70 times 7: unanswered prayers


This is the third post in the series 70 times 7 unwrapping  the experiences, frustrations and discoveries of parents (my wife and I) dealing with and loving our prodigal daughter through her 15 year journey (to date) to rock bottom (not yet reached) and our hope that she would return to our Lord and Savior.

Also a bit of a confession is indeed in order:  While I have associated the part of the prodigal son in The Parable of the Prodigal Son to my daughter, I am nowhere near to being qualified as the father in the same parable … hopefully the posts in this series will all be truthful in that regard.

Today’s topic … unanswered prayer (subtitle: God’s lessons for me).

And while this post may not seem as logically ordered as most … it is nevertheless spiritually ordered.  So bear with me …

Here are a couple of lessons learned regarding prayer…

  • God answers our prayers, not according to our requests, but according to His will.  That said … His ultimate object of each one of His children is that our prayer requests will align with His will.
  • Oftentimes, the greatest answer to prayer is found in the transformation of the one praying … not the one being prayed for.

As parents of a prodigal, these have been difficult lessons to learn in the midst of our prayers.

We have prayed for the provision of jobs, housing, and food for our daughter.  We have prayed for her salvation … we have prayed for her exit from the broad way and onto the straight and narrow path.  And oftentimes … unfortunately this has often been the prayer order.

Maybe you already see it … I have to admit a long-term blindness to it.

You can’t begin to imagine (forgive me … many of you have gone are going thru the same thing with your prodigal) the burdens a parent picks up and carries for a prodigal slow in returning to God.  Without a doubt, there is selfishness in our prayers … an answer to all those prayers would certainly benefit our daughter … but my wife and I would really experience the relief of a burden being lifted.

In our joint journey of 15 years, there have been many answered prayers yet so many unanswered prayers … and yet I have come to believe that the passing of time, experiences and failures is essential for my daughter to reach rock bottom in her prodigal journey and realize her need for repentance … and the passing of time, experiences and failures is essential for the transforming work God is doing IN my wife and IN me that we might become more like the prodigal father.

Perhaps you remember this line made famous by Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan Jessup in the movie A Few Good Men

“You can’t handle the truth.”

I have truly come to believe the passing of time is essential in bringing both the parents and the prodigal  to the point where we are prepared to handle the truth God is revealing and will reveal to each of us.

Consider this verse that the Holy Spirit immediately led me to as I wrote about burdens above … I cannot honestly say I would have been receptive to such a truth until the last few years or so.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV)

And Jesus fleshes that truth out a bit more in this passage … parents of prodigals are oftentimes faced with dealing with the financial needs of their children … read and consider …

And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.     But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.  Luke 6:34-36 (ESV)

Give me just a moment … that passage is extremely piercing …

The reality of our prodigal’s journey … she is not the only one who needs to be transformed.

Unanswered prayers may mean … this is not according to God’s will or not according to God’s timing … God’s will and timing are both perfect and beyond question.

So while we find ourselves living with unanswered prayers regarding our prodigal, our hope is two-fold  … that we would come to the point where we pray according to God’s will and where we pray according to His timing.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.  1 John 5:14-15 (ESV)

And let’s be real … God’s answer could simply be ‘No’.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.  1 Peter 3:12 (ESV)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  Romans 1:18-19 (ESV)

As parents we are so focused on our children and their endeavors and plights; and oftentimes we find ourselves loving and serving them more than we love and obey our Lord.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  Matthew 10:37 (ESV)

And the resulting temporal outcomes are of the flesh and the world … rather than the eternal outcomes the Lord desires and ordains.

We don’t really act like we truly believe God loves our children more than we do … and quite honestly we are not nearly as patient with our children as He is with His …

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)

Yes Lord, that’s what we want too … forgive us for thinking we would be more effective at bringing it about than you … as parents we often tend to plant seeds of worldly or religious grief … not godly grief …

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV)

Writing this post has been a learning experience for me … learning to handle the truth … and a teaching experience for the Holy Spirit.  90 plus percent of what is above was taught to me by the Holy Spirit as I wrote … thank you Lord!

There’s more to be shared about lessons learned in this journey … Lord willing, it will continue …

Heavenly Father, our prodigals are in your hands … our prodigals are in your hands!



About bwebbjr

A grandfather, father, husband, man, and a child of God who is following Christ Jesus and working out his salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work IN me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). I dodged my first bullet with cancer when a cancerous polyp was removed in a sigmoid colectomy surgery in August 2007. Four years later, in the midst of a second colectomy surgery we discovered I had Stage IV metastatic colon cancer. Rather than colectomy surgery I had colostomy surgery, which now means the colostomy bag is a part of my everyday life ... with the emphasis on life. God has given us a peace beyond understanding as my wife and I have traveled this journey. By the grace of God I am blessed to be a 6 plus year cancer survivor aka warrior. In writing, I am often wrestling with my own personal struggles and beliefs and in the midst God leads me to a lesson He wants me to learn ... or sometimes He simply touches me in the revelation of Himself. My hope is that the result you see here might touch your heart and glorify God. And let me be clear ... I am not the only one with something to say. Please join in the conversation sharing your faith, your cancer experiences, etc. I would love to hear from you. Bernie
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6 Responses to 70 times 7: unanswered prayers

    • bwebbjr says:

      Thanks Butch … I know it’s an odd response … but there is a degree of comfort to know that others have gone or are going through similar or even worse circumstances with their children, Thank you for your four words of empathy and compassion. God bless you brother!

  1. Julie Garro says:

    This is a great series for me. I have my own prodigal……. Blessings to you my friend.

    • bwebbjr says:

      Julie … I think there is great comfort in simply knowing that other parents are going through their own struggles with a prodigal … if you have insights and lessons learned you’d like to share, please use all the comment space you like … or I’d be glad to host a guest post … and I would be glad to reblog as well. May the Lord bless you as a parent and bring your prodigal safely home to the Father!


  2. jimdavenport says:

    Bernie, this series of posts is so important. Our Heavenly Father knows how to deal with ALL (ALL means ALL, and that is ALL that ALL can mean!) situations. His insight working in and through you will lead to His will being done in your life. As for your prodigal and as you have shared, continue to cherish His promise that God will ultimately break down her will and present opportunity after opportunity for her to trust Him and not herself. Self-will is the strongest deterrent one faces when confronted by God. I continue to pray for you, Sheryl and your prodigal. Our God answers our prayers. No question about it.

    • bwebbjr says:

      Jim, so many parents are struggling with a prodigal child of their own and it is so easy to get caught in Satan’s trap of “I’m the only one struggling with this problem. I must have done something wrong.” And while this series of posts will reveal our struggles, my aim is that it will indeed reveal the hope we have … and what God is doing in Sheryl and I through the midst of this journey. And God is not surprised by a single event that has transpired … your pastor’s teaching on the word ALL is critical for us all to understand. So insightful, “Self-will is the strongest deterrent one faces when confronted by God.” May the Lord shatter the walls and stone heart of self-will my daughter lives within. May His way and will be done her life! Thanks for your prayers my brother!!! Bernie

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