Why does it seem that sometimes my prayers go unanswered?

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People pray on bended knee, opening their hearts to God, asking him for a myriad of things: healing of cancer, a job after all these months, a buyer for their house in a frozen market, the end of pain. Some prayers will be answered, and the recipients will look heavenward with thankful praise. The grateful will share openly what God did, leaving out no detail—God meeting particular needs in spectacular ways. We smile thinking about the God-stories we've heard; they never become old.

But what about the nights we cry out to God and the only thing we hear is the sound of our own voices? When we open ourselves up and yet come away empty?

Yes, God answers prayers; he can do anything. But he decides the tailor-made answer for each petition.

Sometimes God answers immediately.

When we were stationed in Germany, we drove to Switzerland on vacation, chose a moderate hotel, and then decided to satisfy our growling stomachs. The dark made it difficult to find our way back to our hotel. Eventually we had to admit that we didn't know which way to go. My husband pulled off the road, turned on the dome light, and opened his map.

"Help us, Lord."

Sometimes it's the simple prayers we remember.

A moment later a car pulled ahead of us onto the shoulder, and an older German gentleman tapped on our car window. "Where will you go?" he asked.

Surprised, my husband rolled down the window as the man once more said, "Where will you go?" now pointing to the open map.

Knowing just a handful of German words, my husband tried explaining our dilemma to the stranger. Finally, it dawned on him to reach into his pocket and show him our hotel key, which included the name of our hotel.

A huge smile crossed our Good Samaritan's face and he motioned for us to follow his little Audi, guiding us all the way to the hotel.

We wondered if perhaps we had met one of God's angels, as many did in Scripture. Regardless, we know God met us where we were, literally, and answered our prayer immediately.

Sometimes God takes his time.

No one likes waiting. When we are in a doctor's waiting room, it seems like we're there forever. It feels like a punishment, but we know it's not. So it is with God's waiting room. As we mature in the Lord, waiting becomes easier. It's still difficult to wait, but the longer we know the Lord, the more we see his faithfulness in our lives and understand our waiting is for a reason. Sometimes God uses the waiting to work on our, or someone else's, character.

God often chooses waiting to conform us into the image of his wonderful Son. Sitting across the desk from our army base's Hospitality House director, my husband and I shared our latest trial, in detail. We were expecting empathy. Instead, his words surprised us, "I'm excited you have an opportunity to trust God."

Was he kidding? He saw this as an opportunity? We saw our situation as more of a curse. Through the years and many more trials, I have come to understand what our friend meant. One day we'll be in heaven, standing in the presence of almighty God in all his glory. We will see the one who loved us so much that he suffered and died for us. That will not be a time of faith for us. Our time for faith is now. This is the only time we get to exercise our faith muscles.

When Joseph was imprisoned for a crime he never committed, the Bible tells us, the Lord was with him (Gen. 39:20-21). Joseph quietly waited for God's hand, without ranting and raving. He didn't curse the day he was born. He waited. And God honored Joseph's good attitude, an attitude totally submitted to God. Each step of Joseph's journey led him to the place where he could wait well.

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