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1.11.2008

Unanswered

For the past several days, I've been working on a post about some of the questions raised in my mind by last Sunday's message on prayer (my notes here), specifically the promises highlighted in John 15:7 and Matthew 21:22. But as I've written and reread and revised ad nauseum, the post has just gotten more and more convoluted. I keep trying to answer my own questions when I haven't really arrived at any solutions yet. So rather than publishing a long-winded and cockamamie collection of half-formed thoughts, I present in humility a list of what I'm wondering:

If God promises that we will receive whatever we ask for in faith, what does it mean that my prayers for children have gone unanswered for so many years?

Does that promise even apply to requests for children?

Are children a material blessing and a common grace (given alike to the righteous and the unrighteous, like the rain and sun) or a spiritual blessing and reward for God's people?

Are my prayers for children unanswered because I lack faith?

Are my prayers for children unanswered because it's not God's will for me to have children, because I'm asking wrongly for something that God doesn't really want me to desire?

If the answers to the previous two questions are no, how do I reconcile my unanswered prayers with God's promises?

10 comments:

In Search of Morning Sickness said...

I appreciate your humility and honesty.... We too have grappled (and continue to grapple) with these questions.... I WISH there were answers.....

If you get any wisdom, please pass it on....

I would say that to question #1, I look at Hebrews 11:39 "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised."

Now I don't want to take it out of context, because prayers for a Messiah were understandably not something you might see in your life... But I guess when I look at that, it's like prayers to be healed of cancer, or even my prayers for a child. I believe there may be a heavenly answer we never see on earth. But what this means I don't know... .Spiritual children? Children in the future via adoption (of course, this doesn't work if you apply it to praying for a Pregnancy specifically)?

Anyway, I guess I really don't have an answer, just thoughts.

Question #3 - I'm almost sure children are a material blessing and a common grace, but NOT a spiritual blessing & reward for God's people. I see it like I see marriage - something God intended for the righteous & unrighteous alike.

And to the question about if it's God's will for you to have children, or you asking wrongly...
I look at both these scriptures:
Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."
and
James 4:2,3 "You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."

These two scriptures tell me two things.
First, Pslams is telling us that if we delight in the Lord, not only will He give us what our heart desires, but He will GIVE US those desires (meaning, if we desire something wrong, He'll change it to desire what He wants). He is the giver of the desire, and the giver of the gift.

Secondly, James is telling us that we'd better ask, but we also need to make sure we're asking for right reasons. I think asking for children, when you've come as far as you have in the journey, is probably coming from motives that have been purified a lot. There is also no example in Scripture of a woman being repremanded for desiring children.

So..... my thoughts. Sorry they're rambling & long.

Lauren said...

Wow, that's really hard stuff. I don't have much wisdom to offer, as I've wondered the same things myself. You're wise to try to think through these things though.

Lauren said...

I just read "in search of morning sickness"s comment. I loved what you said about the "Delight yourself in the Lord" verse. That one has always stuck out to me, and I've never really understood it. It sounds great, but really I've had plenty of desires that weren't met, so what does the verse really mean? (I've wondered that off and on throughout my adult years.) But hearing that God will actually give us the desires...not that he gives us what we want, but that he gives us the desire for that thing in the first place...that's a new way to look at it for me, and it makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing that.

gracechild said...

Those are questions every adult christian gets to ask about the one issue that's a "thorn in their flesh" be it children, marriage, divorce, illnesses etc. I don't know the answers honestly. Some days I'm wondering if its a matter of faith, other days i'm wondering if its a free gift of grace. Does it mean that the other godly women around me have more faith, or will bring up children better than I, or I'm a fake christian.. I don't know Andrea. Its hard sometimes but I always remind myself of Jesus' saying about the snake & the fish (no man who's son asks him for fish will give him a snake, if sinful men can do that, how much more a good God will do) + remember the persistent woman and the judge. Thats who I am right now. The woman that won't go away until I receive the blessing I'm praying for. I pray that the Spirit of God ministers to you on these questions cuz I'd like to know the answers too.

Amy said...

I don't really have answers, except to gracechild's "Does it mean that the other godly women around me have more faith, or will bring up children better than I, or I'm a fake christian..."

No. That's not it. As one who has not struggled with infertility (all three of my children are "accidents", one conceived before I was married), I can most assuredly say that children are not a blessing only for the faithful, I am not a more godly woman, nor will I raise children better than any of you. I don't know why the Lord has not answered your prayers, but those are not the reasons. Having had friends (including Andrea) who have struggled so much with infertility, I tend to ask some of these same questions in reverse. Why am I blessed with children and others aren't? Why me?

I don't know. But I do know that the Lord uses suffering in ways we just don't understand. I've had my fair share of it (not with infertility), and I know you all have had yours, and then some. I know our God is good, in spite of how confusing and hidden he sometimes feels. I pray that the things we DO know about him will clarify the unknown, or at least hold us up as we grapple with the confusing, heartbreaking, and mysterious.

Thank you, Andrea, for your honesty in asking these questions. In trying to find some words of encouragement that wouldn't come across as trite, I was strongly reminded of the morning that Brooke and Adam lost baby Zach. I remember calling my mom to tell her, and, sobbing, my heart cried out, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord." I do NOT understand it, but blessed be his name.

Katie said...

