How to Handle Prayers That Don’t Go Your Way

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“All things are possible if you believe,” said Jesus.

all things are possible if you believe, what happens when you believe and nothing happens?


Just a reminder that this post is part of a larger series: Color Your Way Closer to God. If you are just joining feel free to check out the beginning of the series here. Before we continue, a quick note about the purpose this coloring series. At Spiritually Hungry, we love to connect with God in many, many different unique and creative ways. The purpose of the Color Your Way Closer to God series is to use coloring Scripture as a way to meditate on God’s word. In this way, we use it as a spiritual exercise, one with the intent to grow close to God by opening up to Him while coloring Scripture.

Before we dig into this latest entry in the Color Your Way Closer To God series, a little bit of background on this passage.

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The phrase “All things are possible if you believe” is the words of Jesus, spoken in Mark 9:23. This particular verse comes from a passage depicting Jesus as He is approached by a man with a demon-possessed son. The demon was so vicious and volatile that it physically harmed the boy, and had tormented him for quite some time.

In this Mark 9 passage, the father pleads with Jesus to help his son, saying to Jesus, “if there is anything you can do.” It’s reasonable to assume that the father had tried everything to rid his son of this demonic entity, and he was on the verge of completely abandoning hope for a return to his son’s health. It even appears that the father went to the disciples for help previously, and they were unsuccessful in their attempts to help the boy (v. 28-29).

Jesus’ response to this man might be summarized as, What do you mean if I can do anything? All things are possible if you believe?

And at that, Jesus commanded the spirit to leave the boy – and it obeyed.

Wow, this is such a classic “Jesus moment.”

Jesus often took the opportunity while responding to a need to teach His disciples, the crowds around Him, and those of us today who are still reading about His actions.

And what a lesson it is, because Jesus lets us know that through Him, anything is possible.

People can be cured.

The dead brought back to life.

The hungry fed.

The lonely comforted.

The criminal restored.

All things are possible, if you just believe.

It’s a nice thought, right?

Jesus can do anything – you just need to believe.

But, this isn’t a new message for you, right?

You understand this about Jesus. You know this about God. You’ve heard this bit of theology. And you have undoubtably tried to followed this truth. But it really doesn’t really hit you the way that it impacted the father of the possessed boy.

Why is that?

I’m guessing because you have tried the “all things are possible if you believe” formula out in real life… and the results weren’t what you hoped.

Maybe you prayed for a sick parent whose death was imminent, but it was just way too soon for them to pass. In desperation, you prayed to Jesus, earnestly and wholeheartedly imploring Him to come in and reverse the disease. You believed deeply that Jesus could save anyone.

You really, really believed Jesus would save them and save the day.


Your beloved parent died.

Or maybe you prayed to God to take away the addiction destroying your life. Out of options, friends and favors, you brought your addiction to God and said, “I can’t do this. Lord, I need you to take this away from me.” You told Jesus that you believed He could do anything and humbly asked for His power.


Your addiction remained.

Or maybe you have been part of a prayer chain addressing the precariousness of a child’s life laying in the balance. Struggling to stay alive, perhaps since birth, an entire community of believers gather to intercede on the child’s behalf. Hundreds of people, prayer from various churches and communities, imploring Jesus and believing that He can save this child. That a miraculous turn around can happen.


No miraculous cure occurs.

Oh man, does this sound bleak! But, unfortunately this is reality.

Because sometimes we pray and healing doesn’t come.

I want to speak to you – the tender-hearted, the confused, the ones in pain. Because, I know how you feel. I know what it’s like to implore God, believing that He has all the power in the cosmos to rectify a situation, only to find that the answered prayer never comes to fruition.

Not only do our hearts break in moments of unanswered prayers, but our minds are truly confused. “Why didn’t God step in and answer my prayers,” we mull over and over.

It’s a terrible place to be. Your only hope has disappointed you. There is no where else to look, you feel utterly alone.

Where do you go from here?

Well, you go right back to the source.

Because friends, dealing with the issue of “unanswered prayers” is not a simple equation. It’s incredibly confusing, complex, and abstract. This is God we are talking about, after all, and His ways are different from ours.

