I thought I knew all there was to know about prayer.
Growing up in a Christian community, I prayed often. I learned the Lord's Prayer as soon as I could speak and said it every meal time with my family. I went to private Christian schools where requests were made and prayers offered all the way through my senior year of college. Then I went on to teach in a Christian school where I was now the one leading prayer time with my students and contributing prayers at home with my husband.
But then we hit a season that made us feel like our prayers went unheard. I've talked about my miscarriage openly - but actually, that pregnancy and subsequent loss had brought us closer to God in prayer than we had ever been. While we waited in between appointments, we prayed constantly, fearing the worst could happen. And when we lost that child, we prayed about everything - for opportunities to open for us to tell someone, for sustained faith, and for the strength just to make it through another day without breaking down in front of our coworkers. Now this story is a testament to the fact that God does indeed hear and answer prayer.
It was the season of waiting before that pregnancy that had us questioning whether our prayers were actually heard. Praying for a baby became a nightly routine for us as we waited and watched other families grow. And the longer we waited, the more bitter, jealous, frustrated and hopeless we became. As the weeks and months flew by, we would pray that same prayer over and over, but nothing changed. I wondered why God would encourage covenant families to have children so often in Scripture, then refuse to answer that prayer for us.
Does God really hear your prayer?
That small seed of doubt caused bitterness and tension in my relationship with the Lord. Make no mistake - the enemy does not want you to believe that God hears you. And when we were going through this season of waiting, Satan caused me to question what I knew to be true about prayer - that God hears me because of Christ and is powerful and loving enough to do exceedingly more than I ask (Ephesians 3:20).
Because of what Jesus has accomplished for us, we can trust that we now have full privilege to pray, knowing that God lovingly receives that prayer. Our prayers don't need to be fancy. We don't need to use uncommon words to make them seem worthy. We simply need to bring our hearts - whether they are broken, joyful, relieved, frustrated, disappointed, or grieved. He already knows the needs and desires of our hearts, but He desires fellowship with us in prayer. Be confident that when you pray sincerely in the name of Jesus, God hears.
What if my prayer isn't answered?
When we finally found out that I was pregnant, I felt reassured that God really does answer prayer. I couldn't wait to meet this little one and to raise him or her to know the faithfulness of God. But sadly, we lost our baby at 9 weeks - just enough time to prepare emotionally for this new life, only to have it taken away.
Was this a sick joke? Did God play the waiting game with me just to give me what I asked for and then take it away so quickly? I felt like my prayer was answered, and then it wasn't.
I was so wrong.
You see, God doesn't play games with our hearts. He is mighty and merciful and is, indeed, doing exceedingly greater things than we could ask or imagine. If I hadn't waited on the Lord (Psalm 27:14), if I hadn't experienced how the Lord gives and takes away (Job 1:21), I would have never been able to write this. I would never be able to share my story of waiting, loss, pain, and bitterness with others who are walking the same path. God has provided a way for that to happen.
I still don't know the joy of holding a newborn in my arms for the first time, and I don't know when I will. God didn't answer my prayer the way I thought He would, but He provided a space for me to speak truth to those who long to hear it. Our prayers may not be answered the way we think they will, but God is writing an unseen story that is greater than what we've asked for.
I still pray the same prayer. Motherhood is the desire of my heart, and I believe that the Lord may answer that prayer in due time. But until then, I wait in confidence, knowing that prayer does work - more than I could ever imagine.