This very question tends to make us uncomfortable:
“Well, of course, God answers Prayer! How dare you even ask such a thing?”
Yet, as we look a little deeper we may find this question lingering within our own hearts, tucked away behind difficult experiences:
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Josh, my 11-year-old son, read these words then humbly asked: “Dad, how come I ask for things and they don’t get answered?”
His honest quest struck my heart while my mind scrambled for a quick answer: “The key is in the beginning of that verse, buddy,” I answered. “’If you believe…” I concluded, “If we believe, and ask in His name, then He will do whatever we ask for in prayer.”
This answer bought me some time, but it stuck with me for days. I believe I gave the right answer – in part – yet as I looked within my own heart, I had to admit to myself that I have similar questions. There are things I have asked God for that remain unanswered.
I firmly believe in the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, and I have been a first-hand witness of God answering profound and even miraculous prayers:
I have seen deep desires fulfilled, petitions answered, and even miraculous provision supplied by God.
I have seen people encounter the love of the Father, be deeply healed within their heart, and even receive miraculous healings within their physical bodies. God is amazing!
I know that Jesus answers prayer.
But I have also seen prayers not get answered.
The answer is probably too profound to answer adequately, at least within this short essay, but as I searched Scripture and the Catechism of the Church, I discovered some nuggets that granted me some peace and hope:
What is Prayer?
CCC 2559 Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God…
2565 …the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him.
Simply put: Prayer is abiding in the presence and love of God and raising our heart and mind to God, to request the good things of God.
How are we to Pray?
CCC 2610 “Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.” Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes.”
2611 The prayer of faith consists not only in saying “Lord, Lord,” but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father. Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan.
What is God’s Divine Plan?
2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ…. By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:9-11: “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven….”
As we join the Father, we pray His desire for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Ask in Jesus’ name:
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
To ask in “Jesus name” is to ask in His nature, character, desire, and will. Joy is the Fruit of abiding in Him.
The Helper assists us:
CCC 2672 The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer. He is the artisan of the living tradition of prayer. To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all. It is in the communion of the Holy Spirit that Christian prayer is prayer in the Church.
2615 …In the Holy Spirit, Christian prayer is a communion of love with the Father, not only through Christ but also in him…
The Holy Spirit is the Master of Christian prayer. It is a communion of the love of the Father, through and in Christ.
“Come Holy Spirit”:
CCC 2671 The traditional form of petition to the Holy Spirit is to invoke the Father through Christ our Lord to give us the Consoler Spirit. Jesus insists on this petition to be made in his name at the very moment when he promises the gift of the Spirit of Truth. But the simplest and most direct prayer is also traditional, “Come, Holy Spirit,”
I do not yet know why some prayers go unanswered, but after this brief study I have a better feel for the type that does get answered:
Prayer that is initiated by the Holy Spirit, that is within the will of the Father, centered in the love Jesus Christ, rooted in Jesus’ name, nature and character, in accordance with the Father’s will and divine plan.
“…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”
“Come Holy Spirit.”
That is the type of prayer God will answer.