Music

Story Behind the Song: Garth Brooks' Real-Life Realization About 'Unanswered Prayers'

Artist of the decade award winner Garth Brooks performs at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on Thursday, March 14, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

"Unanswered Prayers," a No. 1 Billboard hit from country music legend Garth Brooks, helped keep the 1990 album No Fences at the top of the charts for 30 weeks. The song is one of Brooks' most popular of all time and it's actually based on his real life.

Brooks and his first wife Sandy went back to his hometown of Oklahoma in 1989and ran into his old high school girlfriend at the football game. He was struck by the sensation that, in high school, this was the girl he had wanted and prayed for. But that went unanswered, and he met someone much better for him. On the inside of the CD booklet for The Hits, he explained the tracks process with his co-writers and how personal the song is and was to him:

"Pat Alger and I worked on this song quite a long time without a hook, without the line. We passed it by Larry Bastian and it was as if it was meant to be. Larry, his wife Myrna and I were taking a walk down 18th Avenue, and he looked at me and said, 'Oh, that's simple. This song should be called 'Unanswered Prayers' because some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.' This is probably the truest song I have ever been involved with as a writer. This actually happened to my wife and me when we went back home to Oklahoma. Every time I sing this song, it teaches me the same lesson... happiness isn't getting what you want, it is wanting what you've got."

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"Unanswered Prayers" was Brooks' follow-up single to another Hot Country Songs chart-topper, "Friends in Low Places." The song remains one of Brooks' greatest hits.

This story originally ran on April 9, 2019.

'Unanswered Prayers' Lyrics:

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 times
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 and I looked at my wife
And then and there I thanked the good Lord
For the gifts in my life

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
Some of God's greatest gifts are all too often unanswered
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

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Story Behind the Song: Garth Brooks' Real-Life Realization About 'Unanswered Prayers'