Unanswered Prayers

03/02/2011

Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.

(Song by Garth Brooks)

I wondered what this writing would be called…and then driving home from the airport today after getting my friend on the plane back to Florida, it came to me… “Unanswered Prayers.”

Now, “Unanswered Prayer” is not a bad thing here, in fact, it is very good. We can’t always say that. Most times, we’d like our prayers to be answered just exactly the way we pray them.

Lord, heal my friend.
Lord, help me find a job.
Lord, please let our home sell quickly.
Lord…(You fill in the blank.)

But, after spending this last weekend in the mountains surrounded by more snow than we knew what to do with, we came home thanking God for an Unanswered Prayer this time. And why would that be? Because, when God didn’t answer our prayer to bring the power back on, we were able to experience the weekend at our friend’s cabin in Twain Harte in a way that we never would have been able to otherwise. She just sent me an email that said, “When our power went out... His POWER came on!!” So true!!

What do seven women do in a cabin buried in snow, with no power? We become pioneer women! Pioneer women with indoor flush toilets…which we were very thankful for! Other than that, we learned how to get by with very little cell phone usage (recharging and connection not being easy), TV, Internet, lights, hot water, stove/oven (electric range), and refrigerator. It was awesome! Why? Because the modern world was shut out, and we were shut in. We prayed together, cooked together, ate together, shoveled snow together, gathered firewood together, and had an absolutely amazing time together!!

Our Cabin Owner, Denise, had prepared a devotional for our Sunday morning “church” service. We had all decided before arriving that we would have church together without ever leaving the cabin. If you can have church in PJ’s, sipping coffee, why not?!! So we did! And what Scripture had Denise picked out long before we knew we were going to be snowed in and cooking on the wood stove as best we could? It was Isaiah 64. In the New Living Translation Bible of Isaiah 64:1-2 it reads:

Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
How the mountains would quake in your presence!
As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil,
your coming would make the nations tremble.

We related to these words as we sat around the living room warmed by the wood stove in the corner. It burned with the wood we had brought in from the snow. Having formed a “fire brigade” line of women earlier in the weekend, we had tossed the previously chopped wood to each other towards the house, saving steps in the deep snow. It was fun as we worked as a team to keep the cabin warm.

tossing wood       team work

Anyone who got up during the night—and with seven women you know it happens—that person was “assigned” to stoke the fire. It was on that fire that we cooked our food, and perked our coffee. Yes, perked! Denise found a percolator coffee pot up in the cupboard, and we brushed the “cobwebs” off of it, and used it for the first time in probably many years! It took awhile, but then we heard it start to perk, and lo and behold! We had coffee! We laughed like children, finding the joy in simple things.

woodstove       cooking

The mountains were filling with snow, and our hearts were filing with God’s goodness as our prayers for electrical power went unanswered, but as God’s power was so evident!! There was laughter too, as we watched the wood cut-outs of the baby bear, the mamma bear, and the papa bear record the snowfall on the deck outside. At first, we registered the snowfall as it climbed up the baby bear, thinking it would probably be in inches…but inches turned into feet, and soon there were no bears to be seen anymore! As we recorded the early snowfall, Denise was still able to send out a Facebook message at that point, calling it, “Where oh where has my little bear gone?” Soon, the internet was gone, and the batteries were almost gone too!

Bears going       Bears going       Bears gone
Going...                    Going...                     Gone!

