Soul Food

How to Pray When God Seems Silent

I call my friend on the phone. “You’ll never believe what happened to me today,” I moan.

“Oh no!” she says, in her most sympathetic voice. “Tell me everything.”

I launch into the story, holding back no detail because I know this friend will appreciate all the nuances, including the messy parts where I wasn’t my best self, and love me anyway. “Can you believe that?” I say when my story is done.



            More silence.

I look down at my phone. CALL FAILURE, the screen shouts, in obnoxious red letters. I have a feeling the call dropped a long time ago. I have just spilled my guts, but no one was listening. . .I feel like an idiot.

Have you ever felt that way in your prayer life? You show up for prayer, bare your soul to God, beg Him to have mercy on you (Please, God, just make my body work this one month, just this one time, I know nothing is impossible for You). . . but when you say “amen” you can’t help but feel like you’ve just spent an hour talking to yourself?

Infertility brought a million difficulties into my life—marital tension as we fumbled our way through all the feelings; loneliness and hurt as all my friends moved into motherhood without me; confusing medical questions; staggering financial burdens. . . but perhaps most painful of all were the complications and questions I faced in my faith.

All our Christian lives we have been told that God loves us, wants what’s best for us, and is powerful enough to do anything we ask or imagine—if only we’ll have faith. So when the one thing we want more than anything in the world is to have a baby, and God doesn’t say “yes”—month after month, year after year—doubt creeps in. And unfortunately, with prayer we don’t get the kind of two-way conversation we’re used to. If only God would take us out for coffee, bend a kind Fatherly smile down on us, place His loving hand on top of ours and say, “I hear you and I love you with all my heart, but I can’t say “yes” yet for the following loving, logical reasons. . .”

But we don’t get that conversation, do we? We get only silence. And in that silence, Satan starts to whisper—words of doubt, words of fear, words of accusation: God doesn’t love you. This is your fault. God must be angry with you. If you were more (fill in the blank: faithful, righteous, patient, selfless, content, spiritual. . .), you would already be pregnant.

So how do we pray when God seems silent?

What God Says to Us

During our years of infertility I learned to use scripture to fill in God’s half of the conversation. The more difficult prayer became, the more I clung to my Bible.

When I felt forgotten or abandoned by God, I read Isaiah 49:15: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.”

When I felt unimportant to God, I read Matthew 10:29–31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

When I feared that God was unkind and that my infertility was a sign of his displeasure, I read Lamentations 3:21–26, 32–33: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. . . Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”

Scriptures like these remind us of what’s true when we are tempted to doubt. They remind us how God feels about us when we are struggling to see that love. They remind us how faithful and kind He is. That He still loves us even when He allows us to go through hard times. That He is faithful kind, and loving even when He says “wait” for far longer than we had ever imagined. . .even when He says “no.”

If God seems silent on the other end of your prayers, let the Bible fill in God’s half of the conversation. Let it speak the words your heart needs to hear from your heavenly Father. The scriptures in this post can serve as a starting point, but I encourage you to find your scriptures—the verses that speak to your doubts, insecurities, and resentments. Cling to those verses as spiritual life rafts, and let them carry you through rough waters all the way to shore.

What We Say to God          

Now what about our half of the conversation? How should we speak to God when we are hurting? The Bible gives us countless examples of hurting people who prayed real, raw prayers when God seemed silent.

In Psalm 22 David cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest” (vv. 1–2). What a poignant, powerful plea!

In Psalm 31 David prays, “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. . . .But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands” (vv. 9, 14–15). Again we find anguished honesty coupled with reverent respect.

We are not just invited to be honest—we are also invited to be persistent! Jesus encourages us, “Keep on asking. . . keep on knocking” (Matthew 7:7–8). And He tells us the story of the persistent widow, who got what she wanted because she just would not give up (Luke 18:1–8).

The Bible teaches us to keep bringing our honest pain, real doubts, and darkest fears to God—even when our suffering goes on and on. Even when we have been praying the same prayer for so long we’ve forgotten how to pray anything else. Even when we have begun to wonder if God will ever say yes.

Wherever you are in your infertility journey, my heart and prayers—and hope—are with you. I pray you fight to remain close to your Father so that when your waiting season ends, however it ends, you celebrate with the One who has seen you through, heard you out, and never left your side.

Elizabeth Laing Thompson is the author of When God Says “Wait”: Navigating Life’s Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind. She writes at about clinging to Christ through the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist, she loves finding humor in holiness and hope in heartache. Elizabeth lives in North Carolina with her preacher husband and four spunky kids, and they were totally worth the wait. You can connect with Elizabeth on Facebook and Instagram.



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