Thanks for sharing so openly about the questions. I can't help but think that the Savior is pleased by your desire to "correctly handle the word of truth." May He bring you wisdom and peace as you seek Him for the answers.

Elaine said...

Hi..mind if I throw in my 2-cents on these things? Honestly, although these are all very good, logical questions given our present circumstances (or any other for that matter) I feel that this are little seeds of doubt that are being planted by the Enemy. This is a devil's playground in each of our lives, and to ask ourselves, "Lord, am I not worthy?" can question our faith in HIS abilitiy to answer such prayers. I would love to know the answers, as would all the other women who are experiencing this heartache, but are we really suppose to?

I just finished reading a chapter today in the book I referred titled Conquering Infertily. The chapter was titled, "Why won't God give me a baby?" It has some really insightful views on this topic for Christians (and non-Christians alike).

I know what I am saying may not be very helpful since you are seeking answers to your qustions. I guess my answer to them all is: We may not be necessarily suppose to know the answers. We are suppose to seek God and trust Him and His will for our lives, even admist the times of our desperate struggles. Whether we agree with His will or not, isn't important. We are to trust His knowledge that there is a greater plan, a bigger picture outside the box which we can's see--because frankly we are right smack dab in the middle of the box.

I hope this helps!

Heather said...

Andrea,

I picked up one of my hubby's seminary books that came in the mail this morning called _Knocking on Heavens Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer_ (by David Crump). It's definitely an academic book, but in a way, it is a relief to read something that is exegetically pulling apart a section of scripture to understand petitionary prayer.

I don't understand this issue. It was the one thing that I nearly lost my faith over - how does prayer work?

My dad's a giant in the faith (and in our faith communities), and after he was diagnosed with ALS, someone asked me about his faith - like maybe he didn't have enough faith because otherwise he would be healed. Something rose inside me - anger, resentment, a desire to smack this person in the face. And I've tossed this idea around in my head a lot since then...

And now, in the midst of desiring a child (I have a post brewing about the HS working our desires), I'm back to not knowing how to pray - or trying all the ways that the other commentors mentioned: asking in faith, constant petition, trying to settle into the fact that I'm not supposed to know. And I'm not settled anywhere.

I'm looking forward to digging into this book a bit more (and hence the scriptures). The topical books don't cut it for me on this issue (both IF and prayer-specific books, like Yancy's new one) - so on to the academic world I go...

-Heather

Flicka said...

Can I tell you what I know in my head and totally fail to realize in my heart 99% of the time?

God does promise that we will recieve what we ask for in faith, with the idea that we learn to pray within his will, so that we desire what he desires. Then all our prayers are always "yes" and "amen." It's the aligning of my will with God's that is hard. I cna't pray "Lord, your will be done" with complete abandon because I'm too afraid. I'm afraid He'll come back with "Well okay, Flicka! No kids for you and your husband is going to go right back to being horribly sick again!"

This reaction to God, my fear of what his plan is, is nothing but a reflection of myself and my idols. It's not an accurate picture of who God is or how he loves me. God tells me that perfect love casts out fear. He tells me that his love gives me freedom. But I'm busy desiring my own plans and my own love. When I learn to trust God's character completely, then I can pray in perfect accordance to his will. And I'll either have kids or not, and I'll be okay either way. (I think I will be dead before I learn to do this but press on, sister!)

I don't think your prayers for a child are wrongly asked. God tells us to pray without giving up. Sarah asked for children for many years with no response and God still gave her Isaac. Just because he is saying "no" or "wait" right now does not mean that you are asking wrongly.

Are children a reward? I struggle with this verse! Why is Britney Spears getting rewarded and not me?! God, can't you see how much better a mom I'd be? In my better days, when I'm not gripping my self so tightly, I remember that God tells me the rain falls on the just and the unjust. And right now he is calling me to suffer. I try to do it gracefully, even though most days I just make a huge mess. But there's comfort in the mess because it means God has to take over and I can stop trying. He's given me his son; that baby in the manger is mine. Even if I never have another, I have that one baby. That's the baby I can't live without.

This is best, greatest thing I have learned this year: keep telling yourself the gospel, Andrea. God loves you. He's not punishing you anymore, Jesus took all that away. He sees you like he sees Christ. He's not playing a head game of wrong asking and reward for works with you. He's delighting in you. If you see God that way, how does it change the questions you're asking? In light of that, how do you think God views you and your requests to him? How does it change how you view yourself? If God had to write a paragraph describing you, what do you think he'd say?

Think about it. And email me if you want to talk.
xo

Anonymous said...

I think you all have great insights.

God is good all the time.

Flicka has a lot of it nailed with "We have Jesus and preach yourself the Gospel daily", wonderful insights.

Remember the purpose of man (and Woman) is to glorify God.

He has been glorified greatly through all of you and other barren women. Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth to name few.

Maybe us Men need to be more men of faith like Abraham. I pray for God to answer my wifes desires. Lord help me to believe you will.

But He is using all of you now. Helping each other, Seeking to glorify Him in your suffering, asking questions yet still trusting God. Thank you.

Remember Paul asked for his thorn to be removed and the answer was no.But you don't know the ansewer yet.

Keep asking, trusting, hoping but don't think evil of God. He uses all things for the good. Cling to that and to Him, He is trust worthy.

Keep being that great cloud of witnesses that you all are.