The New Year when I was six, what I wanted above all was to move to the mountains. Over the Christmas holidays my family had visited relatives who lived in a mountainous area, and it was the first time I’d experienced the magic of so much snow. I’d loved every moment of it.
I prayed earnestly for our family’s relocation, starting around Christmas and continuing well into January. At first I was confident that it would take place soon, but it finally became obvious that no move was imminent. I eventually got over the childish fixation, but the question lingered in my mind much longer: Why had God not answered my prayer?
I realize now that God does always answer our prayers, but not always right away or always in the way we want or expect Him to. Sometimes He says “yes,” sometimes He says “no,” and sometimes He says “wait.”
As children, we would see something we wanted in a store, or something that our schoolmates had, and we were convinced it could make us happy. Some of us still have this mentality and act as though God were a pharmacist filling prescriptions for us, or Santa Claus ticking items off our wish list. In fact, God doesn’t answer some prayers the way we want or expect Him to because He knows that what we’re praying for would not really be good for us or others.
When we don’t receive an immediate, favorable answer from God, instead of concluding that God hasn’t heard our prayer or that He has forsaken us, we should consider that maybe He wants to test our faith, to see if we will keep loving and trusting Him no matter what, which wouldn’t be evident if He gave us everything we wanted the moment we asked.
Other times, God may have answered our prayer, but we simply don’t like the way He did it. If we’ve already figured out exactly what we want and are just asking God to provide it for us, but our plan is not what He knows is best, then He is doing the wise and loving thing in withholding our request. We need to try to align our petitions with His much broader and better plans.
Oh, and in the years since I prayed that New Year prayer that didn’t seem to materialize, I’ve enjoyed many snowy winters in several countries and settings. God’s answer, it turned out, was “Yes, in My time.”