How do we know if our prayers have been answered?


Over time, we can return to a mirror and note physical changes, but we cannot directly observe ourselves aging. Continually standing in front of a mirror, attempting to monitor the process, would be akin to watching a plant grow. It surely happens, but there is not much to see.

Photographs are what truly record the aging process. We look at a new one of ourselves and think, “Gosh, I’m getting older.” Or we look at a picture of our younger selves and sigh, “I’ve really aged!” The very same can be observed in those to whom we are close.


Most revealing of all is being shown a photograph of a senior whom you know that was taken at a very young age when you did not know him or her. At first, you might doubt the connection between photo and friend, but then you begin to pick out the much younger, yet distinctive, features of the older person, the one whom you know now.

Our years and how we have spent them, for better or worse, become imprinted upon our faces. The same is true of our souls.

You are vividly seeing the—woefully fast or mercifully slow—effects of physical aging. And there is something else to take in. You can also see the unfolding of a spiritual presence, which in itself might be something truly beautiful or really rather sad.

Our years and how we have spent them, for better or worse, become imprinted upon our faces. The same is true of our souls. If the face is the window from which we look out on the world, it is also the aperture through which others see into our souls.

The church’s Scriptures speak of prayer, specifically prayers of petition, those times that we turn to God in our need. Let us begin by admitting that the efficacy of intercessory prayer cannot be proven, either for the unbeliever or the believer. Doing so would involve lining up an inconceivably lengthy list of petitions offered and then granted. We cannot do that even for ourselves, much less for the long history of the world.

This is not to say that you cannot know for yourself, as surely as you know anything, that a prayer has truly been answered. You surely can, but you cannot prove this to someone else, not without both of you stepping outside the world and watching God answer the prayers. And this none of us can do.

That is the first effect of a life passed in prayer: We know that we have always been with God.

A few other observations. Many of our prayers are answered without our taking notice. We pray; it happens; and we forget. Or, just as likely: We pray; we forget; and it happens.

Yet there are the unanswered prayers you cannot forget. When they were being offered, all of your earthly happiness seemed to hinge upon God’s response. Sometimes, as the years go by, we can recognize that our prayers were answered in the best way possible or in the manner that simply had to be. Sometimes that realization will elude us until we stand before the face of God. At that moment, we will not need the deity to explain. Seeing God’s truth and God’s love unveiled, no questions will remain.


In the meantime, this is what we know. Belief and unbelief dwell in the breast of each of us, and their balance is not dependent upon arguments. When we truly give ourselves to prayer, we know that we are in the presence of another—not always but rather often without any doubt. That is the first effect of a life passed in prayer: We know that we have always been with God.

The second effect is this. We know that we are who we are because of prayer. We know that we would be someone else entirely if we had not given ourselves over to the silence. However arduous our lives have been, we shudder to imagine living them without prayer.

People can look in mirrors, at pictures and at life itself and perceive very different things. Granted, some just cannot see it, but if you have given yourself over to a life of prayer, you have seen God, and you also have seen the difference this has made in your life.

Readings: Genesis 18:20-32 Colossians 2:12-14 Luke 11:1-13

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Michael Sheridan
6 months 1 week ago

On one occasion my Aunt asked me if I had prayed for her? I said that I had. She told me that she knew I had been praying for her. I have been aware of my prayer being answered on a number of occasions.

Rhett Segall
6 months 1 week ago

It is comforting that petitionary prayer awakens us to God’s presence. With that awareness we might move from a tunnel vision of our petition to a wider vision of God’s providence. It’s like a basketball player who only sees the basket and misses the broader vision of where his teammates are and the opponents are. This lack of peripheral vision can mess things up. Petitionary prayer keeps us alert to God’s will in this broader perspective. We pray not to prepare God to give but our self to receive.

Nora Bolcon
6 months ago

This is a neat article. I agree it is fascinating how God answers prayers and often this effects us in noticeable ways to others and we can also see the hand of God literally change the world around us after we pray.

I lead a prayer group in our church. It is very small right now. Still it amazes me how many people have been affected by the prayers we lift. Boston is a very transient community so many have come and gone through our little group which seems to ever be gaining and losing people due to jobs, moves, health, college, etc. After a while people come to find out you lead this group and ask you frequently to pray for them, so we do. Then you start noticing more and more how those prayers being answered by God changes their lives, and yours too. I have a huge prayer list now and so does our group. Some are still waiting for answers but we keep on praying until we are shown some sort of conclusion or answer from the Holy Spirit. Prayer together in small groups builds community and faith individually, and as a group, which later helps build up those things in the parishes we go to on Sundays, etc.

I pray more lay people or clergy (or both together) start up prayer groups in their parishes - any variety or style of prayer works powerfully - Contemplative (like centering or Eucharistic Adoration), Charismatic, Intercessory, Musical (like Taize), or Mantra-like with beads (like Rosary Beads), or Scripture based. Its even better if you combine many elements of the former choices listed.

Brien Doyle
6 months ago


Why do non-believers have so much trouble discussing the existence of God with Theists?

They argue that “God exists/not exist” is a True or False question and when non-believers reject their position and demand proof, they request, because they cannot prove the existence of a deity, that the non-believer proves that God doesn’t exist.

The difficulty to perceive the fallacy of that demand is because, in their mind, it is inconceivable that anyone does not “see” that God exists in the first place so they must have proof of God’s non-existence since his existence is so obvious to them.

Theists think that non-believers’ “believe” God doesn’t exist, but rejection of a belief cannot be a “belief”.

They also reject a “don’t know” answer to preserve the idea the question is a T/F one, therefore, Theists cannot even discern that they are trying to shift the burden of proof.

They seem to be immune to, and reject, the argument that if you substitute ‘Superman’ for ‘God’ and conclude that if you cannot prove that superman does not exists, he must exist, is the same fallacy, they will immediately respond with, that’s is not comparable because everyone knows that superman does not exist.

The fact that a-priori they believe god exists makes it impossible to convince them that if one cannot prove “God does not exist” one can conclude that therefor he exists, is a fallacy (Argumentum ad ignorantiam).

This makes it very difficult to have a logical discussion about the subject. (Ben V W Andrews, )

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