One of my favorite country western songs has the catchy title Thank God for Unanswered Prayer. Garth Brooks wrote it and performs it and it’s played regularly on my Country Legends radio station that I live with when I’m in Texas. If I were straight and young, I would be a Garth Brooks groupie. Seriously. Alas, I am neither so I will be content with listening to him every day along with his other gazillion fans. Garth Brooks is in the same category of record sales and awards as Elvis and The Beatles. I kid you not. Look it up in your Funk and Wagnall’s or, as I did, on Wikipedia which has the answers to all questions. Elvis, The Beatles, Garth Brooks. Chew on that for a minute.
In this particular hit tune he and his wife have a random encounter with an ex-girlfriend and he remembers the intensity of that passion and the fervent prayers he uttered to his God for things to work out with her. As you might imagine from the title of the song, he concludes his life is much better without her and that some of “God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
My theology is suspect. As I grew up in a conservative Southern Baptist environment in the 1950s and 60s I developed serious misgivings about my place in the hereafter, but I’m not wrestling that old demon today. Instead, I was reminded of a few of my own unanswered prayers when I heard Garth’s song. A funny flashback came to me of a deep-sea fishing trip off the Oregon coast when I was in my early twenties. A couple of the older women I worked with at Brodie Hotel Supply in Seattle invited me to go with them and their husbands on a salmon fishing adventure early one cloudy Saturday morning. To make a very long fishing tale short, I have a vivid memory of praying to God from the boat’s only bathroom where I spent the day. The captain’s apologies to me from the other side of the restroom door for the roughest seas he’d sailed in years mattered not. I begged him to contact the Coast Guard to send a helicopter to rescue me from the wretched or retched boat and I promised God if He would just get me off that boat I would never bother him again from the open seas. The prayer went unanswered until the eight-hour expedition was complete. Too little, too late. I counted it unanswered.
Regardless of my theology and its well-documented demise in my later years, I confess to praying for outcomes in situations that were desperate during the vicissitudes of life. One particular time I believed I wouldn’t survive the loss of an eighteen-year relationship that ended when I was fifty-four years old. I was undone. Woe was me. But just like Garth Brooks in his song, I thank God for unanswered prayer during those difficult days. This week I celebrate my twelfth anniversary with my version of a gift. My partner Teresa is the spicy salsa for the rather tortilla chip person I’ve always been. She’s brought laughter and love with her as she breezed passionately into the core of my being. We are not strangers to struggles nor immune to heartbreak in the years we’ve been together, but the joys comfort us when we are called upon to share the sorrows.
Life is good, and I am grateful for unanswered prayers.