How to Help Your Kids See the Value in Unanswered Prayer

By Jessica Wolstenholm

It’s important for me to make sure my kids understand that God doesn’t work like a genie or fairy godmother. In the movies, you get what you wish for and it usually results in happily ever after. Sometimes a movie will teach you the lesson of “be careful what you wish for,” but this message can be rare and very much sugar-coated.

God is not a genie and prayers are not about getting what we want. Prayer is our chance to converse with God. It is the basis of our relationship. In this relationship, God knows what’s best for me and for His Kingdom.

I understand how prayer works, but I like to be in control. And my kids have similar personalities, so I feel even more responsible for teaching them this truth:

We are NOT in control and there is value in the experience of not getting what we want.

I should first clarify that I’m not even sure there is such a thing as unanswered prayers. I think God answers all prayers in His own perfect way. We are the ones who see our requests as unanswered and the lessons to be found in those unanswered prayers are numerous. Lessons of trust, God’s sovereignty, faith.

With myself and my children, I’m choosing to focus on this lesson:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

When we’ve prayed through a situation and we don’t see what we want to see, we must come back to this: God is good and He is working all things together for good in our lives. His “unanswered prayers” are for good reasons, Kingdom reasons.

We don’t see the whole picture, so we can’t know what is best. I shudder to think what could have happened if God answered every prayer I ever prayed in the way I thought He should answer them.

Recently, we had a big move planned. We were completely convinced this was exactly what God wanted for our family. We were looking at houses, touring schools, and making the necessary heart adjustments to prepare ourselves. In the middle of all of this, we were thrown a major curveball. We prayed and prayed for God to work a miracle in the situation so we could go forward with the move. We didn’t get what we asked for. We had to stop chasing the dream of moving and it was painful. We were all so confused.

But God.

Even in the midst of the hurt, He started to show His good plan. Relationships in our current location were deepened. New opportunities arose right where we were. The perfect job was offered to my husband. These were all answers to our prayers, but so very different from our thoughts and plans.

Walking through this life change with our children was an experience in grace and trust. They felt the same emotional rollercoaster we did, but we were always able to point back to God’s goodness. While I don’t wish to go through it all over again, our unanswered prayers have given way to growth and faith like never before. And that is an answer to prayer.

How do you help your kids understand when their prayers are not answered how they expected? Have you seen good come from these experiences or are you still waiting to see His plan?


Erin Mohring enjoys life in Nebraska with her husband of 12 years and their three boys, as well as reading, running, and movie nights with her guys. She writes at Home with the Boys and is the co-founder of Raising Boys Ministries.