When you came down long ago,
      you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.
      And oh, how the mountains quaked!
 For since the world began,
      no ear has heard,
      and no eye has seen a God like you,
      who works for those who wait for him!
Isaiah 64:3-4 (NLT)

Our “highest expectations” for our retreat into the mountains of California were beyond what we had planned, and totally what God had planned. God came down long ago in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, and made a way for all of us to live on the earth with great joy and hope; despite the trials we go thru. I received word while there at the cabin that a man I knew of years ago had traveled on to Heaven just this last week. He was only 57 years old, dying suddenly of a heart attack. What do we do with unanswered prayers like that? This man’s wife is the daughter of the pastor who married Jim and me 35 years ago. She now lives each day without her husband to wake up with…and she must go on each day thru tremendous brokenness… God’s power is the only thing that will get her thru her days now. Yes, we can do it without God, without His power, many do…but I’m talking about having a joy deep in our heart that wins out over the brokenness that this world inflicts. I’m talking about looking out at the cold hard winter of our lives and knowing that God will provide the warmth we need. I’m talking about a God who “works for those who wait for him!”

Most times, we need encouragement from those around us to survive. We need friends and family who trust in God’s goodness enough to share that trust with us when ours is wavering—to tell us, “You can do it” when we think we can’t!! I had a friend tell me that when it was my turn to cook breakfast in the mountains this past weekend. Those of you who know me know that to see me cooking at all is a miracle!! But, to go on with the meals we had planned took some adjustments, and some “you can do it” type of motivation! The morning team I was on had planned to make crepes filled with fruit, and bacon. On a wood stove in the corner? I didn’t think so. It did have a flat top on it, but still…. Now we know it can be done! The bacon was fried in a covered pot, and the crepes (my grandma’s recipe that we call German Pancakes), were a success German Pancake in the frying pan on the wooden stove. It took some patience, both on my part as the “chef,” and on the part of those waiting to eat, but you can see from the picture, it worked!! One of our friends talked briefly with her husband about our lack of power, and he asked her, “What are you still doing there?” She told him about our breakfast…and he said, “Never mind.”

We are the clay, and you are the potter.
We all are formed by your hand.
Isaiah 64:8 (NLT)

We had many yummy meals prepared by each of our teams, including enchiladas—all prepared on the wood stove, all a success! The key was, think ahead, think creatively, and just do it! It was like stepping back in time….a good time!

Our Sunday morning “church” included some play-dough for some hands-on lessons about our Potter. Denise had just enough power left in her laptop to read the verses she had picked out about being the clay, and God being the Potter. But then, we had to “wing it” from there as her laptop battery died. There was plenty to share about, with all that God was doing. One verse Denise read was this one from Isaiah 45:9:

"Destruction is certain for those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot ever argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, `Stop, you are doing it wrong!' Does the pot exclaim, `How clumsy can you be!'

How many times we do this, argue with God…not liking the way things are going, wanting something different, or things to come faster, or things not to come at all. And yet God is God, after all, and He already knows what is best for us. He already knows what we need. He already knows what might be inconvenient, or even painful, and yet we have to trust that He knows what is best for us even when it hurts.

After returning home from Twain Harte, I was given the book, “Heaven is for Real” from my sister. It is a fast read, and it is an amazing read! A little boy visits Heaven just before his fourth birthday. He was on an operating table, and even though his parents never knew he had left this earth, after recovering from the surgery he began to tell them astounding things about Heaven as the months and years went on. He told of how he saw his dad praying for him in a closet in the hospital during surgery. The father knew that his little boy could not have known that. Here is an excerpt from their conversation about this:

Daddy, remember when I yelled for you in the hospital when I waked up?”
How could I forget? It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. “Of course I do,” I said.
“Well, the reason I was yelling was that Jesus came to get me. He said I had to go back because he was answering your prayer. That’s how come I was yelling for you.”

“Heavenis for Real.” By Todd Burpo

It is much easier to thank God for answered prayers like these, but it is so much harder to thank God for unanswered prayers when we are in the midst of the pain and suffering of this life. I can relate to this part of the book personally…many of us can. I prayed and prayed for our son to live when he was battling Leukemia. Jesus heard my prayers too, but His answer was not the same as this father received. That’s a hard one to swallow. Why do some prayers get a “yes” answer, why do some prayers get a “no.” We aren’t God, we don’t have all those answers, but as time passes and healing comes, we can hopefully find some peace in what is by trusting that God loves us and He knows what is needed for His Kingdom to come and for His will to be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Sometimes to understand or even appreciate unanswered prayers, it will take the eyes we receive in Heaven when our days on earth are finished.

