Unanswered Prayer

Nov 29 / Becky Grisell
Sometimes you want a trusted companion who meets you where you are and helps you find your way; a spiritual guide who listens deeply to your life, empowers you to explore a deeper relationship with the Holy, and helps you to be human.

The Season of Advent started on Sunday. Last year, Zechariah became my companion during Advent. I suspect he will companion me again this year. I am noticing some unanswered prayers that need my attention.

In the Gospel of Luke, the archangel Gabriel delivered a stunning message to Zechariah: “For I have come to tell you that your prayer for a child has been answered. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son and you are to name him John.” Zechariah responded, “How can you expect me to believe this?”[1] A legitimate question—Elizabeth’s barrenness had followed her all of her life and she was now too old to have children, and Zechariah was an old man.

As I read, I noticed a footnote in the Passion Translation I had previously overlooked: “I (the angel Gabriel) have come to tell you your prayer (the prayer you no longer pray anymore) has been answered.” The first time I read that, I gasped.

What prayers have I given up on?

Zechariah went mute for at least nine months because he failed to believe the angel. During that time, the Holy re-shaped Zechariah’s mind and heart by unsettling, disturbing, challenging, and pushing Zechariah’s faith to the malleable edges of who God was, God’s movement and activity in the world, and in Zechariah himself.

Unsettling, disturbing, challenging, pushing, re-tunneling, re-drawing… these are not easy words. There is no “comfortableness” in this process. Yet, this is how the Divine re-shapes the vision of the Godself and who I am as a human. It is uncomfortable, and it is hard.

I asked myself why I abandoned praying “those” prayers? Did I doubt Spirit’s intervention in my life and in the lives of those I love? Did I get lazy? What will it cost me to begin praying those prayers again? The present reality of the Incarnation calls for concrete involvement in real life, here and now.

In his book The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser states that I now bear some responsibility for being the answer to prayers prayed. Because of the reality of the Incarnation, God’s power is now partially dependent upon my actions.[2] I am not sure if I completely believe this but there is something there that rings true. There may be a comfort that is needed to be set down to fully embrace praying the prayers I no longer pray. There could be a need for a value shift or a different perspective.

Zechariah has helped me notice the invitation to begin praying prayers long abandoned and to acknowledge those abandoned prayers God has answered. He has helped me to be brave as God re-tunnels and disrupts my faith. Zechariah is a good companion on my journey of being human and helps me to be courageous as I begin praying prayers I abandoned long ago.

A moment of Reflection …

Take a moment to reflect on a prayer(s) you no longer pray. As you name the prayer(s) is there an image, feeling, color or texture that rises up for you?

Take a moment to notice prayers the Spirit has answered even after you abandoning praying them. What image, feeling, color or texture that captures what you notice?

Who might be a good companion for you as you journey through Advent and into all that will be in 2022?

1 Luke 1:5–23
2 Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality (New York: Penguin Random House, 2014), 83.
Becky Grisell

Becky is a trained Spiritual Director, writer, and founder and curator of Cascade Ministries. She places high value on being a safe person and creating a safe and sacred space to explore and connect with God’s activity in all of life. Her approach is holistic, addressing the brokenness of life while focusing on the hope of the Gospel. She received a Master of Divinity with a concentration in spiritual formation. and Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Spiritual Formation. You can find more out about Becky at www.beckygrisell.com, on Facebook, or on @becky_grisell. She can be contacted directly at bgrisell@gmail.com.