What A Missing Tooth Taught Me About Unanswered Prayers

Have you ever prayed to God, and felt like you were speaking to a brick wall? I know that I’ve felt that way before! Learning to speak to someone who doesn’t talk back can be frustrating, and it’s hard to know if God is really there. Though God has answered my prayers in many different ways, there is one story that I keep going back to- a missing tooth that I lost over a decade ago. To me, this tooth is like a parable of the many ways that God answers prayers. If you are struggling or feel like the heavens are closed,  I want to share that story with you, along with what it taught me about God and how He speaks to us.

The Story

When I was 8 years old, I lost my tooth. Then, I lost it again. I searched everywhere for it, digigng my fingers into the array of crumbs and used crayons between couch cushions and rubbing my hand across the carpet floor. It was nowhere to be found. That tooth was special to me, and I was devastated.  What would the tooth fairy do if it wasn’t there? Desperate for help, I decided to pray. I prayed again and again, but I couldn’t find that missing tooth. Why wasn’t God answering my prayers?

Some time later, it was time for our family to move.  I never gave up on finding that tooth, and even then, a year or more later, I was still searching for it. We thoroughly cleared out the home, packed boxes, vacuumed, and prepared it for the new owners, but the tooth was nowhere to be found. Just when we were about to leave, I went inside again for one last look. That’s when something small and white, sitting in the middle of our freshly-mopped kitchen floor caught my eye. I couldn’t believe it – it was my missing tooth! Shiny and clean and exactly how I remembered it. For the first time in my life, I knew that God answered prayers!

No Prayer Is Too Small For God

Have you ever felt like your problems just weren’t big enough to bring to God? After all, there are billions of people in the world, and there are worse problems out there than passing a biology exam, making it through a grueling day of work, or even overcoming chronic illness. Why would God, the most knowledgeable, powerful being in the universe, care about someone as insignificant and tiny as you?

Finding my missing tooth was one of those things that probably shouldn’t have mattered to God. After all, I still got money from the tooth fairy, and I probably would’ve forgotten about the whole thing and moved on with my life if I hadn’t found it. But God also knew that my tooth was important to me. And since it was important to me, it was important to Him!  Jesus taught that the “very hairs of your head are numbered”, and in God’s eyes, no prayer or concern is ever too small to bring to Him! You are not the exception to that rule, I promise! God loves you and wants to help you no matter how small your concerns may be.

ALL Righteous Prayers WILL Be Answered…Eventually

Several times throughout scripture we are taught, “Ask and ye shall receive”, and that “if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God…and it shall be given him.” But these teachings, at face value, don’t seem to fit in with reality. How many of us know people who have suffered and even died from illness, though they plead with God to heal them? How many of us have asked God for help making important decisions only to feel that the heavens were silent? How many of us have questions about the Gospel that remain shrouded in mystery no matter how hard we pray or search for answers? As I’ve asked these questions myself I’ve come to realize something: God really does answer every prayer that is spoken. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be God! But how he answers our prayers isn’t always what we expect, and it may not be in a time frame that we anticipate either.

Now, just because God answers our prayers doesn’t mean that we can tell him what to do. If you get down on your knees tomorrow and pray that a million dollars will fall out of the sky, it won’t happen. If you pray that God will make someone fall in love with you it won’t happen either, because God is not in the business of controlling people’s actions. But God will and does answer righteous prayers, even if it’s two years later on the kitchen floor long after you wondered if He had forgotten about you.

Elder Holland taught, “some blessings come now, some blessings come late, and some blessings don’t come until heaven. But for the faithful, those blessings do come!” Many prayers are answered in this life, maybe even years after we say them, but not all will be. Sometimes the healing and the answers we seek will only be found in the life to come. But imagine how small our trial will feel in comparison to the blessing and joy that awaits the saints on the other side! To quote the apostle paul, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are nothing to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

God’s Timing Is ALWAYS Better Than Ours

But why DOES God wait to answer our prayers, if he’s going to answer them eventually, anyway? Why not just instantaneously grant us the desire of our hearts so that we can avoid all the suffering and difficulties that come in between?

Imagine with me that, just moments after praying to God to help me find my tooth, I found it nestled in between the couch cushions or in the carpet where it had probably fallen. God answered my prayer, and I was so happy! I prayed to God, thanking him for what he did, and then went on my way, never to think of that moment again. Or, even more likely, I would’ve thought that I’d just gotten lucky and think it was a coincidence, rather than an answer to my prayer.

Whatever the case, that missing tooth would not have nearly as much power as it did when I found it later in such an extraordinary way. God knew that the tooth was important to me, but he knew that gaining a testimony of the power of prayer and His love for me was even more important, so He waited, though I’m sure it pained Him to see me wonder and doubt His goodness for so long.

Jesus once said, “what man is there of you, whom if his son asks bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” God will always answer our prayers- in his timing and in His way. And, even if it feels like that fish is a snake or that bread is a stone, in the end how he answers our prayers will be better than we imagined possible. He will transform us into the person that He wants us to become, and because of Him we will have joy beyond our wildest dreams!

Never Ever Give Up!

It would’ve been easy for me to decide that I was never going to find that tooth, and that God didn’t think my prayer was important enough to answer. But instead, I kept praying and asking for God’s help, long after reason would’ve suggested that the tooth was long gone. If you feel like your prayers are going unanswered, never give up hope! Keep praying, and be ready to follow whatever answer you receive. It could be that you’re not ready for the answer yet. It could be that God has something to teach you by waiting. Or in some cases, it could be that what you’re asking for is contrary to His will. But whatever it is, keep praying and keep searching! God loves you, and answers will come in His timing and in His own way. When they do, I promise that they will be better than you even imagined possible!

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