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.

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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.

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