Grappling With Unanswered/Rejected Prayers (Discussing Disability & Spiritual Truths)

In the parable of the widow and the unjust judge, the widow approaches the judge relentlessly to receive justice for her situation. Though the judge is not a morally upright man, he eventually grants her justice just to shake her off his back. Jesus insists the Father Almighty will do so much more for us. Point being, we should be persistent in our prayers and petitions, and God will hear us. So, what do we make of it if we pray persistently, only for our petitions to go unanswered or be rejected?

Hope gained then lost

In Oct. 2019, we learned that, for the first time ever, a drug from a clinical trial was statistically proven to improve FA symptoms. Bear in mind that FARA (Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance), the organization that coordinates scientists researching treatments and pharma companies testing them, was established in 1998–so this outcome is born from decades of fundraising, research, drug trials, and fervent prayers.

All the FA’ers at the Oct. 2019 conference

We’ve been holding our breath for the last year in eager anticipation of FDA approval, which we were told would take 6 months to a year. For months and months, I’ve prayed, among other things, that God would help this medicine get passed quickly and be affordable and effective for patients. Well, about ten months later, we received a much-anticipated update. The FDA has declared the evidence “insufficient.” The pharma company has submitted a crossover study that would take place in 2021. If they don’t accept it, we might be SOL with this drug.

A lot of emotions and thoughts have circled my mind. Of course, I’m disappointed. At other times, hopelessness begins to creep in; when I’m sitting in the floor after falling, I feel bitterness that borders on rage. Why do You allow so much suffering? The day before writing this, as my fiancee helped me out of the shower, he twisted his wrist while sitting me in my chair. I joked that FA is painful for us both, and he responded, “FA is realistically one of the cruelest diseases.” Looking down to survey my weak left ankle that constantly rolls, my right kneecap that pops out of place if I’m not careful, and the band-aid on my foot covering a cut I got from a recent fall, I agreed. That sentiment is so mercilessly true that it might make me laugh or cry, depending on my mood.

Remembering spiritual truths

These moments of disappointment also remind me of some spiritual truths:

  1. The prosperity gospel is an inadequate shell of Christianity.
  2. One needs to be biblically literate to hold on to faith in the hard times.

There’s a gospel song I love called “Blessings on Blessings” with lyrics like “Every time I turn around/ blessings, blessings” and “Only speakin’ blessings for the rest of the year.” Though I enjoy jamming with the upbeat song of praise, I hope listeners don’t take it too literally. When I play it, I think of all the ways I’m so privileged. I was born in a first world country, I’ve never been homeless or hungry, I have a loving family/fiancee/church/etc, I have a car and a small writing job, I live in a nice house. But all my little nicks and bruises testify to my disadvantages in life. Prosperity doctrine instructs that, basically, we will receive it if we believe it. As long as people have pretty good lives, I suppose this kind of religious faith is sufficient. But when that scary diagnosis comes, or when you get laid off from the job you thought you’d retire from, or when your child gets in a bad car accident, or when your spouse passes away…you realize life, even life walking with the Lord, has a lot more in store than just “blessings, blessings.” And when I pray for all those who were dealt a far worse hand–abused/neglected children, human trafficking victims, those in war-torn countries, those in detainment camps, those in extreme poverty…my list goes on and on–I feel the rage again. Why, God, why do You allow this suffering?

The point about biblical literacy naturally follows, since biblical literacy allows us to grasp the full spectrum of Christianity, rather than an idealized snapshot. Yes, we Christians will always “prosper” in life, but that prosperity looks less like great wealth and health and more like strength to meet the days and a peace that passes understanding.

Biblical literacy has helped my faith and devotional life in countless ways. I know so many comforting verses. The ones that come to mind immediately are Romans 8:28 (“God works all things to the good for those who love Him.”), Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”), and 2 Corinthians 12:9 (“His grace is sufficient because His strength is made perfect in weakness.”). Some of the truths I cling to pertain not to a particular passage but to overarching themes. Knowing the general notions that God cares for and greatly values the poor and the needy, how humility is exalted, how He always offers mercy even in the midst of the darkest times…having this broad understanding of God’s heart towards the lowly also reassures me.

The Psalms and other parts of the Bible have bolstered my prayer life. With their boldness sometimes bordering on audacity, the Psalms have taught me how to cry out to God, literally and figuratively. WHY, GOD, WHY DO YOU LET ME AND SO MANY OTHERS SUFFER? But the boldness of the Psalms is balanced by the continuous acknowledgement of God’s steadfast love and mercy, even in the worst circumstances. So I’ve learned to lament and look to the Lord simultaneously. Jesus’s prayer life also inspires me. If even He had to make time to get away and relay His burdens to the Father, of course we need to do the same. And when He prays in utter anguish before His crucifixion that God would take the cup from Him, I am reminded that the savior of the world can relate to unanswered prayers…and to suffering.


