Have you ever felt that God wasn’t answering your prayers? Maybe you’ve been praying for a family member to return to the Church, a new job, a pregnancy, or a healing from a chronic illness. You pray and pray and the intention seems to go unanswered. Is it possible that God isn’t listening?
Without overcomplicating the issue, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that God answers all prayers:
If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts. (CCC 2741)
As Christians, our prayers are united with those of Christ; so how can it be that we sometimes don’t get what we pray for? Could the Catechism be wrong on this one? Don’t worry… the Catechism is right! We have to remember that our prayers can be answered in multiple ways. The answer can be “yes”, “no” (it’s true… sometimes God says no!) or “not yet”. God will never answer our prayers with something that isn’t good for us. As the Catechism mentioned, sometimes we get something that we didn’t even know we needed, like an increase in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us, “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?” (Mt 7:9-11)
It’s also possible that God will grant our petition, but not right away. We should remain persistent in our prayers. Today’s gospel reading (Mk 7:24-30) illustrates that concept. The Syrophoenician woman who asks that Jesus heal her daughter isn’t discouraged by His initial comment that “it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” When she humbly asks again, Jesus grants her request and frees her daughter from the demon. While there are multiple meanings to this passage, it is obvious that The Lord didn’t discourage her from asking a second time. St. Monica prayed for the conversion of her son for many years. That conversion eventually took place and the Catholic Church was gifted with one of its most influential members, the great Saint Augustine.
The moral of the story is: don’t get discouraged if your prayers don’t get answered immediately. Continue to ask God, but vow that you will accept His will even if it’s not what you want. Then you will imitate Jesus in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed:
“My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Mt 26:42)
… and how many times did He say the same prayer?
He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again (Mt 26:44)
If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us… Be persistent!