Life is disappointing. Sometimes, we can’t control things, and things don’t always go the way we want them to be. Sometimes, even when we pray to God for something, it doesn’t always go the way we want it to be. But does that mean God doesn’t answer prayer?

Blue eyes

This reminds me of a true story I read when I was younger, about the missionary Amy Carmichael (1867-1951). When she was a young child, she longed for blue eyes instead of her own brown eyes. Her mother had taught her that God always answered prayer, and the young girl had thought that if she prayed to God for blue eyes, God would give her blue eyes! 

She woke up the next day and immediately rushed to the mirror. However, to her disappointment, the eyes that were staring back at her were not blue but still brown. Her mother explained to young Amy that sometimes God could also answer “no” to prayer and that God meant for her to have brown eyes.

Many years later, Amy Carmichael was now a young woman with a passion to be a witness for Christ, and she believed that God had called her to be a missionary. She first served in Japan, but because of sickness, she moved to India and became a missionary there. There, she found out about the temple girls and how they were treated. Amy Carmichael found that she had to disguise herself as an Indian to find out about the real “behind the scenes” of what was happening in the temple. Here she realised God had a plan for giving her brown eyes. If she had blue eyes, she might not have been as accepted!

How about us?

Although we may not have the same experience as Amy Carmichael, we can see through her life how God answered her prayer, though not in the way she had first thought. 

In the Bible, God reminds us that He is never too busy nor limited to hear the prayer of His children. We are encouraged to pray, in both good times and bad. We shouldn’t just pray to God during suffering or when we need help. We must also pray to God during good times to give thanks and praise Him, and also to pray for others (see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). When we pray, God doesn’t “do nothing”. God answers our prayer according to His will. 

When we pray, God answers either with yes, no or wait. When God answers “wait”, we must remember that God’s timing is perfect. God knows more than we do (see 1 John 3:20.) We are limited humans, but we have a limitless God.

When God says “no”, it may seem that God doesn’t listen to our prayer, rather, it is because God knows what’s best for us. I think we will better understand if we see what John Piper says in an interview regarding this topic, when God answers "no" our prayers. In Matthew 7:7–11, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you...Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” God doesn’t say He will give us whatever we ask for. Rather, He says that He will give “good things” to His children. God knows what’s best for us.

We can’t control everything, and God doesn’t always say “yes” to our prayers. But may we remember that although God may say “no” to our prayer, God knows what’s best for His children. He is a God who is in control.