But before we continue, I want to reassure you that all things are possible through Jesus.

Yes, even if your parent has died, your addiction remains, or a child lifted in prayer by an entire community passes, the truth remains. All things are possible, if you believe.

I wish I could simply hold your hand and look into your eyes as I write these words, because I understand the deep disappointment, confusion and pain you feel. I hope that I can possibly shed a bit of light on this heavy matter for you.

Because, when prayers go unanswered, it becomes very difficult for us to find our way again.

See, I do believe that Jesus is accurate and honest when He makes the statement that all things are possible if you believe. I have had A LOT of unanswered prayers, or prayers that didn’t seem to go the way I wanted them to.

And I want to tell you I’m still in the game and my faith in God has only grown.

My entire life, I have had very strong, unbelievable heartache in my life, and it seems like it just never quite stops. It’s a pain that began when I was a little child, followed me through various ministry positions I’ve held, and was nearly pushed over the edge by the precious loss of two unborn children.

Despite a lifetime of suffering, these situations have brought me closer to God.


Because I know without a doubt, God is not the cause of my pain.

Instead, He is the only answer to my hurt, and He’s also the only source of my joy.

You see, if my relationship with God is based entirely on what I get out of it, it’s not really a fair, loving relationship. Instead, it’s more like a relationship with a wealthy and benevolent distant relative, who you always know is there as a safety net if you happen to ever need them when you get into trouble. It’s as though God is a safeguard, in case you ever need Him to bail you out.

In that kind of scenario, with a distant benefactor, the relationship is entirely based on what that rich relative can do for you. And if they so happen to not come through for you when you need them, you get confused, hurt, and feel betrayed, and the relationship is entirely broken.

But God’s not your wealthy uncle who lives across the country. He’s your Father, and He’s right here, right now.

When you approach God in the manner of seeing him as a wealthy benefactor, you are setting yourself up for disappointment, because God is not in the business of giving us whatever we want or desire.

God is in the business of making us whole, complete and transformed in and through Him.

He wants us to be in a relationship with Him. And He offers us the most precious thing in the entire world, Himself.

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We live in a world where death, decay and pain occur. This world is not the place God intended us to live. Do you remember Genesis Chapters 1-3, where we were created to be in the Garden with God, in fellowship with Him?

I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the first humans, Adam and Eve, and how their sin separated us from our place of perfection with God.

The Fall in the Garden, was the source of turmoil, and human lives were whipped up in a frenzy, and our world was never the same…until Jesus came.

And here’s where we circle back, because Jesus is our savior – He is the bridge back to our Garden with God. No, it’s not exactly the same, here and now, but it’s a pretty good remedy until He comes back and closes this chapter.

So when Jesus tells the father of the demonized boy in Mark 9 that all things are possible if you just believe, well it is true.

Even if your prayers don’t go the way you had hoped.

Why God chooses to heal one person and let another perish is beyond our comprehension, and quite frankly, beyond our place to understand or dictate. This is God’s business and it simply isn’t ours. The Creator can allow what He allows and He can intervene when He intervenes.

Don’t forget, the reason that Adam and Eve were persuaded to eat the Forbidden Fruit was because the serpent told them that if they did, their eyes would be opened and they would be like God (Gen. 3:5).

That’s one of the problems with human beings – since the beginning, we have always tried to be like God, and decide for ourselves what’s right and wrong.

But we are the creation and He is the Maker.

This doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you or isn’t there for you, by no means.

His love is overwhelming for you, even if your prayers don’t go your way.

Because God is still with you. God is still loving you. God is still walking with you.

This is a profound reality.

Should this idea not comfort you, the question becomes, “Do you want your prayers answered or do you want God?”

This is a serious question to ask yourself, and I mean it with complete non-judgment on on my end. Because, friends, I have had to ask myself this same question many times, and undoubtedly will in the future as well.

I’m truly sorry if you have had prayers that seemed to fall short, and didn’t go the way you hoped.

