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How God Answers Prayer

July 16, 2021 Frontpage No Comments


Jill, a young woman of about twenty, worked in an office building in New York City. She was supporting her chronically ill mother, but her salary wasn’t large enough to pay for all the poor woman’s treatments. She made one novena after another for a raise in her salary, but God didn’t seem to want to answer her prayers.
In her frustration, Jill made up her mind that if God didn’t give her a raise after the novena she was currently praying, she’d never pray again. On the ninth day of the novena, Jill went to work bright and happy, believing that God was certain to answer her prayer this time and give her the raise. Her boss called her into his office, but instead of giving her a raise, he fired her. He explained that his niece had come to town, and he was replacing Jill with his niece.
Jill was discouraged and angry. She left for home immediately. She was so angry that she didn’t want to talk to God at all.
That evening after dinner, she was reading the evening edition of the newspaper when she read a horrifying headline: “Twelve People Die in Explosion.” She read that a package bomb that had come in the mail exploded in the very building where she worked . . . on the very same floor. Listed among the dead were her boss and his niece.
Tears came to Jill’s eyes as she fell to her knees and cried out, “Oh God, please forgive me. I am sorry! From the bottom of my heart I thank you for not answering my prayer.”
The following week Jill found a better job that enabled her to give her mother all the help she needed.
Here’s another story.
On a summer morning in 1903, a boy fell and skinned his knee. By nightfall the scrape started to hurt, but not enough to really bother a 13-year-old boy. Two days later, the pain was intense and someone ran to fetch old Dr. Conklin.
“It’s not likely we can save the leg,” the doctor said after an examination. “If it gets worse, we’ll certainly have to amputate.”
The boy hearing what the doctor said, called for his brother Ed and begged him not to let anyone cut off his leg. Ed promised to protect his brother and stood vigil outside the boy’s room to stop anyone from going in to amputate. But the fever mounted and Dr. Conklin said that nothing short of a miracle could save the boy’s life.
The family turned to prayer. The mother, father, and Ed prayed together, rising from their knees only to do the absolutely necessary farm work in turn. They prayed constantly, night and day. On the third day, four other brothers joined the group.
The next morning when the doctor came, he was amazed to find the swelling down and, for the first time, the boy sleeping normally. In three weeks Dwight David Eisenhower, who would be the general responsible for winning World War II and elected president of the United States in 1952, walked again.
We don’t pray in order to get God to change His plans, but rather to fulfill them, and to obtain what He has decided to grant in prayer. Jesus said, “Ask, and you shall receive” (John 16:24). If we neglect to ask, then we can’t expect to receive, since we don’t use the means God has appointed for our salvation. One of the important means besides receiving the sacraments is prayer. Pray with confidence and humility, but above all with resignation to the holy will of God. He always knows best. Jill was taught this in our first story.
When we don’t get the answers we want from our prayers, we have to stop and realize that God always has something greater in mind for us. What tends to get us in trouble is, when we don’t get the answers we want to our prayers we often do things on our own that actually interfere with God’s plan. It could be many years later before we realize how God did indeed answer our prayers for the better, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. We may not ever see it in this life, but it will be made crystal clear in the next.
We must always pray with the confidence a child has in his parent, but neither should we just sit and wait when we can contribute to what we’re asking for. St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, had a famous maxim that said: “Work as if everything depends on you; pray as if everything depends on God.” God gives us many wonderful mental and physical abilities, and He expects us to use them, even while He expects us to depend on Him.
Getting answers to our prayers is also conditional. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8). This is a huge promise made by our Lord, but if we take it in context to His entire sermon we can see the promise is conditional.
Jesus made this promise near the end of His sermon. Along with making this promise, though, He gave us the beatitudes to live by (Matt. 5:3-10), told us we have to be the salt of the earth and light of the world (vs. 13-16), told us to avoid the sin of anger (vs. 21-26), demanded our chastity of mind and body (vs. 27-29), told us not to divorce and remarry lest we be guilty of adultery (vs. 31-32), told us we have to love our enemies (vs. 38-41), insisted we have to work toward becoming saints (v. 48), said that we are to give alms and pray with purity of intention (6:1-6), insisted that we are to fast and do penance (vs. 16-18), insisted that we have complete trust in God (vs. 25-34), and demanded that we live the Golden Rule while avoiding the obstacles to the practice of virtue (7:12-23).
Are you not getting answers to your prayers? Then ask yourself if you are doing all that Jesus asked of us in His Sermon on the Mount. At this writing, I’ve been asking God for some pretty substantial things for a while now, and they aren’t things I want nearly so much as they are things I need…my family needs. I don’t seem to be getting my answers, so the first thing I do when the answers don’t come is to check myself regarding the conditions He placed on us in the Sermon on the Mount. I try very hard to do all those things, but I most certainly don’t do them perfectly. Of course, it could be that God has something much greater in mind than what I’m asking for in the first place.
Either way, I have complete trust in God that He will be my help and my shield. I must confess, however, that from time to time I’m tempted to doubt. When I do have doubts, I pray the scriptural aspirational prayer, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). This is how I pray — although with great flaws — and this is how He expects us all to pray.
If you have a question or comment you can reach out to me through the “Ask Joe” page of, or you can email me at
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