Monday, February 28, 2011

Unanswered Prayers

Are you old enough to appreciate unanswered prayers?

That was the question posed by the evangelist at our church in his message Saturday night. As usual, his question sent me off on a tangent (ahem!) and I started thinking about how many of my prayers regarding my writing career haven’t been answered when or how I wanted.

It also got me to thinking how I felt about those unanswered prayers three or four (or more!) years later.

So, I asked some of my Seeker Sisters about unanswered prayers and how they viewed them after a period of time has lapsed.

“Everything that has happened in my publishing career has been a God thing . My agent was due to a connection with another author, I had pretty much given up on finding an agent when it happened. I love her. I love that I can talk plain to her and she is normal. The genre I ended up selling in was a God thing. I wasn't sure where I was supposed to be but it's like I planted the seeds and this is what grew. He knew the harvest and the timing. And my Seeker sisters were a total God thing, because I was not looking for another group to join. If there is one thing I have learned in this journey it's to cast my cares on Him.” Anonymous

I can so relate to the above. Every sentence has my name written all over it, even though I DIDN’T write it. God shook his head many times for me, and said, “Not yet, beloved. Not yet. You’re not ready.” It was hard to accept at the time, but looking back, I know He was right. He always is, isn’t he? Thank you, God, for unanswered prayers.

“My unanswered prayer was that the first manuscript that I sent out to agents, The Corinthian Rules, did NOT get bought. At the time I didn't realize how inane the writing was, although my voice was strong. Voice is not everything--the writing has to be good, too, and that manuscript definitely was NOT. If it had been bought, I'd have either had an absolutely horrible revision or I'd have been heartily ashamed it was published after a few years, or I'd have gotten reamed in Amazon ratings. Well, I still got 1-star reviews on Amazon with Sushi for One, but at least with Sushi, I'm confident the writing is as strong as I could make it, and although people don't like it, well, I know did my best.” Camy Tang

I look back at some of the projects I submitted, even projects that were almost picked up by publishing houses and cringe, knowing my writing wasn’t ready. Yes, at the time, I thought it was great, and maybe it was the best I could do, but now I know it could have been so much better. Thank you, editors, for not publishing my work way back then! And thank you, God, for unanswered prayers!

“Through twelve years of struggling to make a sale of one of my novels, I actually gave up a couple of times. But God always gave me some encouragement to keep me going (like positive editor feedback or a contest final). And though it seemed to take forever, once I did sell--and jumped right into revisions and art fact sheets and line edits and copy edits and promo--I realized I would NOT have been ready for all that years earlier. I'm now a firm believer in God's perfect timing. So hang in there and trust that God knows what He's doing! (Yeah, I know. That's one of those "duh" things, but something I had to learn.)” Missy Tippens
I love this quote from Missy! You know why? She brought something out that I hadn’t thought of before. Even though God has said, “Not now,” many times during this writing journey of mine, he’s always given me something to encourage me, to keep me going and believing as I perfected my craft. Thanks, Missy, for that wonderful reminder, and thank you, God, for unanswered prayers.

“Years ago when I finaled in the Noble Theme, I had an agent appointment with a well-known agent - well, actually two of them who said exactly the same thing: "Congratulations on finaling in the Noble Theme. So you write about cowboys? Well, sorry to say, but no one is buying cowboy/western right now. But good luck!" Talk about bursting my bubble! I won the Noble Theme in Contemporary Romance that year and ended up talking to Joan Marlow Golan. She congratulated me and asked what the book was about. I gave her a quick two sentence pitch. AND THEN told her she wouldn't be interested in it because cowboy stories are dead, so I'll have to write something else. Can you imagine the look she gave me? She gave an encouraging/indulgent smile as she handed me her card. She loved cowboys and if the ms was complete, told me to send it to one of her editors. Wow. That book didn't sell, but the next one Steeple Hill. I love Joan for knowing what I’d been told and making an effort to correct the error of information : )” Audra Harders
As Missy and Audra told us, timing is everything. God’s timing. God is the best editor we have, and he’s looking over our shoulders, shaking his head at our determination to rush ahead of his plan for us.

Each rejection, failure, or low contest score hurts, but I’m stretching my wings and growing my craft every time I put my work out there. I look back at some of my rejections now and I’m thankful that God didn’t answer those prayers the way I prayed. Because like Camy said, I’d have some work out there that I wouldn’t be all that proud of.

Thank you, God, for unanswered prayers!

Have you learned to appreciate unanswered prayers regarding your writing?