Who knows what lies in the future? Either way, I trust God to bring me through it.

Thanks for reading! Have you ever had a prayer go unanswered or rejected? Tell me about it in the comments.

17 comments

  1. I’m not sure how to answer your question. For God has always answered my prayers…He hears them all and promises to answer my desires…when my desires are for His best for me and not my own thinking. There have been many times He has answered no but even in the no there is an answer for my best. I don’t always recognize that it’s best at the time but the older I get the more I see it. He’s also answered yes, but at the right time. There are times He has answered immediately. Wow! is that great. But always He answers.
    All that said, I can’t begin to imagine the depths of your disappointment but your faith is evident. Psalm 62 became a go to Psalm when caring for my Mom as she went through dementia. May it bring you strength.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing! I suppose you have a point that unanswered prayers are not technically unanswered–the answer is just “No” or “Not right now.” But they’re always followed by a “comma but”…no, but trust me…not right now, but I’ve something even better in store. I will look up Psalm 62. ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been struggling with Social Security Disability for almost 5 years now. I’ve been denied 3 times but I’m continuing to fight. I remember praying the verse in Mark 11:24 that says, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”

    I know that that verse can be taken out of context but when I first read it over several times I truly believed that I would be granted disability. My health is not getting any better. Working has become too hard for me.

    It’s a prayer I’m going to continue to pray. I mean, I guess by getting denied the first time that was God saying no, or at least, “not right now.”

    I don’t know. I’m getting so discouraged.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry, Leigh. I relate to your feelings of discouragement. I will keep you in my prayers. It’s tough trying to make sense of verses like that which seem pretty straight-forward. In the context of the full gospel and scripture in general, since Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow Him, persecution and suffering are part-and-parcel for believers, etc, I think to myself that verses like that are alluding more to godly wisdom and strength, gifts of the Spirit, that sort of thing rather than material things. I can see how taking that verse literally could lead someone right down the garden path to prosperity gospel. People who suffer like we do know that faith is so much more than “I give God X so He’ll give me Y.” Blessings to you! ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Certainly prayer is not for wimps, as some critics might say. To follow the life of prayer we need to exercise and grow in faith, no matter what the world throws at us. Indeed satan our enemy is cafty in placing banana skins in our path. He takes every delayed answer to prayer as an opportunity to whisper in our ear. When I have had delayed/unanswered prayers I have found myself second guessing myself, but in the end I return to the truth that God loves to hear from us and bless us. This sends me to scripture followed by more prayer.
    Thank you for this challenging post Lily, it has been a blessing to read. May our Father God bless you and guide you my sister.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s such a good image–Satan throwing “banana peels” (doubt, resentment, fear, etc.) as we walk with the Lord when He hasn’t answered our prayers in the way or timing we want. I like how you say you always return to the truth because, when I’m feeling discouraged and I open my Bible, my hope gets reset as the Spirit moves through the Word and my heart. Thanks for your comment and your kind words. May God be with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As someone who lives with chronic illness, I feel I can understand a little of how you feel. I often think about Paul who prayed for the thorn in his side, there are differing speculations as what it was, and God told him that his grace is sufficient. That is not to say your prayer will not be answered yes in the future. It is to say God gives grace.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for highlighting some very important truths here. Having grown up in and escaped from the prosperity gospel, I can attest to what you say about it being an empty shell. Also dealing with disabilities, I experienced my share of unanswered prayers as well as being shamed or made to feel “lesser in Christ” for not receiving miraculous healing. It’s a cruel message they send. Continued prayers to you as you travel this road. May God be your sustainer, come what may.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Girrrl, I can totally relate to experiences where people insinuated that God would heal me if I prayed harder and believed more. Agreed that it’s a cruel message. He has the power to heal, but He also has all the authority…so, He would have to decide to heal me. He hasn’t, so I’m going to try to use it to His glory, since He works all things to the good. Thanks for your encouraging words, and God bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ‘One needs to be biblically literate to hold on to faith in hard times.’

    I let out a big ‘yeah’ when I read this sentence.

    That’s why we mustn’t follow after religion. Our call is a call to a relationship with God.

    I made a wrong financial move in July. Prayed to the Lord to fix it but He is silent.

    But in all, I can trust Him.

    The Lord is your strength, Lily.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s