Why do I pray when God doesn't answer me?

Image In the last 6 months, I've probably prayed more than I have in the past 6 years. Okay, that's just a random guess and I hope it's not actually true, but I do have to say I've been praying a lot in this current season. Not because I'm spiritual, but because I'm needy and I have a lot of questions. I feel more like a pesky, clueless, unrelenting child than a disciplined, patient believer, as I keep asking God, "Where are you? What are you doing? Where are we going? Are we there yet? Why? But why? No, seriously, why???"

I've blogged about how God answered some questions I had about which steps to take moving forward. Yeah, he did that. And he's done some other cool things in my heart, helping me deal with situations I can't pray away (like facing my birthday). But if I'm honest, the majority of prayers I send his way go unanswered. I'm really bad at numbers, but it feels something like 90%.... Just a non-calculated, feelings-based guess.

I've sent prayers up into the sky in all different packages - there have been letters neatly written in my journal, moments of formal head-bowing, both individually and in groups. There's been some night-time bed-kneeling, some arm raising, lips murmuring. I've conversed honestly with my heavenly father, mustered up courage to whisper out my weaknesses. I've spoken calmly, cried out desperately. I've interlocked fingers with friends and choked back tears with a gentle hands on my back.

With all these prayers, I've come to realize there was a piece of me that thought, "the more I pray, the more God will answer." My heart tried to deal in the currency of works... If I do this, God will do that. I wanted my prayer to be like dollar bills handed over to the cash register. I do my part, I submit my payment, God returns with a product. An answer. A lifeboat. Okay, at least a life jacket??

I've emptied my bank account. Cashed out my reserves. My wallet is empty, and what do I have to show for it? Instead of a neat transaction, my prayers feel more like lost balloons being released into the universe... They are going up and up and up, but I lose sight of them, and does it ever make it up there safely? There's no guarantee. Does God catch the piece of my heart I released into the atmosphere, or is there some scientific element that just bursts my prayer, my hope, my dream somewhere along the way?

In my head, I know God hears my prayer.

....But in my heart, it's hard to believe it somedays when you mail so many letters without receiving a response, or even a confirmation. God, could you at least give me a receipt? Or a punch card? Pray this 10 times and the 11th one receives a free cookie? Something?

As I've been praying, and praying, and praying, and then praying some more, I'm slowly waking up to reality.... God welcomes my questions, but he doesn't want me to go to him for answers.

Wait... What?

Really. I mean it. God welcomes my questions, but they have nothing to do with the answers.

God wants me to come to him for a perspective change. 

When I drop the punch card of prayer, when I go to him over and over again, prayer after prayer, it is an act of recallibrating my heart to Him.  Getting an answer to my prayer really won't fix much.. It's only a matter of time until I'm back again, desperate and needy. My heart won't be settled with an answer, my heart is settled in the person and character of God. When I pray to him, my priority is not in the receipt or the product, but the person.

Prayer pushes my eyes to see God in each day, to look for him in all moments. My unanswered prayers help me walk through the problems with him instead of expecting him to show up as a delivery boy or a magic genie. It's more about the person of God than the problem.

The person of God. His continual presence. His friendship and love that is there for me despite the darkness. He is there in the storm, He walks with me in the good things and in the hardest parts.

Let me repeat this over and over and over again and seal my heart with the promise that comes with it.

When I don't get a specific answer, I learn to rely on him in a deeper way. He is the answer to all my questions. The person of God.