If you haven’t, you just might not be “old”* enough yet.

*Old used in this context has nothing to do with your real age. :)


Melissa Jagears said...

That was a fun tid bit from Camy. I'd been curious about The Corinthian Rules backstory when I clicked on it several times for the Genesis formatting advice.

I'm old enough for unanswered prayer.

I'm also old enough for "prayers I wish hadn't gotten answered" and then for those same prayers became glad they got answered anyhow.

Hopefully that made sense, if it didn't chalk it up to the hour!

Vince said...

Hi Pam:

I understand what you are saying and I appreciate your point of view. I have a little different view of God.

There is an old saying: “God always answers our prayers but sometimes the answer is no.”

Since we have free willl I believe that God has many plans for us. Not just one plan. Depending on the choices we make, God’s plans for us can change. If we make wise choices, God’s plan may be for us to publish sooner. If we made poor choices and perhaps don’t work with sufficient diligence, God’s plan may be for us not to publish at all.

It is said that God often favors the bigger battalions and that God helps those who help themselves. It would not occur to me to pray to God that my manuscript be purchased. However, I will pray for the wisdom and motivation to become a better writer. I will pray to become a better person and to let God’s love shine through in my writing.

In a way, I don’t want God to change a “B” grade to an “A” for me. I want Him to help me increase my knowledge to where I earn an “A” grade.

But then I may think too much. And this is what I think.


Helen Gray said...

Coffee pot's all set.

Boy, oh, boy, oh boy. Did you ever read my mind today, dear Pam.

Actually, I don't have so much trouble about my prayer about publication being unanswered. I've gotten used to the waiting game and accept that God knows best.

What I struggle with is having my prayer go unanswered for a dire need in the life of someone in my family. The waiting is harder in this case.

These comments were especially meaningful to me right now.


Helen Gray said...


Don't know what you tweaked in blogger, but it's definitely working better now.


Tina Radcliffe said...

I personally like the Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayer.

Says it all.

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

Tina Radcliffe said...

Glad to hear it Helen, I changed a setting thanks to some kind folks in the Help Forum.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Pam.

Unanswered prayers. So hard at the moment, but often good in retrospect, right???

It's getting to that point that tests us.

I love Garth's song, too. And I've used it in books because the warm message is solid and timeless. Wonderful words of wisdom.

Melissa, I love the "prayers I wish hadn't gotten answered."

Oh, that makes so much sense, LOL! Be careful what you wish for.

Vince, I love your take on things. Always a good perspective and you're so NOT a 'yes' man. That's a wonderful thing. And Helen...

Oh those dire needs. In Jan Karon's Mitford books, Father Tim's "prayer that never fails" struck me as the perfect way to see those dire needs: Thy will be done...

For us smart, bossy types like Teeeena and Mary ( ;) ) that's a tough one. Laying down the reins. Riding shotgun when we long to drive.

We're so human.

Donuts this morning. My kitchen's a wreck and I must straighten up before the liebchens arrive.

Pam, thank you for this!!!

Renee Ann said...

Great post! I think unanswered prayer is different from "no" or even "wait." Sometimes God does remain silent for a season. But whether God is silent or calming us with, "Wait, my child," I'm sure He has all kinds of reasons. I think one is that when we keep crying out to Him, we often learn more about what's in our own hearts and how to trust what's in His.

Blessings, all :)

Glynna Kaye said...

The beauty of prayer is that it's something God invites us to do. Who would ever think God Almighty, Creator and Ruler of the Universe, would love his created beings enough to do such a thing--inviting us to ask! And he even says "yes" sometimes!

KC Frantzen said...

I'm downright elderly! ha!

I guess I think about praying for God's perfect will for my life (or whatever it is I'm praying about) and that His will is done.

I do pray specifically when led, but so often I don't know WHAT to pray exactly, but I figure our Father is omniscient so - He does! :)

Thanks for letting us in on the unanswered prayer perspectives. Very good to continue pondering... And Vince helps us along with that for sure!

Loves 2 Read Romance - Laura said...

What a great topic Pam. I know that everything God does is in his time but sometimes it hard to wait. Thankfully God recently answered my prayers for a job for my dad. I know it wasn't exactly what my dad was looking for but we know that there is a reason God has placed him where he did.

Janet Dean said...

Pam, thanks for the reminder that God is working in our lives even when He's silent or saying NO. I'm grateful I didn't get published when I prayed I would. God's timing is perfect. I'll admit I see that more in hindsight. :-) I'm working on remembering that.


Audra Harders said...

