17th Sunday: Why Does God Not Always Answer Our Prayers?

What am I doing wrong?  God isn’t listening or doesn’t care?” Some ask themselves. Well, let us take a brief look at some possible reasons why some people’s prayers may go unanswered, remembering that it is never God who distances Himself from us, but rather, it is us who through our rebelliousness and sin distance ourselves from God.

An unwillingness to forgive others could be one reason our prayers go unanswered.  What does the Our Father Prayer teach us about forgiveness? “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Such a teaching is not easy.  As a matter of fact, it is impossible without God’s grace.   Sometimes a person must pray for the grace to be able to forgive. Once they have surrendered their will and resentment to God, a marvelous healing transformation can take place! Remember, Jesus went before you in having to forgive those who were torturing mocking and killing Him saying: “Father forgive them they know not what they do.”

Living in mortal sin without remorse could also be a possible reason why our prayers go unanswered.  When a person intentional (knowingly and willingly) hardens their will against God, and His truth and grace, they end up like the walking dead.  While venial (or lesser) sins wounds the soul, God’s presence is still there.  Mortal sin, by its definition, drives God’s presence from the soul, leaving it dead.   Think of the father who saw his prodigal son when he chose to leave his father to squander the gifts he’d been given. The father said “my son was dead.”  Yet, when the son returned to the father from his prodigal ways, the father said “he is alive again.”  However, even if we find ourselves choosing to live apart from God and His grace, we should continue to pray for the grace of conversion and repentance.

The sins of pride, arrogance and envy may also hinder our prayers from being heard.  It is written that God resists the proud and confuses them in their inmost thoughts.  Pride, arrogance and envy rejects the grace of God and leads a person to think that they know better than God. These sins can lead a person to acts of rebellion against God.

However, sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is “no” or “not yet”.  We’ve all experienced the “no” of God as did Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked for the cup of suffering to pass Him by.  Perhaps we too have experienced the “not yet” of God as did Abraham in waiting twenty-five years for God to fulfill the promise He made concerning Isaac.  Saint Monica had to wait in prayer thirteen years for the conversion of her son Augustine.

God always has our best interest in mind when He doesn’t give us everything we want. With our limited knowledge and inability to predict the future, none of us know what’s really best for us in the big picture. What seems good to us today might not be so tomorrow. We know that all things work for good for those who love God. If we trust our Heavenly Father completely, we can be at peace, even in times of difficulty.  God won’t allow anything to happen to us that cannot be used to benefit our souls and our spiritual lives.  The grace of uniting our will to the will of God is the secret to happiness and peace, a secret that the Saints have come to understand and practice.

Fr. Tom