By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
I once read a story of a little girl who kept praying and asking God to give her a bicycle, but she never got one. Her friends began to tease and laugh at her that God didn’t answer her prayers. But the girl responded to them and said, “He did. God said ‘No.’”
In my last column, I wrote about “When I Run Toward God,” reflecting on the need to run to God not only when we are worried and in dire need, but also to run to Him when we are satisfied, when we are joyful, to express our thanksgiving to Him. But what happens to us when our prayers appear not to be answered? What is our reaction and how do we move forward? Of course, God does not abandon us in times of need, but we must also realize that God can say “no” to us in answer to our prayers.
When we want something desperately, we go to God and pray, asking Him to help us. But if you are like me, you may have experienced moments when your prayers appeared not to be answered, when you didn’t receive exactly what you asked for. At times we are even disappointed with God, and there are people who have stopped being followers of God because of such disappointments.
It’s painful to have our prayers, especially about what we perceive to be a serious need, not to be granted by God after much prayer effort.
Oftentimes we fail to understand that God’s silence concerning a particular want could also be an answer to our prayers. Yes, God can say “no” to our request because He knows what is good for us.
The Scriptures tell us that God will not give us a snake when we need fish (Matt. 7:10). Sometimes our disappointments come because we lack the courage to take the alternative that God provides us, the alternative to what we want. When God says “no,” He provides an alternative. But our human minds get fixated on exactly what we’re asking for, and what we may want may not be right for us based on the judgment of God, who knows all. In fact, our perceived wants may even be harmful to us in the long run.
The Scriptures tell us to be persistent in prayer (Luke 18:1; Col. 4:2). But in our persistence, we must trust in God’s judgment and understand that the delay or refusal of our request is not God’s rejection of us. As we persist, we should also open ourselves to the possibility that there may be a better option to what we are requesting and be willing to submit to the unfailing will of God. We know from examples in our everyday life that if we have a trusted friend, it’s not every time that he or she will agree with our actions or decisions. Any friend who agrees with you one hundred percent of the time may not be too concerned about you, or may be afraid to tell you the truth in order not to hurt you. There are moments of painful truth that we may not want to hear, but a good friend tells us that truth anyway because they love us, especially if it’s to prevent us from making harmful decisions.
Our God is the best friend that we can ever have. He treats us with truth and only the truth. He is most concerned about us and what is good for us. Just as He says “yes” to us in answer to some of our prayers, he also says “no” in answer to others. Hence, silence from God concerning some of our prayer points or petitions may simply be a “no” answer, which may indicate that what we want at that point may not be what God knows we need. Never give up on God for a perceived unanswered prayer. He is still right there with you in the journey.
When there is a delay in answer to our prayers it may be an indication that God wants us to change our plans, our focus or our wants. Sometimes God can delay answers to our prayers so that we can better cherish His gifts when they come. When we pray, we should pray with persistence and with patience but, above all, we should pray with a willingness and openness to submit to the will of the creator, the all-knowing Father who gives His children only the best.
Father Jacob Dankasa is the pastor of Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church in Irving.