The whole unanswered prayer thing is the hardest part of prayer life. How do you know the difference between WAIT and NO?

I'm still learning, but I don't think the passion to write, or whatever your need/want/desire might be, would dwell as strongly in my soul if God's answer were no.

Listen for God's answer is often the hardest part of faith for me. I know He hears me, I know He's directing me. But am "I" doing it right??

Great thoughts for a Monday morning, Pam!

Sandy Ardoin said...

A very encouraging post, Pam.

God's timing and Jeremiah words to live by.

I wrote and published small pieces for years, but everytime I tried to write a novel, He always said, "Nope. Not now." Three years ago, He said, "Okay. Now."

Just when I was becoming a bit discouraged, He gave me February 2011 and some encouraging successes. I don't know how long it will take me to have one of my novels published or even if that will happen, but I do believe He has a plan for my writing and I need to wait--even if it's impatiently. :-)

And, Camy, I'm one of those who really enjoyed Sushi For One.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, yes! I can be thankful for quite a few unanswered prayers! There were so many times The Healer's Apprentice was submitted to a publisher that wasn't exactly my dream publisher, but I wanted to be published so bad, I prayed they would want it. But they didn't. Which allowed it to get published with a dream publisher for a Young Adult audience. I feel so blessed and honored whenever I hear from teen girls who read my book. I am thankful to God for helping me see my writing as a ministry.

This is a great topic, Pam! I definitely can relate to what was said here! And God would never let me quit, no matter how discouraged I got. He would always send me some encouragement that told me, Don't quit.

And even though my life as a published author isn't exactly as wonderful as I thought it would be--unending confidence and sheer joy as I write without ceasing--I'm still thankful for it. It's still a dream come true. Even though the evil reviews I've gotten on Amazon, the lack of interest in my book from friends and family members, and lots of other factors I won't go into, have at times threatened to overwhelm me with insecurity and make me wish I'd never begged God to help me establish a writing career. Why hadn't I wanted to be something easier, like a brain surgeon?

But I'm thankful, nevertheless. God is still working on making me content in every circumstance. LOL

Lorna Faith said...

...thanks for the encouragement! Definitely have had lots of times I have had unanswered prayers...which in hindsight were a blessing. For instance I wanted to finish the book I'm working on 3 years ago:( ...but then God relocated my husband & myself to start a church-plant...which has been incredibly busy, but a blessing. Sometimes it can feel like God is 'messing up' your life...but He sees the bigger picture:)

Thankful for unanswered prayer!


Jan Drexler said...

Thanks for this post Pam, it was very encouraging!

I've been amazed at the way God is answering my prayers regarding my writing - when a scene needs a change, when I need to know my character better, when I need the exact word to express the idea I'm trying to get across...When this book is published, I know who's going to get the credit :)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Beautiful post, Pam! It's amazing how so many of us writers experience the same thing - a contest win to keep us going in times of doubt, for example.

I love what Vince said, "I will pray for the wisdom and motivation to become a better writer. I will pray to become a better person and to let God’s love shine through in my writing."
I think that's the best prayer. When that happens, everything else will fall in place as it should.

Thanks for the reminder on this dreary day in February!



Ruth Logan Herne said...

Susan, I like Vince's take on that too.

And I think when we couple that with hard work and God's timing, we're moving as we should.

It doesn't always SEEM that way, but that comes back to the free will and human-ness.

Hey, cold and rainy here so I've got WARM, FRESH BAKED M&M/CHOCOLATE CHIP cookies for you guys.

Because you are that deserving!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Pam, I saw your request for this topic, but it was too late last night. I was disappointed because I didn't see it sooner, because I so struggle with the same issues.

I do believe and know that God answers ALL of my prayers even the small ones when I'm looking for a parking spot in the shade.

But I think we're wondering today about the prayers and direction toward writing. Should I be writing? If so, why aren't I published or why isn't it going anywhere. And as so many have pointed out, looking back is great because you can see that God did direct you perfectly.

So many times when I submitted manuscripts I would have been in trouble if they had been contracted--like when the mom's were all dying or now when I'm helping with Dad. Thank you God for not letting me get contracted then.

He promised to never give us more than we can handle so I know that He answers our prayers ALWAYS. Just be patient and expectant for the delightful way those prayers will unfold.

Great topic Pamster.

Whitney said...

