What If God Is Not Answering Our Prayers?

By Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 16, 2016

Today’s gospel reading describes a situation that Catholic advocates for LGBT issues might find familiar. In Luke 18:1-8, we hear Jesus’ parable of a widow who keeps clamoring to the local dishonest judge to give her justice.  The judge, who describes himself as someone who neither fears God nor respects any human being, will offer her a just decision if only to stop her from continually harassing him with her pleas.

Jesus explains that God, who is all just, will certainly do as much as, and even more than the dishonest judge to protect “the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night.”

As someone who feels like he has been clamoring to God for decades now for justice for LGBT people, Jesus’ answer provides some amount of comfort:  God will, in fact, hear us, and protect our rights, too.

But guess what?  So far, God hasn’t done so.  And I’ve been clamoring for a while.  And I know a LOT of people who’ve been clamoring for a while–and many of them have been clamoring a LOT longer and a LOT more than I have.  So, what does that mean about God’s response to us?

I think Jesus gives us an answer to that question at the conclusion of today’s gospel.  After assuring his listeners that God will answer their prayers, he ends with a question:

“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Now, I’m always leery of sentences that begin with “but.”  It often indicates that whatever was said before it should not be taken seriously, like: “I really like your outfit, but I would not want to wear it.”  So, when Jesus offers his “but” statement, I think he is telling us, “Yeah, God is going to answer your prayers, but what really matters is not your petitions and God’s response, but whether you have the attitude of faith.”

I know that in a lot of my clamoring to God, I often don’t have that element of faith in my prayer.  I clamor to God because I’m kind of hopeless, and out of options, and my prayers have more than a tinge of desperation, but usually not much faith behind them.  I think that in today’s gospel, Jesus is reminding us not just to clamor to God desperately, but faith-fully. We should approach God in prayer with the confidence that God will answer us, even if we can’t see the evidence of God’s answers in our lives.  As St. Paul instructs us in his letter to the Hebrews (11:1):

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Beyond the purely spiritual benefits of praying with faith, there is an important practical benefit.  When we pray with faith, it’s like receiving new eyes to see the world through the lens of faith.  This new vision helps us to see things that we might have overlooked in the past.  We can start to see where progress on LGBT issues is being made, and where work still needs to be done.  We can start to see how God has actually indeed answered our prayers already, but maybe not in the way that we were expecting.  We can see more clearly that even though we may not have reached our goals of equality and justice, God is so intimately close to us, loving us, strengthening us, as we continue our work.

This approach is not asking us to just “look on the bright side” of things or to see things with rose-colored glasses.  It’s asking us to acknowledge a reality that is bigger than ourselves and our own particular desires.

So instead of wondering why it seems that God has not answered our prayers, maybe we need to look again at the world with eyes of faith to see that God indeed has heard our clamoring, and is helping us achieve our goals, little by little.

And, keep clamoring!


7 replies
  1. Chris
    Chris says:

    Good reflection.

    Yes there is a long way to go, but I was reflecting with another minister today that we have come a long way. God is at work but we need faith to act and be grounded in prayer.

    God bless

  2. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    People have always prayed for one thing or another. Healing, relief from poverty, release from bondage and many times, more pedestrian requests. Instead, try praying for the wisdom and understanding to deal with whatever situation you may find yourself. Pray for the advancement of human consciousness and the charity of spirit. We see now the saber rattling of “‘religious freedom” which is just a phrase designed to deny freedom to others.

  3. Wilhelm Wonka
    Wilhelm Wonka says:

    Look back sometimes. If a person continually looks ahead, he may weary entirely of his journey, thinking himself incapable of completing it. But if he looks back now and then, he will see how much of the journey he has already made and how much strength and stamina he had to complete it thus far. And so he will take heart and continue his journey emboldened and with a more determined step to journey’s end.

    LGBT justice and rights have progressed enormously in the past twenty or so years. God is with us and ahead of us.

    Look back from time to time. And marvel at how far we have come.

  4. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    Absolutely. I look at the treatment and discrimination of people of color just in this country and the slow progress, and sometimes even losing ground , e.g., voter ID, and draw strength. Just the fact that we’re a recognized voice speaks volumes not only in this country but in our church. My son and his husband are having a baby and by golly this miracle of science alone has brought members of my family who could not “in conscience” attend their wedding to welcome my grandson. When I get discouraged, I look at the cross. We all know that is not where the story ends.

  5. John Calhoun
    John Calhoun says:

    “A Marginal Jew” is the title of the now five -hopefully soon six – volume work by Monsignor John P. Meier, Professor of Scripture at Notre Dame. The “Marginal Jew” here, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth. “God has visited his people ” through him, in him and with him” as a “Marginal” crucified Jew and we are members of his Body – a victim of the “Terrors of History”. The “Terrors” abound and will do so till the end. Seems that the one prayer necessary while we are burdened by history, sin and death is his prayer: to love the God who sent him with one’s whole being and to love all others in him. And to thank him while working for others’ relief.

  6. Albertus
    Albertus says:

    A very true insight, that on an attitude of faith in prayer. For the past fifteen years i have been prayihg at the Memento of the Living at each Mass, that God will move the Vatican to recognise the goodness of homosexual orientation and relationships, and that gay people be comforted and strengthened in faith. I believe that in the gay-positive statements and gestures made by the present Supreme Pontiff, my prayers are beginning to be answered. Pope Francis sometimes contradics himself, so his acceptance of gay people is not unconditional or complete. But this is a promising beginning, esp. after the last two explicity and painfully anti-gay pontificates. ”Unceasing prayer” attains all things (Saint Paul), as does ”patient endurance” (Saint Teresa). If all gay and gay-friendly christians stormed Heaven daily with prayer in faith and hope, i am sure that we would see ever more changes in our favour coming from the Vatican.

  7. Rich Cronin
    Rich Cronin says:

    …and remember this possibility. Sometimes the answer is “NO”. Just because we pray earnestly and honestly and faithfully does not guarantee we get what we want. (Which includes our team winning ball games, by the way.)


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