The problem with answered prayers
The room glowed a dark shade of orange as a pair of candles flickered on a center table. The wind blew warm air around in circles, providing little relief from the stifling heat. I sat in a circle around the table with a handful of women I've come to cherish, each of them leaning toward me with varying degrees of empathy as my story unraveled before them.
It's bad practice to share what happens in a prayer group. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right? But it's my story to tell, so I'm breaking the rules today. God will forgive me?
This is what I told them.
* * *
For months, I'd been trying for a second baby. The struggle was new to me. My first had arrived so easily, so free of stress or worry. Almost happenstance. This time, though, I was panicked. My mind dived headfirst into “What If” mode.
What if I never get pregnant?
What if I never hold another newborn again?
What if Juan José is an only child?
What if it takes years to get pregnant when JJ is already an "older dad" as it is?
What if there's something wrong with me?
What if God wants me to just be grateful for the one child I already have?
All these “What If” scenarios painted a bleak picture of the future, and my insides screamed with desire for control over my life.
But, being the proud person I am, as I told my prayer group my story, I offset my tears with jokes. Because you never want to be “too sad”, right? That's just not attractive, I told myself. And I very much wanted to keep these women on “my team”—so they'd continue liking me, including me in their prayer group, and viewing me as strong and resilient.
“I'm going through a hard time,” I said, “but I've got a sense of humor about it!”
Like that counts for something? It doesn't count for anything. I was distraught and terrified and craving so badly. I could've stopped right there.
For months, every single night, I prayed for a baby I couldn't picture. A baby I would welcome in any gender, any size, any packaging, any anything. I wanted my second baby and I prayed my heart out for him. Then, I started bargaining.
I will be the most superhuman mom on the entire planet.
I will love that baby more than has ever been humanly possible.
I will introduce him to you and do my very best to make sure he loves you.
I will do anything, ANYthing, ANYTHING.
I promised and I begged and I pleaded. I prayed until my mind was ready to explode.
And guess what?
I got him.
Eventually, God gave him to me.
But it wasn't because I prayed and bargained and pleaded. It wasn't because I turned into the most superhuman mom on the planet. And while my love for Nicolás stretches out from my heart to the very tips of my toes, God did not give him to me because of how much love I feel. I can tell you this much: God answered my prayers because it was His will, which I don't pretend to ever understand.
I'm eternally grateful.
But God's will and gifts did not stop there.
* * *
When Nicolás was born, we immediately were faced with a set of issues.
A failed initial hearing test.
Severe, bleeding diaper rash.
Excruciatingly sleepless nights.
A hatred of tummy time.
Way too much milk.
Daily, something appears to say, “Here I am, ready to make your life imperfect.” Daily, I find new things to pray about.
I see this in so many of the people around me, too. A friend of mine prayed tirelessly to find love. Eventually, he started dating someone he really liked. Immediately, he found a million new things to pray about for his new relationship: for the relationship to work out, for patience during arguments, for a sign that she is The One, for his family to like her. The list goes on.
No matter what you're praying for—a romantic partner, a new job, more kids, your dad's health, etc.—when your prayer is answered, there will always be something new to pray for.
Every hot, windy night my prayer group gets together, we join each other in prayer for all kinds of things. Some of our prayers have been answered, while others haven't yet. It can feel like a never-ending journey of desire for control.
In his book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle shares this wisdom:
“If you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others.”
I know that to be true. Constantly praying and waiting for something can feel like a form of suffering.
Motherhood has gifted me a direct path to learning about God. Everything I go through with my children leads me to Him. At first, when I first held my children, I was given a deeper understanding of unconditional love and what it feels like to love someone else so completely—a window to how God feels about us. Now that the kids are growing and the family is expanding, this role I play as “Mom” is showing me something new: to surrender and lean more heavily on Him.
Instead of praying for solutions, I pray for acceptance.
For acceptance of the joy and love that come with each day.
For acceptance of the inevitable pain that comes, as well, and helps me grow.
For acceptance (and gratefulness) of this life God has gifted me.
Answered prayers are wonderful blessings, and they in turn bring opportunities to pray anew. Let us use them to remember that our biggest quest is to trust God and accept His will—no matter what happens.
I'm so grateful to God for answering this prayer. Nicolás and his brother fill my heart to the brim. But I'm also grateful for the opportunity to learn to pray for acceptance.
PS. To those whose prayers have not yet been answered, I'm praying for you, too. 🙏🏻