How God Really Answers Prayers (self-care day 5)

Every special-needs mom is praying a prayer that isn’t being answered the way she wants it to be. Let’s talk about that.
self care day 3 prayer

A couple years ago we were visiting my husband’s parents for the weekend. Lee (my husband) and David (our older, typical son) were asleep in one bedroom and in the other room, I was crying out to God, begging for Him to answer my prayer.

All I wanted was for James to sleep. It was 3:00 am and James was happily playing, after falling asleep in the car from 8-10 pm and then deciding he didn’t want to sleep anymore.

“Why won’t you just give us sleep, God? I’m not asking for anything hard. If we sleep, it isn’t going to change anything for anyone else on the planet but us. And it will be a good change! I’ll be a better wife, mom, and daughter-in-law if you let me sleep!”

Because it was 3:00 am and we were visiting my in-laws and life was just hard in general, I got right to the point with God, “You gave me a son with autism and I do my best each day for him and all of us. All I ask for is sleep. If You can’t even do this, what can You do?”

And that gets to the truth that every special-needs parent is carrying around. We are praying prayers that God isn’t answering. And I’m sure that’s true for everyone, but I experience it every day. I pray for James’s healing and it doesn’t happen.

Of course, God is answering every prayer we pray in His wisdom and sovereignty. I know that. But I don’t always feel it. When I go to bed each night with one prayer on my mind and wake up the next morning with it feeling unanswered, how do I cope? How do I continue to trust, love, and worship?

The atheist points to suffering in this world as proof there is no God. If God exists, then suffering shouldn’t. But Christians see God even in suffering. In sickness and pain. In unanswered prayers.

“But please, please—won’t you—can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?’

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

God is not absent when we suffer. He’s with us. He suffers with us. But His goals are not our goals. My prayers for James are mostly for his life (and therefor our lives) to be easier. For sleep. For eating. For talking. For potty training. But God’s goals are for our lives to be holier. For love. For sacrifice. For grace.

I’m from Oklahoma, where we love Garth Brooks only slightly less than God and football. So even though it isn’t fully developed theology, I can agree with the sentiment behind Garth’s hit song, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.”

How does Philippians 4:6-7 say God will answer “every prayer and supplication”? Not with exactly what we ask for, but with peace. Peace that surpasses all understanding. Peace that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

self-care day 3 prayer quote

God doesn’t always say yes to sleep. He doesn’t always say yes to healing. He doesn’t always say yes to $100 more in the bank account or success in everything we attempt to do. He says yes to peace. The peace that comes from trusting in Him.

8 thoughts on “How God Really Answers Prayers (self-care day 5)

  1. One of my biggest struggles is not understanding how my son’s autism could be for our good (his and mine). God’s word says “all things work for good…”, so this must be included in that right? But in Church as my hands are lifted in worship or at night when it’s quiet and in the in between times, I pray for healing. I refuse to believe that mine is an impossible prayer. I know that He loves my son and I see answers to other prayers everyday. I just don’t understand why not this one. And until I hear Him say otherwise, I’ll keep asking him because He says to “ask”.

    • I keep asking too! And I agree, this must be included in “all things work for good,” even if we won’t see it this side of heaven!

    • One day will come God’s gift of a break through with your son.It may be one small step but it will come.Autism will be a strange and sweet part of your life.

  2. I have been that parent at 3am begging God for sleep. Just a regular night’s sleep, not 12 hours or anything ridiculous like that, 8 or 7 hours would be awesome! But I never had that prayer answered and find that part of praying frustrating. I know he hears me. I know he answers prayers. I know it because he’s answered a lot of our prayers. It’s the simple prayers like sleep that boggles my mind. Thanks for writing this today and reminding me of Philippians 4:6-7. The peace he gives me will be sufficient and I thank Him for answered prayer.

  3. Great article. However I would add God is sovereign, yes, but He clearly states in His word He has given us authority. There’s so much we ask Him for that He has told us to do. I’m learning that often we suffer needlessly because we do not know how to use our authority.

    The other thing I think about a lot is how there isn’t enough practical help in this world. I don’t know if you and your husband take shifts. Yiu didn’t say. But your article states your in a house with a husband and two inlaws- 3 other adults? – Is it possible one of them could stay up to help you?

    We mothers are often taxed with the responsibility of enduring the sleepless nights. For me, it is the worst aspect of parenting. I’m glad to slowly be leaving it behind.

    Even the proverbs 31 woman had servants! The church needs to get more practical. We need to take each others suffering upon ourselves and help carry the burdens.

    Literally and figuratively we need to give up our cozy beds for those in need. That’s how God answers prayer too.

    • My husband woke up at 4:00 am and took over. This was just an example though of how God answers prayers with peace, not a discussion on practical help, which is often available to us.

  4. Nicole,
    You hit the nail on the head with your post. One of my biggest hurts and frustration with fellow Christians is they know our family suffers when our son suffers with such anxiety that he has to be admitted in a facility, and the only reply weekend it is that they will pray for us. Our son is now an adult and we have been dealing with this for over 15 years. Never once has anyone offered more than a prayer. I’m now at a point of depression and discouragement.

    • Nicole,
      I understand. My son was hospitalized when he was 7 years old (he is now 19) and we had been active members of our church. We got prayers and hugs but that didn’t seem to really help. I honestly believe that they didn’t know how to give more than that. If they haven’t dealt with mental illness in their families then they don’t know what to offer. I decided that they did what they felt they could and turned to God in prayer. Lots of prayer and quiet time. Please life yourself from depression and know that God hears you and loves you and your family. Have you seen the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies? Right now they’re doing one called “Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely. I highly recommend it! Blessings!

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