The hidden answers to our prayers

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.” 
~ Luke 1.13
 

A boy I know prayed every night for his beloved first-grade teacher, who had breast cancer. After remission and then relapse, the teacher died, a year or so later. “I guess my prayer wasn’t answered,” the boy said sadly to his mother. Indeed, sometimes it seems that God neither hears nor responds to our prayers. Our lives are speckled with pain and sadness that could have been averted, we think, if only God had listened to us. Sometimes, it’s simple: we just aren’t getting the answer we want. As the country music star Brad Paisley sings, “Make no mistake, every prayer you pray/ Gets answered, even though/ Sometimes, the answer is no.”

Zechariah, like Joseph in yesterday’s reading, is righteous and law-abiding; he is even a priest, for goodness’ sake! Despite his years of faithful service at the temple, he and his wife, Elizabeth continue to cope with the searing grief of infertility. As they advanced in years past hope, it must have seemed to them, too, that God was ignoring them. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, an emissary appeared from God and announced to Zechariah that Elizabeth would bear a son after all.

Advertisement

The give-and-take of prayer is a mystery. Sometimes we look back at what seemed a crushing disappointment and see that it led us to a new understanding; sometimes we may never comprehend why something happened the way it did. We can only remind ourselves, with the medieval German saint and mystic, Gertrude the Great, that “no prayer made in faith remains unanswered, even if the manner of its answering is hidden from us.”

O God, Author of every good gift, Help me to accept and embrace your answers to my prayers, whatever, whenever, and however they come. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

To listen to “No,” click here.

You can access the complete collection of the Advent 2015 Reflection Series here.

If you would like to receive these reflections via a daily e-mail, contact Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill at ecahill27@yahoo.com.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, is passing by a 2-1 margin with most of the votes counted.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018
The coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII is seen during a ceremony in Vittorio Veneto Square after its arrival in Bergamo, Italy, May 24. The body of the late pope left the Vatican on May 24 to be displayed in his home region until June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) — Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early on May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.