhortation and encouragement!

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    1. Thanks, Bethany. I love how you sum that up: “He is good all the time, but “good” is not defined by “what I want.”” So important to hold onto the fact that he is good when things are not working out as we hoped.

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  5. Thanks for stopping by on my post : ) This is exactly what I am going through with a love one. I just continue to pray and draw near to Him who’s way is perfect (2 samuel 22:31). I also hold onto the fact that He is teaching me something during this time. I believe He will work it out for His glory even if my prayers never get answered. Thank you for this challenging but encouraging post.

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    1. Sorry things are difficult with your loved one. Praying that you know God with you and that he will strengthen you to keep holding on to him and trusting him.

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  6. Hi Carly! This post is one that I resonate with a great deal! I have experienced similar feelings about that phrase and what it can seem to communicate even though that may not be the intent. My reaction can be similar to someone saying they are “highly favored” because of something God has done for them. God is good because it is who He is whether He answers my prayers as I desire or not. Favor? That happened on the cross and nothing that has happened since can top that. I appreciate this thoughtful post. Happy to be your neighbor at the Linkup at Tell His Story today.

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  7. Carly, I’m so glad you wrote on the subject of God’s goodness not being determined by our answers to prayer. This is such an important subject, one that isn’t being taught in many churches. GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME, even when He doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we hoped.

    Another good resource on this subject is the book by Laura Story, “When God Doesn’t Fix It.”

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    1. Thanks, Barbara. And thank you for mentioning the book. I’ve been wanting to read it since I read your review but haven’t managed to yet.
      I’ve updated the post to mention it and to link to your review.

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  8. You raise some great points here, how we connect positive experiences with the goodness of God. What does that leave us with in the hard times? I appreciate your thoughtful words on the consistency, faithfulness, and goodness of God. Thanks for linking up!

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  9. You do bring up some good points here! I have had many hard times where the Lord has drawn me closer to himself through prayer even when the answer was not what I wanted. He is good all the time. Thanks for posting.

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