When Prayers Seem to Go Unanswered
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Digital Only: Young Adults

When Prayers Seem to Go Unanswered

Why did it feel like God was not only ignoring my prayers but doing the exact opposite of what I had asked for?


Photograph by Alexandre Borges

At age 25, I felt ready for marriage. I had already served a mission and felt that marriage was the next step for me. Marriage was promised to me in my patriarchal blessing, and a recent priesthood blessing had told me that it would happen “soon.” Not long after that, I started a new semester at school and quickly began dating someone. I’ll spare you all the details, but right before we were going to get engaged, he broke up with me. On my birthday.

I was devastated. This was the only thing I had prayed for consistently and so deeply for the past five years. And I felt like not only were my prayers not answered, but the very thing I had longed for was intentionally taken away from me.

Keeping My Broken Heart Close to God

I was so confused. I had felt spiritual feelings during the relationship that this was the right decision. But it just felt like God was being cruel and merciless—like He was intentionally taking good things out of my life. It seemed like the things He was doing were contrary to what I knew about His nature.

I had a bit of a faith crisis because there was no way I could look at what I was told about God and what He had done in not answering my prayers and reconcile the two logically. But my only choice was to go to Him with my broken heart—broken from both my unanswered prayers and my failed relationship. I felt like I had nothing left.

In trying to draw closer to Him, I began reading the Book of Mormon every day with a sincerity I hadn’t been capable of before. And little by little, as I expressed what tiny acts of faith I could to keep my broken heart soft and close to Him, answers started coming.

Eventually I realized that there had been some red flags and unhealthy patterns in the relationship that I had been unwilling to see. I began to understand that God had approved of my agency to move forward in the relationship. I started to see all my unanswered prayers in a different light. And I realized that God had been merciful all along.

God’s Promises Are Certain

Because I felt so broken and vulnerable after this experience, I looked for the most uplifting and wholesome friends I could find. I eventually began dating one of those friends. I learned to take this new relationship very slowly, and we laid a great foundation of friendship and selfless love that eventually took us to the temple to be sealed for time and all eternity. God answered my prayers, over time and after I had exercised faith in Him.

I can truly say that there is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. God guides us and protects us—all while respecting our agency. Despite any of our choices, He always seeks to bestow the greatest mercy, blessings, and love upon us. And He will always keep His promises to us as we remain faithful. As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “God’s promises are not always fulfilled as quickly as or in the way we might hope; they come according to His timing and in His ways. … The promises of the Lord, if perhaps not always swift, are always certain.” 1

As we pray to Him, we should also remember that He is always listening. And He always wants what’s best for us, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “[Our Father in Heaven’s] invitation ‘Ask, and ye shall receive’ (3 Nephi 27:29) does not assure that you will get what you want. It does guarantee that, if worthy, you will get what you need, as judged by a Father that loves you perfectly, who wants your eternal happiness even more than do you.” 2

We may go through times where we are anxiously waiting for our prayers to be answered, but we can trust that there is no set time frame for or limit on the blessings He has promised us. As we move forward with faith, Heavenly Father will be there to spiritually and physically guide us through if we keep our hearts turned to Him.