Guidance from the Gospel on How God Answers Prayer

Does a loving, caring God ever say “no”?

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Posted in , Apr 12, 2021

Answered Prayers

There’s an old expression—it’s certainly not biblical—that indeed God answers all of our prayers. But sometimes the answer is simply “no.” 

I don’t buy it. As far as I’m concerned God always says “yes.” An emphatic “yes” from a loving, caring God. As a believer, I try to listen closely, stay in touch, look for my call so that I can hear that “yes!” The gospel itself offers some good guidance.

Don’t give up. Jesus’s parables are often quizzical. “What?” we might wonder, just as the disciples did when they first heard them. Like all stories, the parables are meant to work inside of us. Engaging our thoughts, emotions, our second guesses.

Think of the Parable of the Unjust Judge or the Parable of the Importunate Widow as it’s often called. The widow appeals so often to the judge—a man who has no respect for people—that he finally gives in, just to get rid of her.

The story is not specifically about prayer, but it recalls to me how often we repeat the same prayers. We ask God for the same things over and over again. At least I do. Appealing to God’s mercy for patience, understanding, compassion, forgiveness.

God hears us the first time around. And the second and the third and the umpteenth. What is valuable is hearing ourselves. Being importunate in prayer. Noticing, accepting, loving in ways we didn’t know we could.

Reach out. Jesus heals those who reach out. He responds to people who don’t even have to utter a word. Think of the woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for 12 years. She’d tried everything, gone to every doctor she could. Nothing worked.

Then she followed Jesus and simply touched His clothes, trusting, believing. Jesus felt the power go out of Him. “Who touched my clothes?” He asked. The disciples couldn’t say. He was in the midst of a crowd. There were too many people around. 

She was the one who revealed herself—in fear—falling down before Him. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34). She was.

The act of simply reaching out, even in terror, is worthy and good. Don’t stop.

The answer might be far different than we expect. This is the Easter season. We have been burdened for too many months with the surging and resurging pandemic. We have known fear. We have exhausted ourselves with hypervigilance.

Think of the fear and terror Jesus’s beloved followers faced at the Crucifixion. If ever there was an unanswered prayer this was it. God was saying “no!” The world was saying “no!” The one they believed was their Savior was being brutally murdered before their very eyes. How could they keep the faith after that?

But look how things turned out in the end. The Resurrection. The gift of the Spirit. The promise that their Savior was now and would be with them forever.

So much greater than any answer to prayer they could ever envision. The biggest “yes!” of all.

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