On Praying in the Face of Unfulfilled Promises

What do you do when you feel disappointed by God? Maybe you keep praying for the same healing or salvation of a loved one, or an unfulfilled promise over and over? Maybe some of those people have died, even. Some of those promises seem so far off or impossible now. If you’re anything like me, I know I should not blame God, but my hearts sometimes leans in that direction, if I’m honest. Do you feel your sense of trust wavering like I do sometimes?

This is why we need to be firmly convinced of God as the very definition of goodness. I KNOW this, but I have to intentionally pay attention to my heart and make myself yield to this truth a lot more than it looks like I do. My pride and doubt in thinking (even subconsciously) that I know better than God is real and it’s frustrating. But realizing that’s where I’m at is a necessary part of my honest, faith-filled, steadfast walk with my Father.

God is good. Everything He does is good. So if something does not seem good to us, what then? I yield to the fact that God defines goodness (not me) and He is completely capable of healing, rescuing, and saving us. Herein lies the issue. If God is good and capable, then why doesn’t He fix everything? Why all this pain and suffering? Why all this disappointment? We can be religious and doubt God’s goodness while still preaching leading worship and a million other things that look good to others, but I’m convinced we can’t really know Him and hear Him well until we make our peace with the mysterious ways of God and stop sitting in judgment of Him.

Sometimes, like yesterday, I feel Him whisper to my heart, “Can I disappoint you without losing your trust?” And the truth is that I am often disappointed. I have high hopes for this big God. I pray in faith. I pray according to His will (as much as is revealed to me in His word and by the Holy Spirit). And I expect Him to come through for me. I try to pray that way every time. So yes, my good Father, who defines goodness disappoints me by His decisions and I have to find a way to live with that quite a bit. In a similar way, I do not give my children everything they ask for. I disappoint them when they ask for desert every day and I only allow them to have it a couple times a week. They think I should do things certain ways. They would never want to admit it (because they love me and really do try to respect me), but the reality as they grow older is that they think they know as much as I do about what’s right and what’s good. And boy do I get an earful of complaints if something looks unfair or unjust, even though I calmly (most of the time) explain my rationale and do not show favoritism.

The reality is that we, like my young children, cannot completely understand the ways of our Father. Even if He explains it, and reveals His love and His mercy for us; even if we have prophecy still actively speaking among us, and the Holy Spirit inside of us; many of the specifics about His ideas, motivations, and workings are hidden from us (though we can often see them in hindsight). But this we know.

God’s love is unending, so He does not forget us or neglect us.
God’s goodness is unquestionable, so He does not do anything wrong.
God’s capacity is unlimited, so He can do whatever He desires.

So if I experience pain, delayed healing, or even death, I can know that it is not because He does not love me, not because He is not good, and not because He is not capable. If I have asked Him for restoration and healing, and death comes instead, I don’t need to worry. If resurrection is delayed, or if the promise He promised to me specifically has not come yet, I do not need to doubt the promise. I need to quiet my heart in trust. I need perspective. If God has promised you something that you have not received, maybe you are waiting on God, maybe He’s waiting on you, or maybe you’re both waiting on someone else:

If You are Waiting on God

The delay is somehow for His glory, as when Lazarus died because Jesus took His time getting there, so that He would be good and dead and prepped for coming back to life “for the glory of God.” Because He’s doing something timing related and working in ways beyond your understanding, or there is some spiritual hindrance you cannot perceive (like with Daniel’s vision). Comfort yourself with the truth that He does not enjoy watching you suffer, but He is with you. If you are waiting on God, He is not punishing you. He does not enjoy watching people die. He mourns with you. He hates death. And He is with us even as we experience death. He chooses to resurrect instead of heal the body sometimes, even though He is able to, and we don’t need to understand why. We need to be at peace. People who God has brought to this place can say, “We don’t understand and that’s ok, because we believe He is good.” It doesn’t mean you are praying wrongly. He is not punishing you. He wants to be close to you. No one like waiting. But try to posture yourself as a child. Find joy in little assignments and life moments as you wait. Take the pressure off yourself. It’s not your thing to fix. He’s coming.