"O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay?
As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand.
Jeremiah 18:6

Unanswered prayers are not always as much fun as being secluded in a mountain cabin with friends without electricity, that’s for sure, but maybe God gives us these times of watching His power at work so that we can learn to work together as a team when we come down from the mountain. Then in the “valleys,” when the really tough times come, we are more prepared. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it helps. Friends don’t make life perfect, but they help! God doesn’t make our life perfect, but He is our Help!!

"Look, you and I are the same before God. I, too, was formed from clay.
Job 33:6

When the power is out, and the roads are snowy, it gives us time in this hectic world to really “be” with each other. We played games by lantern light, we made prayer journals with supplies brought by one of the ladies, and sat around sharing the things we had cut out of magazines to paste into our journals—pictures and words that remind us to pray for others, and to pray for things in our own lives too. We sang a bit, we celebrated birthdays, we talked about the essentials of being a friend as we each took a turn pulling an article out of our baggy and reading the reminder that went with it.

Essential Reminders for Being a Good Friend

A RUBBER BAND…to remind you of hugging and times when you need to give a hug or receive one.

A MINT…to remind you that you are worth a mint to your family.

A BUTTON…to remind you to “button your lips” to keep from saying things to others.

A TISSUE…to remind you to dry someone’s tears (or perhaps your own) so you can see the light.

A CANDY KISS…to remind you that everyone needs a treat occasionally.

A TOOTHPICK…to remind you to “pick out” the good qualities in everyone.

A BAND-AID…to remind you of healing hurt feelings, yours or someone else’s.

A LIFESAVER…to remind you to think of an everyday wonder as your “life saver.”

A GOLD THREAD…to remind you that friendship is the golden thread.

They couldn't get to Jesus through the crowd,
so they dug through the clay roof above his head.
Then they lowered the sick man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.
Mark 2:4

Jesus is the Best Friend we will ever have on this earth! But, sometimes it seems hard to “get to Jesus” in this hectic world. There can be so many layers of busyness to dig thru, so much commotion, so much modern technology at our fingertips that we miss getting right down in front of Jesus, being face to face with Him in our prayers. Taking a step back in time helps us to slow down enough to spend time with God and with others. And God knows, sometimes it takes a heavy snow before that can happen.

For those of us in California, the Bay Area in particular, snow is fun. It is beautiful. It is easy…because it is on TV somewhere else! But after having shoveled it for hours to dig our cars out and clear the driveway, and making a path just to walk on, snow takes on a whole new meaning.

driveway

We came away from this weekend with a new appreciation for what we see on the news when others are living and driving in it daily, but also with a whole new appreciation of the days of old, and also for the presence and power of our God!

But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped,
so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again.
Jeremiah 18:4

God spends our whole life molding and shaping us into the image of His dearly loved Son. Jesus started out perfect and ended up perfect. Jesus never sinned, and He died and rose again for those of us who do. He is God’s greatest Gift to mankind. This weekend in Peaceful Pines (the cabin’s name) was a great gift also, from our Father God. We were slowed down long enough to bask in God’s presence and that of each other, and enjoy a simple way of life again. We will never forget this time of unanswered prayer…we asked for electrical power, and God gave us the power of His love instead.

clay
God’s imprint on our lives.
(Photo of moulded clay)

"Go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made.
I will speak to you while you are there."
Jeremiah 18:2

These are the “reviews” from some of those who were there:

“I came home refreshed and with a new song in my heart.”

“You ladies blessed my heart so much with all your shared stories and with your friendship.”

“I am still smiling and praising God!  The food, friendship & fun was more than I could ever have asked for!!”

Thank you God, for the unanswered prayer on this retreat!!

The End

Until we meet again,
Diane