One Good Reason to Trust God with Unanswered Prayer

What if I told you unanswered prayer is a sign of God’s favor? You might remind me that since biblical days many have taught the opposite: if your illness hasn’t gone away or God has closed your womb, then obviously you’ve fallen from grace and are harboring secret sin.

What if I told you the Bible shows the reverse can be true?


In preparing for Christmas we were reading the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. One line spoken by Elizabeth, after she became pregnant, spoke volumes, “‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people’” (Luke 1:25 NIV).

The Jews believed Elizabeth’s barrenness meant God was punishing her for some hidden wrong. For decades, Elizabeth, who was a descendant of Aaron and married to a priest, had felt disgraced among her people.

From our perspective, we know that wasn’t the case. Their unanswered prayer wasn’t because of God’s displeasure. It was a sign of His special favor.

The Bible says that Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6-7 NIV).

In their culture, those two verses didn’t fit together. If you were righteous in God’s sight, then you weren’t barren. But Elizabeth was childless—and righteous.

I draw encouragement from Elizabeth’s story. What people saw as a disgrace, God saw as favor. God had not overlooked Elizabeth. He had chosen her for a special honor. He wanted her to raise the forerunner of the long awaited Messiah!

When the angel told Zechariah that God had answered his prayer, I imagine Zechariah scratched his head. Which prayer? Since they were both very old, I’m sure they hadn’t prayed for a child in ages! Listen to the angel’s words:

13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17 NIV).

Wow! If God had appeared to Elizabeth when she was young and compared her plan with His plan for her life, which one do you think she would have chosen? Would she have chosen to fulfill her friends and family’s expectations by having an ordinary child at the age others did? Or would she have chosen to be a part of the miracle of Christmas? Would she have chosen to be the mother of John the Baptist a man Jesus described: “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11 NIV)?

When we walk with God and our circumstances scream, “God has turned a deaf ear to your prayers,” remember Elizabeth. God’s answer to Elizabeth’s prayer is one good reason to trust Him with unanswered prayer.

Question: Have you ever been grateful for unanswered prayer? Click here to comment.

If you found this useful, please share it with one friend who will thank you for it.


Debbie W. Wilson


Enjoy peace all year round with Give Yourself a Break.

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  1. Barbara Clement

    The most difficult thing about unanswered prayers …. You have to wait and have faith. I hate to wait on anything but when I do the wait is always worth it !
    As a person from an abusive past I had a lot of unanswered prayers but one prayer was always answered and that prayer was for God to always make his presence known in my heart. No matter how bad the abuse got and even though my prayers for it to stop went unanswered I always felt Gods presence. I think God cried as much as I did. Some unanswered prayers may never get answered until we see God face to face and I’m at peace with that.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Barb, that is a very hard place to continue to trust in. Your story reminds me of Joseph in Genesis. He suffered decades but was able to say to his brothers who’d caused him so much pain, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” God bless you, my friend. And thanks for sharing.

  2. Jacqueline

    Good thoughts on why to keep trusting God in the face of unanswered prayer. Perspective is everything, and for us here and now, we must take the perspective of faith. When we believe that God is good, that fuels our souls to walk by faith, not by sight.

    On your headline: what about framing it as a question? “Can trust live with unanswered prayer?” or “Why trust when prayers go unanswered?” Or something like that?

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thanks, Jacqueline. Your ideas do shorten it. I appreciate your feedback.

  3. Sandi B

    Yes, there have been times that I had to wait. One was when I wanted to become a supervisor at work. It took 11 years and five interviews. But, I would NOT have traded the group God gave me to supervise for any other group. In the end, it was better than I could think or imagine!!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Wonderful testimony of God’s grace. Thanks, Sandi.

  4. Melissa

    Hello. Yes, I have been grateful for unanswered prayer. A few years ago, my husband and I were planning on making a huge purchase. We searched for what we hoped to buy and just couldn’t find the right thing for us. We kept wondering why nothing was “just right” and in the right price range. So, we decided to stop looking to make that big purchase. Shortly after that decision, my husband’s job changed and income reduced dramatically. If we had purchased that big item, we would be in a bad situation. We thank God that He knows best and our unanswered prayer was actually His answer. He was telling us, “No, you don’t need that item.” 🙂

    • Debbie Wilson

      Melissa, what a beautiful story of God’s protection. Your story reminded me of a time He did something similar for us. A lot that was supposedly being held for us was sold before we could put our house on the market. Six years later when we did build, I knew better what we really wanted. I was so glad we hadn’t built on the other lot.

  5. Melanie Redd

    What an encouraging word, Debbie!

    I love this line, “God had not overlooked Elizabeth. He had chosen her for a special honor.” There is a matter we’ve been praying about now for several years that has not changed or been answered.