Unfortunately we live in a world where pain occurs and God is restoring it. Turning to God doesn’t mean we won’t face heartache, and we only have to look to Jesus’ own life story, or the prophets of the Old Testament, to see that even the people prominently favored by God faced tremendous suffering in their lives.

But following God means we walk with Him and experience the fruit of His Spirit: love, patience, peace, goodness, kindness, self-control, faithfulness, joy, gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23).

Life doesn’t always go the way we hoped, but that doesn’t mean God’s love for you changes. He is always there loving you in the midst of all the turmoil, pain, and confusion.

I want to urge you to turn to God with your inquires, confusion or anger. Tell Him how you feel. Even if you don’t want to.

Trust that He can handle it, He already knows what your feeling anyway. He wants to you to share it with Him and allow Him to shed His mercy and love into the situation.

God is really the only answer here.

I would like to end with a prayer for you:

God, I want to thank you for being there to listen to me, I really appreciate it. Help me to understand you more and the ways you move and work in this world, and with me and my problems. Help me to trust that you love me despite the circumstances I face. I also ask for you to help me to deeply grow into an unshakeable identity in your love. Thank you for your love, whether I can feel it or not, help me to believe it is always there. Amen.

I sincerely hope that this post helps you understand prayer and God a little bit more. It is a really complex topic, I don’t pretend or want to give the impression that I have figured it all out, because I don’t. I simply want to give another angle to the mystery of why some prayers go the way we hoped and others don’t. Thanks for reading and journeying with me in this topic!

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I would love to hear about your experience in this matter and if you have any questions, thoughts or tips on this topic. Please feel free to comment below!


Alexis Waid

Alexis Waid

Alexis is a wife, mother, theologian, speaker and spiritual director.
Alexis Waid

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Have your prayers ever gone unanswered? It's really confusing when you pray and believe God can change the situation, and nothing happens or it doesn't go the way you hoped. Come along with Spiritually Hungry as we explore this often difficult phenomenon.

Comments 6

  1. Hi Alexis
    I have read and understand what you have said in your post and it’s has opened my eyes because I have been trusting God to change a certain circumstance in my life and my prayers have not been answered but I would also to say that God has helped me and answered so many of my prayers and practically bailed me out in of many predicaments and I know that He has shown me his love in all these situations.
    I have just today come to realise that through this very circumstance I am praying for has indeed brought me Closer to my heavenly father.

    Iam blessed and loved by my father in heaven and I pray that I will not fall by the wayside in my faith.

    Thank you for the lovely teachings

    God Bless


    1. Charlene,

      Thanks so much for sharing and I’m so pleased this post helped you. I’m overjoyed that you are feeling God’s love in your life despite your current situation. I believe that’s everyone’s challenge, to feel God’s love and presence in every situation, good or bad. I am still a work in progress in that one.

      I will lift you and your situation up to God and hope that clarity and peace come to you. It sounds like you are already on that road!

      Thank you again Charlene for your thoughtful response.

      In Him,

  2. I am struggling with a situation or an understanding of a situation. My husband and I have a little girl that we have had with us on and off all her life. She is now 7. The last time we had custody she was three, the dad worked and did what he had to so and got her back. The mother is a drug addict. We prayed for a miracle! Just to bring her back to us. I believe with all my heart God granted that miracle. About a year ago the dad contacted us and wanted to meet with us. this is after him not letting us see or even speak to her for 2 years. Anyway he tells us that he just found out that he wasn’t the father. Asked us if we would take her and raise her. We of course were over joyed, except for the pain that she was now going through because she didn’t understand why her daddy gave her away. We went immediately to a lawyer and set things in motion for adoption. We were told that the bio dad was dead, We had to wait a length of time before we could adopt, just days before that could take place a family member contacted the bio dad. He stopped the adoption. We are now fighting to keep custody of her. He lives in another state and she doesn’t know him. Over the past few months she has had some visits with him. she is terrified of being taken away from us again. We have had her in therapy and she has finally started being happy again. The nightmares have stopped and peeing her pants has slowed down. That is until recently. This person had a one night stand with the mother and did not use protection and now all of a sudden he wants to claim rights to her. I have a very hard time with that! He knew what could happen but didn’t care. He got what he wanted at the time, so why should this child be made to suffer because he now wants to play daddy. I am still holding on to the fact that God gave her back to us, and why would he do that just to let some stranger come along and take her away from us again and this time take her out of state, away from all she knows! That would be cruel. Not just to us but more so for her. She has gone through so much already and she prays every night that she can be ours forever. So am I wrong for praying that God will change the hearts of the people trying to take her? Yes I have thoughts of “if they would just disappear things would work out great” I know that’s wrong and I do try not to think along those lines. But one man is standing in the way of all that we had hoped and dreamed of. All because of selfishness on his part because he thinks its mine and I’m taking it. without thought of what this is doing to her. I just wish I could understand why things took such a turn when our prayers were being answered.

