Why aren’t my prayers answered? One often hears this question in relation to requests big and small. Why hasn’t St. Anthony found my keys yet? Why haven’t I been able to find a new job? Why did my cancer come back? Why hasn’t God heard my prayers?
Of course God hears each one of our prayers. His response to our requests, however, is not always what we expect and certainly not always what we desire. Yet he always responds. He sometimes responds with the perfect job listing or with a miracle cure, and in these cases it’s easy to see our prayers being answered. When he answers with another year in the same office, though, or with another failed treatment, it’s difficult to see what God is offering us.
The Collect of the Mass this week offers some insight into this conundrum:
O God, whose providence never fails in its design,
keep from us, we humbly beseech you,
all that might harm us
and grant all that works for our good.
God’s providence never fails in its design. Whatever God sends our way, however he chooses to answer our prayers, his providence is being fulfilled.
It is important to recall, though, the goal of God’s providence. He calls us all to eternal life with him, and our life on this earth is a journey to heaven. In asking God to keep us from harm, we are asking him, most ultimately, to keep us from that which would cost us eternal life. And when we ask God to grant all that works for our good, we are asking, most ultimately, for that which will lead us to heaven.
We can hardly see how the daily struggles, big and small, work in accord with this plan, especially when these difficulties seem opposed to our good. But we trust in God’s never-failing providence, begging him to keep us from harm and to grant that which works for our good. And in doing so, we can be sure he will answer our requests in accord with his divine plan.
Image: El Greco, Agony in the Garden