90: Unanswered Prayers

90: Unanswered Prayers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Unanswered Prayers

Story by Pat Alger

Song written by Garth Brooks, Pat Alger, and Larry Bastian

Recorded by Garth Brooks

I had an experience where I ran into my high school girlfriend. I had grown up in Georgia. This girl and I dated all through high school, and we both assumed we would get married. But after high school, I went off to Georgia Tech and she went to Emory. Once we were both in the big city, we lost contact and moved on. When we saw each other again, I think we both realized it probably wouldn’t have worked. She’s a wonderful person and I actually introduced her to the guy who ended up being her husband, who was a friend of mine.

If she and I had stayed together, my life probably wouldn’t have taken the path that it took. I probably would have gotten a job as an architect in a suburb of Georgia and just stayed there. I don’t think I would have ended up in the music business, writing songs for Garth Brooks, that’s for sure. And if someone had told me I would end up in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame 30 years later, I couldn’t have even conjured up an image of what that would look like. But I think I discovered that I loved music a lot more than architecture by about my sophomore year. For the next 10 years, I was a troubadour, singing my songs all over the country and even in Europe, and then I finally ended up here in Nashville.

Around 1988, Garth and his manager, Bob Doyle, had been talking to producers and Allen Reynolds was one of them. I was coming out of an office on Music Row and they were coming out of another. Allen said, “This is Garth Brooks. He’s a pretty good songwriter. You two should try to get together and write sometime.”

Garth was playing at a small club in the basement of a building on Church Street that night. There were about 30 or 40 people in the club and Garth just knocked their socks off. Afterwards I said to him, “Hey, let’s get together as soon as possible.”

Allen had a comfortable little office on Music Row with a studio above it called Jack’s Tracks. That’s where he did a lot of his recording. Allen said, “Why don’t you guys go upstairs where they have some windows and try writing.” First we wrote a couple of songs for other people. Then Garth told me about a conversation he had earlier with another writer, Larry Bastian, about those fortuitous circumstances where things don’t work out like you hoped they would, but you’re glad later. So I shared with him my experience with my high school girlfriend, and I think he had had a similar experience with an old flame, too, so we started working on “Unanswered Prayers.”

Garth didn’t even have a record deal at the time we wrote it. Then he was signed by Capitol Records and they said they were going to put the song on his first album, but didn’t. So I just assumed he wasn’t interested any longer. But Garth always had a plan. Things just don’t happen by chance for him. He and Allen had saved up a lot of really strong songs for Garth’s second album. A lot of artists have a really big first album, but then the second one is usually about half as good. No Fences, his second album, ended up selling a lot more than the first. It had “Friends in Low Places,” and “The Thunder Rolls,” and a bunch of others. And they included “Unanswered Prayers,” too.

Garth is a great collaborator and really put his stamp on the song. Over the years, “Unanswered Prayers” has been one of his signature songs and very closely identified with him, so it hasn’t been covered by many other artists. I did it myself, but I don’t know of many others.

I’ve had a lot of people share stories with me over the years who have had similar circumstances where they were hoping for their life to go in one direction and then it goes in another, but it turns out to be a blessing in disguise. And now the song has even inspired a made-for-TV movie. When you play it live and everybody in the room is singing along with the lyric, you realize what an impact it’s had on so many lives.

Unanswered Prayers

Just the other night at a hometown football game

My wife and I ran into my old high school flame

And as I introduced them the past came back to me

And I couldn’t help but think of the way things used to be

She was the one that I’d wanted for all time

And each night I’d spend prayin’ that God would make her mine

And if he’d only grant me this wish I wished back then

I’d never ask for anything again


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

She wasn’t quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams

And I could tell that time had changed me

In her eyes, too, it seemed

We tried to talk about the old days

There wasn’t much we could recall

I guess the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all


And as she walked away, I looked at my wife

And then and there I thanked the good Lord

For the gifts in my life


Some of God’s greatest gifts are all too often unanswered...

Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

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