    1. Hi Anita,
      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I can only imagine the heartache your family has faced over the past years. The world we live in is very broken and people don’t always do or choose the right things. It’s obvious you love this little girl very much and I do want to stress no matter what happens, that love means something. That love means something! It is a very important gift you have already given her and God will do mighty things in her with that pure love. I wish I could tell you everything will work out, but that is beyond me. But what I can remind you is that God is with you right now. He is walking with you through this whole thing and can be the source of your strength. Rest in Him and run into His arms. One other thing that I would really like to encourage you to do is celebrate what you have right now. Live in the moment, she is with you right now. I know that is tough, when the future is so uncertain. My heart truly goes out to you and I do pray that everything works out for this little girl. I thank you for sharing such an intimate response and I will lift you, the little girl and this situation up to the Lord. May peace overcome you in this trying time. In Him~Alexis

  3. So grateful that I ran across this post . . .I am a pastors wife, and I have been devoted to God for as long as I can remember. I believe in the power of Prayer and I would almost say that I could call myself an “Activist on Prayer” if there is such. However I am struggling, I am struggling with the fact that I have devoted my whole life to him! My WHOLE life is ministry and doing HIS well, my desire is to be used by him and further HIS KINGDOM . . .But it has seems for quite sometime the more, the harder I pray no response . . . I have laid pouring my heart out to God and it appears that to no advail. I have searched myself and repented of everything and anything that would keep God from hearing me. I know he loves me, and always made away where there seems to be no way . . . I am very grateful to him and for him . . . . Honestly speaking the more I pray, seek him and cry out to him the more discourged I get . . ( I am almost ashamed to even mention this, but I do know that is my true feelings) I just want to understand . . . Thank you for any advice or encouragement because at this point in my life I am desperate!! Blessings sweet friend .. Crying

    1. Post

      Hi Dora,
      Thank you for your transparent and brave response. I completely understand where you are coming from, my whole life has been surrounded by ministry too. I know the pressure and confusion you must feel. I do want to encourage you to embrace how you are feeling, because God already knows. He knows how confused, scared and discouraged you feel. He is a loving God and a good Father who is immensely interested in your heart and it is Him who you are after and that is a very good thing!
      I do want to speak to this phase you are in, I too was in a phase like this many years ago. When I was in seminary, I felt so distant from God, I couldn’t find His presence, warmth or voice anywhere, no matter how hard I tried. It was at this time I learned from one of my professors about the spiritual journey. In the spiritual journey there are different stages or phases. All are part of the journey to closeness with God. However, there is a stage on this journey where it’s called “Hitting the Wall” or the Dark Night of the Soul. It’s a part of the journey where God’s absence is deeply felt and intimacy with Him is almost impossible. It sounds like you are in this stage. I encourage you to research this topic and see for yourself if it rings true to what you are experiencing. John of the Cross is a great resource for the Dark Night of the Soul and for more information of the spiritual journey and hitting the wall, you could read a book my seminary professor wrote, Bruce Demarest Seasons of the Soul: stages of spiritual development.
      I hope you soon rise out of this, but know that in this bewilderment God is growing you and bringing you closer to Him. Have faith, He is good even if you can’t feel or hear Him. Great fruit will come from this desert moment, great fruit. Stay persistent and receive the grace and love God has for you!

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