This was a great blog post for me, my writing, and other “unanswered” prayers I’ve been dealing with lately. I know you all have probably felt the “What’s the point? He’s not going to answer my prayers” sentiment before. It’s hard to push on past discouragement, and yes, resentment. It’s hard when you feel STUCK in life. Be it in your job, where you live, your wait in the publishing world, or something else. But that is where the rubber meets the road. I’m reminded of Marilla Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables. In one of the many times Anne is in the “depths of despair” and she queries whether Marilla has ever been in the “depths of despair”, Marilla very plainly answers, “God does not want you for a fair weather friend.”

Oh, but it’s hard!

Right now, I’m just trying to find the time to write. I work full time and go to school part time, and it is more than difficult to find time to write. And although I’ve been writing since the second grade, I’ve never finished a novel. I think that if I can ever get to the place where I have something I can just SEND to an editor, I’ll be very happy.

You all are an encouragement in your determination.


Myra Johnson said...

Such wonderful food for thought, Pam! I could almost have written that first response by "Anonymous"! (Now everyone knows it wasn't me!)

And Audra, I so agree about how hard it is sometimes to recognize the difference between NO and WAIT. All I can do is listen for that nudge deep within my spirit that seems to tell me either to be patient, step out in faith, or move in a different direction.

CarolM said...

Like Sandy, Jeremiah 29:11 it is. It's been on the mirror in my bathroom for a long time, though I haven't put it back up after cleaning the mirror a couple weeks ago. It was a hard hard day and I didn't really believe it at the time :/. Couldn't see how it could be true...

And Audra said:
I'm still learning, but I don't think the passion to write, or whatever your need/want/desire might be, would dwell as strongly in my soul if God's answer were no.

I need to put that on a notecard and tape it to my mirror or something.

Unanswered Prayers is also a favorite song. I've used it in a story or two as well. I'm still near the beginning of my writing journey but I know this well...

But the new tentative title for my Nick story [Linette - this is for you ;)] is Prayers Answered. This came to me after writing a prologue which makes it more of a WF opening than an RS opening b/c the rest of it is WF with a strong RS element.

Now to go over it a dozen times today and decide if it's ready for Genesis.

UHH is off to a CP for one more readthrough before sending it to Camy for Genesis.

And Blogger is back to normal! YAY!

Anyone for breakfast?

Pam Hillman said...

So sorry that I can't play right now. I had to go to the day job and it's busy today!

I'll check in as soon as I can.

Have fun and enjoy some of Ruthy's wonderful donuts!


Mary Connealy said...

I do no, all those years when I was trying to get published and praying so hard for it, it was hard to see God's hand in the delay. It's much easier to blame your own lack of skill (which was probably right).
But when my first book came out in February, three months before my youngest daughter graduated from high school and I started doing a lot of book signings and traveling (...well, LOT might be a little strong) but I could see that it was a new season in my life and it's nice not to go off to things and wonder if I was picking the writing career over my children.

Pam Hillman said...

Lunch break, so I can play! :)

Melissa, makes perfect sense. Sorta! lol

Pam Hillman said...

Well said, Vince.

Yes, I agree 100%. God answers all our prayers, but, as humans, sometimes we don't realize that or acknowledge that.

Hopefully, your wonderful explanation will bring more clarity to the post and help us all to understand that what we see as unanswered prayer is, as I said earlier, a "no" or a "not now".

And that's where due diligence to strive for that "A" comes in.

Again, you hit the nail on the head instructing us to become better at our craft. That was the point of the post, after all!

Thanks for adding more food for thought to this discussion.

Pam Hillman said...

Helen, you're right. Waiting on answers to health or financial issues is indeed much harder.

Pam Hillman said...

Audra said in 10 words what I tried to say in 50:

How do you know the difference between WAIT and NO?


Pam Hillman said...

Melanie's comment goes to the heart of what I was trying to say today.

Thanks Mel.

From those of us who have been in the trenches for a while, to those who are just starting out on this journey, I wanted you to get a glimpse of the "rainbow in the cloud" that you might see down the road a bit.

That hindsight where you've grown as a writer, and you issue a sigh of relief that those early works didn't make it into publication.

At least for most of us!

Pam Hillman said...

Thanks Lorna!

Whew, I'm so glad you guys "get" what I tried to say in my oh-so-bumbling way!

Pam Hillman said...

Fresh from the oven M&M and chocolate chip cookies?

Ruthy, you're killing me!!!

Pam Hillman said...

Whitney, thanks for your comment. Keep writing, keep striving for that "A" Vince talked about.

Some day you'll finish that novel, and you'll be so glad you did.

Pam Hillman said...

Mary, one more reason for the delay.

Who can say if God looked down and saw that your children needed you more and kept you in the wings for a spectacular debut?