O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:27-31

If He’s Waiting on You

Maybe you are accepting and believing lies the enemy has put before you, or you are simply experiencing the consequences of your own sin, maybe you are experiencing the consequences of a sin of your forefathers. The truth is that it does not please God to see you suffer even if He disciplines you. He wants you to choose obedience so you can be close to Him and He genuinely desires your healing and wholeness.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”But you were unwilling, and you said,“No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee away;and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift. Isaiah 30:15-16

Sometimes His promises are conditional, meaning they are waiting on your action or the action of others (usually repentance or alignment with His truth.) The truth is that He is not withholding this crucial information from you. That is not His character. In fact, God is delaying the coming of Jesus, so that you and others will repent.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Ask Him to show you the lie or area of disobedience and He will show you. If you are having trouble figuring out what it is but you feel like there is something there, ask a friend to help you pray and listen to the Holy Spirit for the right diagnosis of the issue. As soon as you know your sin, repent. If you keep on sinning, you will grow calloused and deaf to the light of the Holy Spirit’s voice. You will hear only the lies that led you astray, and so today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts and doubt God (Exodus 17, Hebrews 3:15) . Return to trust.

If You are Both Waiting on Someone Else

The decisions of leaders, churches, people in your life may be delaying the outcome God has promised. The unconditional promises are going to be done, but maybe not as soon as they could have. For example, the entrance into Canaan was delayed because of the fearful report of 10 of the 12 spies and Joshua and Caleb’s family had to suffer the consequences alongside the faithless. And His promises are sometimes conditional, as when God told His people,

You will seek me and find me, IF you seek with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

You can ask God if the promise is simply delayed or was conditional on someone else’s obedience, though sometimes this is hard to discern, almost as if it’s not our business. Either way, we forgive them and we pray for a softening of their heart and intercede for them, and we don’t internalize bitterness or disappointment. Moses, Joshua and Caleb had to suffer a forty year delay in entering the promised land in the desert because of the disobedience and distrust His people had toward God. May our people not be so stubborn. Moses never even got to walk into Canaan! While this may seem discouraging, you need to know that God rewarded Moses, Joshua, and Caleb (the radically obedient and steadfastly trusting ones). So you will be restored and rewarded for your faithfulness. Stand your ground and walk in love as you wait. Ask God for His strategy for breakthrough and if you have a role to play in it. Do you have specialized instructions while you wait? Or do you just enjoy the ride? You can ask the Lord these things.

But let me encourage your heart. He is your vindication. He sees your readiness and bravery. But you can’t take a whole territory without your tribe. If Joshua and Caleb had entered Canaan without the rest of the people, they would have been destroyed, and the people would have missed out on a God-fearing leader among them. Be patient and faithful while God works out the rebellion from the rest of the clans! They will either circumcise their hearts (stop being stubborn) or die in the desert and you will go in as a new, faith-filled, tested generation of obedient, reliant children, teaching your children to follow God wholeheartedly! You will receive an inheritance, in this life and in the next. It’s only a matter of time if you do not shrink back and give up. And we are not of those who shrink back.

Also, remember that He rescues individuals who walk in faith (like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednigo, Rehab, Hagar, Ruth, Daniel), even if the whole community is about to experience the wrath and punishment of God. So even if a faithful follower of God suffers because of their leader’s disobedience or their group disobedience, we can be confident and patient in the Lord’s goodness. You may experience and have to endure the discipline and consequences of other’s actions as God disciplines your people, but the Lord sees your heart individually. He sees and will rescue you and allow you experience His goodness, even then, because He is the definition of love and goodness, and He is able to make all things abound to you so you can be content.

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:8-11

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8

A prayer for the disappointed

So this is for the people who can’t even pray right now because they are so disappointed. I’m just going to pray and type it out now. It’s not so you can see it and be impressed (because Jesus says not to do that), but I want you to see how someone who currently struggles with disappointment and lack of faith talks these things out with God. We all need to be taught to pray. You’ll notice this prayer follows the same “road-map” as Jesus when He taught us to pray. Your prayer will be different from mine. Remember prayer is simply a two-way conversation with God. So the words aren’t important but the process is.

Notice the fact that you can reorient your heart toward hope anytime you want. You can pray in faith because the work has been accomplished in heavenly places. And you can receive healing now (even if you don’t feel it yet) because He has already dealt with the issue. Often I pray these kinds of prayers and nothing seems to have changed, except that I am brought to peace and my faith is renewed. I am yielding my heart to the will and timing of God believing that I am an “already-not yet” inheritor of the promises and gifts that He has for me to receive (especially if He speaks it to you on a very personal level, you can believe it!) I also believe that things have changed (for myself and other people) even though I have not seen them change.

