“Mom, I don’t pray anymore, because God never answers my prayers.” How does a parent respond to such honesty from their kids? In our case, God provided a little lesson in the form of a pair of lost shoes.
by Becky Arganbright
As I was saying goodnight to my kids one night, my eight-year-old son, Luke, surprised me by saying out of nowhere: “Mom, I don’t pray anymore, because God never answers my prayers.”
After getting over my initial shock at his frank confession, we talked a little more about it. I told him that God answers all prayer; but sometimes His answer is “no,” and even “no” counts as an answer, even if we don’t like it. Luke seemed to accept this answer without further comment, but I couldn’t help but wonder if my answer was enough. I knew that there would be more “unanswered prayers” in the future that might test his faith.
The Case of the Missing Shoes
A few weeks after my conversation with Luke, his brother, Max, lost his shoes. It was his only pair, so it was a big deal. We even missed Mass the night before because we couldn’t find his shoes. Not wanting to miss Mass again, I told the kids that we would spend the day looking for Max’s shoes, even if it took the entire day!
After about an hour of searching, I rounded up the kids again and suggested that we “ramp up” the prayer by offering a decade of the rosary to the Holy Souls if only they would help us find Max’s shoes. Even I was convinced that the Holy Souls wouldn’t pass this deal up. So when we were finished with our prayer, I pointed my fist in the air as though leading the kids into battle and declared, “Let’s find those shoes!”
About a half hour later, we still hadn’t found the shoes.
I have to admit even I was puzzled. Why wouldn’t God answer our prayer? It’s not like I was asking for gold or something. I just wanted to find the shoes so we could go to church, for crying out loud. Didn’t God want us to go to Mass?? The kids looked tired and discouraged, too. They were tired of spending all their time looking for the shoes and praying. Why wasn’t God answering?
“I told you so”
To be honest, I had no idea why God wouldn’t want us to find Max’s shoes. But instead of admitting this, I decided to turn the question over to my kids and see what they thought of all of this.
“Why do you think that God didn’t answer our prayer?” I asked them.
“Because God has a better plan for us.” Lucy, my nine-year-old, offered.
“And what do you think that is?” I asked her, preparing myself to be wowed by a deep and insightful answer.
“Probably because there’s a shoe sale going on at Target, and He would like us to save some money.” She said reasonably. I couldn’t help but grin at her answer.
Throughout all of this, I had my eye on Luke. I could see a “I told you so” look on his face, so convinced was he that “sometimes prayer just doesn’t work.” It did make me think that, perhaps, Luke was my reason why God didn’t answer our prayer for the lost shoes. Perhaps He wanted us to address a deeper issue.
Maybe God wanted us to get a good deal
“We asked God to find the shoes, but we didn’t find them,” I said. “So does that mean that God didn’t answer our prayer?”
“Yes,” said Luke, my blatantly honest one.
“No!” the other kids argued. They didn’t like the thought of being “stood up” by God.
“Then why didn’t He answer our prayer?” Luke challenged them.
They had no answer.
“Is God our equal?” I asked the kids. “Does He have to answer the way we think that He should? Or do you think He might have a better way?”
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” Isaiah 55:8
“In the end, we just need to trust God, even if we don’t understand His ways,” I told the kids. “It doesn’t mean He doesn’t answer. No, He didn’t tell us where the shoes were. Maybe He wants us to be more responsible and have a back-up pair. I don’t know. But I do know that He always answers prayer, even if it isn’t the answer we wanted.” I looked at the kids. “So let me ask you again: Did God answer our prayer?”
“Yes!” the kids said. Luke seemed to be thinking about it. When Luke thinks hard, he tends to squint and blink a lot, as though he is looking deep for his answer. I could tell the kids wanted to get the sermon over with, but I was waiting for Luke.
Finally, he looked up at me and nodded. My simple yet outspoken kid.
“God answered.” He said. “But this time He just said no.”
He got it.
In the end, we did buy a new pair of shoes. And Lucy was right—they were on sale. Maybe God just wanted us to get a good deal.
The answer to our unanswered prayer
It was only a couple days later when Dennis found the missing shoes. “They were in the tote with all the old shoes in it,” he said sounding incredulous that we would miss such an obvious spot. “Didn’t you look there?”
“Yes,” I said evenly as I remembered checking and rechecking all the “obvious” spots, including the shoe tote. “Many times, in fact.”
It didn’t matter. We ended up with an extra pair of shoes that we would use as a back-up, and more importantly, we learned that God answers us in His own way, and His own time. And, as Luke pointed out to me one day, “Sometimes He answers us with an unanswered prayer.”