I like to think of it that way, at least!

CatMom said...

WOW!! This post was exactly what I needed to read today--Thanks Pam! ~ Great reminders about God's timing (which is something I need to be reminded of fairly often *grin*). ~ I told a friend a while back that even if I'm never published, the FRIENDS I've made since embarking on this writing journey are priceless!!! So I know the Lord has a reason for everything we go through. ~ Thank you again for sharing this (and for those other authors who also contributed!). ~ Blessings, Patti Jo :)

Cara Lynn James said...

Yes, I appreciate unanswered prayer concerning my writing. During a small writer's conference I won a critique and caught the interest of a publisher. But I'd only been writing a few months and I was totally green. And I knew I didn't know anything. The manuscript went to committee and was rejected. Good thing!

The important thing was I was very encouraged. Every time I was discouraged in the future I thought of this editor and kept going. So the Lord did me a big favor.

Julie Lessman said...

Provocative blog today, PAMMY!!! I am definitely old enough for "unanswered prayer," but I mustn't have been around when you asked this question because I would have had TONS of "unanswered prayers" to talk about ... uh, 45 of them, to be exact! But I have since learned that rather than actually being an "unanswered prayer," it's just God's way of saying "not yet" or "I have something better in mind."

Gotta tell you that the baby praying at the end of this blog is one of the most adorable pics I have ever seen!! SOOO cute!!


Pam Hillman said...

Isn't that baby cute? I almost put a pic up of an elderly person praying, but thought better of it.

Didn't want any of us to get depressed, thinking we might have to be patient THAT long to see some of our writing-related prayers answered!

Debby Giusti said...

Pam, great topic. Sorry, I didn't see your call for input or I would have added my two cents.

Here are my thoughts today as storm clouds gather on the horizon. God's "no" saved me from publishing a few stories that need to remain hidden forever in a desk drawer. :)

My road to publication was long...very, very long. becasue, as Vince mentioned, I needed to become a better writer first.

Actually, I spent four years praying whether I was supposed to write. Contest feedback and my non-fiction magazine success kept me pushing forward. Thank goodness--no, thank God I did. As noted earlier, His timing is always perfect.

Pam Hillman said...

Debby, it's amazing the number of aspiring novelists who say they were on the verge of giving up more than once.

The drive is still there because we want to tell our stories, but the long, hard road takes its toll on some of us.

It's not like a 4 year degree where there's a definite END to your training, and you're fairly certain you will be able to find a job when you get your diploma.

However, in this economy, even that isn't written in stone anymore!

I have a couple of friends who actually DID give up. I wish I could touch base with them to see if they still have the dream, or if they've moved on to other things.

Christine said...

I wept as I read through this. God has given me so many blessings over the past weeks. I am published for the first time, though it's not my novel. Every time I am accepted by someone to write articles for them, I receive a rejection letter for my novel. My head knows that it isn't God saying "no". He's just saying "not yet". I must work daily to convince my heart to continue to wait on Him. He will bring it to pass in His time.

Thank you so much for posting this today. I really needed the reminder!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Whitney, I think we all hear you, kiddo. Finishing is the toughest thing for lots of us.

But there is such a feeling of accomplishment in bringing that story full circle. Even if it's not GOOD. And I mean that sincerely. Mechanics can be fixed, characters can be layered, but finishing....

Oh, that's sweet blessings abounding right there. But know that you're not alone, and pick your favorite story and go for it. Brainstorm ideas for the middle. When all else fails, shoot someone. Or start a fire. Create chaos internally and externally.

We're such a weird bunch, LOL! But we LOVE to see our friends succeed!

Jillian said...

Such a beautiful post,Pam. Tina, you're right, Garth Brooks said it all in that song.

Pam Hillman said...

I tried to squeeze in a visit between work, subway sandwiches, and revival, but it just didn't happen!

(We're having some wonderful services, btw!)

But I'm back now!

Christine, let's make a pact to keep working on those novels, polish one, then start another. When the time comes, we'll have plenty to offer those editors, won't we?

And mega congrats on the articles! That is a huge accomplishment and gets your name out there.

Pam Hillman said...

I need to listen to that Garth Brooks' song. Seems like my sister-in-law has sung it in church before...or something very similar to it.

Sounds very fitting to today's topic.

Virginia said...

This was such a great post! This is why I love Seekerville: you all balance the craft and the industry tidbits with the AWESOME reality checks.

Ana said...

Thank God for his schedule. Even though we may not understand it at first, His plan is always better than ours.