Father, I come to you through Jesus as your child. Thank you for making me your daughter and an inheritor of your great and precious promises, both generally for your bride, and specifically for me. I know by faith, by the Word of God, and by experiencing your love, that you are real and live in heaven. You are holy and different and set apart from all other deities and spirits that are worshiped in the earth. You are so deeply good I can’t even grasp it, but I believe it. Lord, help my unbelief. Your gifts are way more than I can recount. But I want you to discipline my heart to remember all you have given me and done for me,… (elaborate here and come into His presence acknowledging His goodness.) God, I thank you that I stand in your presence, face to face, in your courts. You are not far from me. You are beautiful. I ask you to let me hear you clearly, and right now, I shut the door to every other distraction and every voice besides yours, even my own. It is done in Jesus name. I am confident that you speak to me because you said I would hear a voice behind me saying “this is the way, walk in it” and that “every person would be taught by God.” God, my heart, even on a good day, is deceptive. I am only righteous because of Jesus. Only you are good by nature. I want you to speak your wisdom to my life and teach me. I humbly acknowledge that I am human and you know things that I have no idea about.

(If I’m having trouble connecting to the Lord in Spirit and Truth I ask the Holy Spirit to show me the beauty of God so I can soak in His beauty here. I usually pray in the Spirit [pray in tongues, it’s like a shortcut to His presence] and sometimes if I’m tired when I pray I fall asleep right here, just being with Him, and that’s ok!).

May your kingdom come on earth soon Jesus. We long for you. Come quickly. And may your will be done here on earth as it is done in heaven even as we wait. Father send your workers out to the harvest as we know you are delaying because you want ALL people to come to repentance. You are not slow, and forgive me for accusing you of slowness in keeping your promises. I align myself with this project of proclaiming the good news of Jesus to every nation, tribe and language. Send me. Send my husband and children. Send my friends and family. Send us all out in deep, passionate, obedient love for Jesus. Soften the hearts of the lost ones that your Spirit and Bride are inviting into your kingdom today, even as sin, hatred, and all sorts of terrible things make the love of many grow cold. Show us the keys to their freedom. Keep your bride pure.

Father, what is your will in my area of influence today? What are you doing in the world today and how can I be a part of it?

(Be quiet and listen/see/perceive/sense)

I feel well provided for, Lord, because you give me the food and clothing I need each day and so much more. We have all we need in you. I thank you that as your follower, I can be confident and carefree like a bird that you feed and like a flower that you clothe. Help me resist the materialism, greed, and discontentment of my age and culture. We ask you for your provision, just what we need is enough. We trust you.

Lord, I have a question. So this is a question about this promise ____________

I know you are not slow to fulfill your promises, but sometime you wait out of mercy, with plans to bring something greater. Father, regarding your will for my healing and wholeness, am I just waiting on you to fulfill your promise in your timing or is it being held up by sin?

(Be quiet and listen)

If it’s sin, is it my sin?

Do I need to forgive anyone? Pray for anyone? Am I walking in disobedience or unforgiveness in any way? Am I holding a debt or judgment against someone? Are there any lies I am believing that are keeping me from experiencing your freedom and healing and restoration? Are you waiting on me to repent before you fulfill your promise? If yes, can you show me a way out (because you always give a way out)?

(Be quiet and listen/see/perceive/sense)

I renounce ____________(anything that needs to go! bitterness, unforgiveness, jealousy, comparison, the enemy, the lie that _____)

God how much of what I am experiencing is a consequence of other’s sin against me or against you? If so, what is your will and how can I pray for them?

(Be quiet and listen/see/perceive/sense and then break and bind the enemy and lose captives in spiritual places in the authority of Jesus.)

God is there anything else you want to tell me?

(Be quiet and listen/see/perceive/sense…sometimes the best stuff happens here because your mind and heart has been brought to peace having “cast all your cares” (or “worried with God”) in prayer and you can just listen to His heart for you and others without your own concerns.)

I thank you that according to the hope I have in the resurrection that you have healed me and that I am whole in Jesus, by His blood, by His authority. I agree with that truth and command my body, mind, and emotions to come into alignment with your intentions for me, which is my healing and freedom. If I do not yet feel healed, I still am because I will be, either in this life or the next. God has spoken it and Jesus has paid the price for my healing. If things are broken, You are moving them toward wholeness. If land is desolate and dry, you desire fresh life there and you will do it, because you are zealous for your name. I want to be a part of that springing up! I thank you that my people from my land and family are already worshiping before your throne in eternity and that you are ruler over everything and every knee bows to you. I thank you that the enemy is beaten and utterly destroyed, even now. I thank you that death is actually only sleeping, even now, because of the resurrection of the dead of which you were the firstborn, Jesus. I thank you that your victory is complete and final. God, I commend you for your good and perfect new creation and agree with you that it is totally good. I agree with your decisions because, by your grace, I will never stand in rebellion against you. You are God. And you are Holy and I am yours completely all my days. I will dwell here in the house of the Lord forever and I will see and acknowledge and proclaim your goodness in this land, enjoying your safe, green pastures and drinking deep from the river of your delights. .

Let it be so. I love being with you. Thank you that you never leave me and I never leave you.

book on a white wooden table



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