Encouragement & Hope prayer Thanksgiving

Did I Waste My Time Praying?

You prayed for a specific outcome. You prayed faithfully for days, weeks, months, years, maybe even decades for one specific prayer request. Maybe it’s a prayer for a friend or family member to know Jesus. Maybe you prayed for a baby. Maybe you prayed that your marriage would be saved. Maybe you prayed for a new career. Maybe you prayed for physical healing from cancer or another life-altering sickness.

Whatever your prayer, there are times when God responds to our whole-hearted, tear-stained prayers with “no” or “not now.”

So what do you do?

How do you respond? How do you move forward? What do you think?

Did you waste your time praying?

Even as I write this, my throat thickens and my eyes well up with tears over the prayers that I prayed that God answered with “no” or “not now.”

And if I am honest, when I hear “no” it makes me shy away from praying with my whole heart. Like you, I am heart broken when I am vulnerable enough to ask for what I want, and I don’t get it. I don’t like hearing “no” any more than my five year old does. I’m not talking about frivolous prayers…but gut-wrenching prayers that would bring glory to God if He said, “yes.”

Sometimes when I hear “no” I stop praying big prayers. I stop dreaming big dreams. I stop asking for what I really want. I don’t want to get my hopes up, just to be let down.

I know this isn’t the “good Christian” thing to say, but I’m not hear to convince you that I am perfect. I want to share my heart with you, with the goal that together we can grow and look more like Jesus as we share our pain and encourage each other in our faith.

C.S. Lewis said, “[Prayer] doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

When I think about this quote, I realize that when I hear “no” or “not now,” I have at least two choices.

1. I can become bitter at God. Shut down and stop praying.

2. I can ask God for wisdom, clarity, and courage.

Let’s look at both options…even though the “right” option seems obvious.

1. When you hear “no” you have the option to stop praying, shut down and let distance grow between you and God.

Obviously, as a follower of Jesus, you know that this is not the option God would desire you to choose. He desires an intimate relationship with you. But let’s explore this option anyway, because if you are like me, you have chosen this option a time or two in your life.

If you are a parent, teacher, aunt, friend, etc. you have probably had to tell a child “no” before. When you did were you offended when that child needed space to process their feelings?

In my house, when I tell one of my girls “no” they are allowed to be mad at me. They are allowed to be disappointed. They are allowed to be sad that they didn’t get their way. This doesn’t mean that they can throw a fit or act inappropriately, but they are allowed to express their disappointment.

As a mom, I want them to tell me when they are disappointed. I want them to be honest. I want them to be vulnerable. I want to provide a safe place for them to share their hearts. This means I have to be able to stand by my decisions without being offended when they are disappointed.

There are times when I have to tell them “no” when I really want to say “yes!” I know that if I say “yes” everyone will be happy in the moment, even if it isn’t the best choice long term. When I tell them “no” or “not right now” I am disappointed, too.

When I look at things from this perspective, I realize that there are probably times when God tells us “no,” knowing we will be disappointed. As a Father, it probably breaks His heart to tell us “no” when He knows how much we are hoping He’ll say “yes.”

He doesn’t get any satisfaction from your hopes not being fulfilled.

And I don’t think He is offended if you need to take a time out to process your disappointment. I think He would love to hold you in your pain and wrap His arms around you as you cry tears of disappointment, but He isn’t offended if you choose space. His love for you isn’t dependent on your not being disappointed.

It’s okay to be sad when God says, “no.” It’s okay to take time to grieve when your prayers aren’t answered the way you hoped. It’s okay to voice your frustration to God. He’s big enough to handle it. And He’ll be there when you give up in exhaustion and are ready to be held.

In my house, when my girls aren’t happy with the decision I’ve made, and they voice their frustration, I do my best to be gentle with them and let them talk it through. If I can do this, then there is always a point when they eventually crawl up in my lap and let me hold them.

Of course I want to cave when I see their disappointment. Of course I want to give them what they want. And when I have to say “no” it breaks my heart, too.

Knowing this, helps me not judge myself when I choose option 1, but it also, helps me pursue the second option.

 2. When you hear “no” you can ask for wisdom, clarity and courage.

The book of James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God who gives it graciously.

When you hear “no” and you don’t understand, it is okay to ask God for wisdom to understand.

Going back to being a mom, I don’t mind when my girls ask me “why” they can’t have their way. In fact, I welcome it {most of the time}. I love the opportunity to share my heart with them, to help them see things from a new perspective, and give them an opportunity to understand that I didn’t say “no” just for fun.

When you hear a “no” or “not right now” from God, don’t be afraid to ask, “Why?” He may not reveal the answer right away…you might not even understand this side of heaven. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask.

In addition to asking “Why?” I think it is important to pray for three specific things:

What does asking for wisdom, clarity and courage look like after hearing “no” or “not right now”?

For me, I ask God to give me wisdom to discern the “best next step.” If God is saying “no” to what I am asking, He often has a different plan, and I want to know His plan. So I ask for wisdom to see His plan. Next I ask for clarity for the decisions I need to make in order to follow His will for my life. And finally, I ask that when He reveals my best next step I will have the courage to take it.

Often, my heart is so wrapped up in my prayer that I haven’t made a plan “B.” So when, the answer is “no” I begin asking God for wisdom for plan B. Then I ask Him to show me very clearly the next best step I should take. I don’t ask for the all of the steps I have to take, just the next best step. Then, I simply ask for courage to take that step. Often, this is where I can get stuck.  I’m a little gun-shy of taking any steps, not wanting to take the wrong step…so I stay paralyzed in fear.

But this isn’t what God wants either. He has a plan. So I pray that God will show me my best next step. One step at a time, I follow God in His will for me. It isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. Taking it one step at a time keeps me from being overwhelmed with the all the steps.

All I ask is for wisdom, clarity and courage for ONE step. Then the next, and then the next.

As a planner, I sometimes struggle not knowing how it all will end, which is why the song, “Next Step” by Melissa Greene is will probably never leave my playlist. Let me leave you with the one part of that song that encourages me every time I hear it.

“You don’t have to be the one who sees
The way this all will end
All you got to do is take the next step

When you are losing the fight and the finish line’s too far away
All you got to do is take the next step
Just get back up and take the next step
Deep in your soul, there’s a strength just to face one more day
Just take the next step.”    – Melissa Greene, Next Step

Often taking the next step begins with the first step of connecting with God. If you are struggling with connecting with God, I have a free worksheet that you can request here:







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