    To see this as a gift and a blessing – a sign of God’s favor. That really speaks peace to our situation.

    I found your post on Tuesday Talk, and I’m glad I did.

    I hope you have a blessed day~

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you Melanie. May the Lord do exceedingly abundantly more than you can ask or imagine!

  6. Anna Scates

    This is a fantastic blog post! And yes, I have found blessings in unanswered prayer, specifically in the birth of a child. I completely agree that the best things come in God’s time, and what we construe as unanswered prayer is God just saying, “Be patient. I have something else in mind.”

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen, Anna. Like the prophet Jeremiah, sometimes we have to be intentional in remembering who He is. When we do our hope returns. Blessings to you.

  7. Ann

    I am grateful for quite a few unanswered prayers because had God answered my prayers I would not be married to my husband and wouldn’t have my children or my life! In fact, I might not even still be alive! I love what you said: What people saw as a disgrace, God saw as favor.

    His thoughts, timing and ways are WAY above ours and for that I am so grateful. Thank you for this lovely post – I never really looked at Elizabeth and Zechariah quite this way.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Ann, it is good to look back and see how He has protected us. His ways truly are better than ours! Bless you, my friend.

  8. Donna @ Soul Survival

    Debbie, how impatient we can be if we don’t keep an eternal perspective! Thanks for a beautiful reminder! Visiting today from Messy Marriage. December blessings!

    • Debbie Wilson

      An eternal perspective makes all the difference! Blessings to you, Donna.

  9. jenifer

    Thank you for sharing!

    Thanks for linking up with Woman to Woman’s Word Filled Wednesday!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Jenifer, thank you for reading!

  10. Beth

    I probably have been ungrateful for what seems like unanswered prayer, Debbie. That’s a hard one for me to always see where my ingratitude is. Just today my quiet time was in Ephesians where Paul prayed that the “eyes of your heart” would be enlightened. I like that terminology because it reminds me that my heart does not always see all that it should see. I have an area in my life that has seemed to languish–without much external change. But I am trusting that God is doing much in the “unseen” realm. Thanks for your reminder and encouragement on this very true principle, my friend. I always enjoy and value the wisdom you share with us here! Your blog is one of my favorites! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Beth, I like that terminology too. And I need to be reminded often that the invisible is what will last while what I see and allow to frustrate me will soon pass. Thank you for your encouragement. I feel I have a new friend in you! Maybe one day we’ll meet.

  11. Dawn Nelson

    Yes, I have been ungrateful for unanswered prayer…many times.
    Thank you for this post and it ministered to me, today.
    May I remember what people saw as disgrace, God saw as favor.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Bless you, Dawn.

  12. Leslie

    I love it when I can see some good come out of the struggles I’ve prayed not to have. Then, I start catching a glimpse of God’s greater good instead of just what I think will make me happy. Romans 8:28.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Leslie, Romans 8:28 is one of my most favorite Scriptures. What hope we have because of Jesus!

  13. Tai East

    Wonderful post, Debbie! So full of encouragement and hope! Thank you so much for sharing, beautiful friend! GOD bless you! 🙂

    • Debbie Wilson

      Tai, thank you so much for your encouragement! Love your fun glasses!

  14. Suzie Eller

    Thank you for linking up with me today on #livefreeThursday!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Suzie, thank you so much for hosting and being a thoughtful encourager!

  15. Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet

    I feel like you wrote this post for me! I am struggling with unanswered prayer right now and it is so frustrating! I have been praying for healing from the chronic illness/pain I have and nothing is improving. Things feel so full of despair. Thank you for the reminder that my prayers have not fallen on deaf ears, and that God will use things for good. Have a blessed day!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Lauren, pain takes a definite toll on us in so many ways. I’ve been recovering from health issues after being exposed to black mold. During this time I read a biography of a missionary, called Evidence Not Seen, who spent a long period of time being laid up after surviving POW camp during WW2. I don’t understand God’s ways, but I choose to believe they are better than mine. May He grant you eyes of faith to see the unseen and have hope during this time. I might add, give yourself grace. God has allowed you to be in this place. I tend to push or chastise myself for lack of motivation when I don’t feel well. This has been a lesson I’m learning. Bless you, my friend.

  16. Lois Flowers

    Debbie, my blog post for this week is about Elizabeth and Zechariah, too, so I was very interested to read how you were going to approach their story. 🙂 In answer to your question, my husband and I struggled with infertility for several years, and I am HUGELY grateful for God’s “no” to our prayers for a pregnancy. We went on to adopt two daughters from China, and I cannot imagine my life without them. You’ve shared beautiful truth here, and I’m so glad I found you at Grace & Truth!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Lois, what a sweet testimony of God’s grace and purpose in our disappointment. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting.

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