When we pray for something, what if God says no?
One day my eleven-year-old nephew Chris told me he was no longer going to pray to God. When I asked why, he answered because he prayed for his soccer team to win the championship and they lost. Dejected, Chris sadly stood there with his head down. As he began to walk away, I said from what I saw of the match I thought he should keep God and get rid of the team’s goalie. Small as this problem sounds, my nephew raises a worthy issue.
What if we pray earnestly and the answer is “No.” What does it mean? We pray for a close friend’s recovery from cancer and she dies. We pray for gainful employment and no jobs come our way. A couple wishes to start a family, prays for a child, and a pregnancy doesn’t occur.
What should we conclude: We are not worthy enough? God doesn’t care enough to help? Are we being punished for past sins? Should we doubt God’s love for us? Soon anger follows and we turn our back on God because we believe God said, “No.” Saint Teresa of Calcutta suffered through periods of doubt and despair, because God seemed far away from her. However, she, like many others, realized through her constant prayers that what appeared to be “No” is the consequence of living our ordinary, everyday lives. Life’s roads take us through deep valleys and over steep mountains. As we journey, we discover both suffering and joy. And through both, God says “Yes” and never “No.” God wants us to trust that whatever life gives us, He is whispering: “Jesus, my son, walks with you always.” As God stood by His Son, Jesus accompanies us, for God gives compassion to all His children.
Jesus knew this truth during His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me, yet not what I want, but what you want.” With these words, Jesus teaches that our relationship with God, doesn’t come without suffering, but it does offer the gift of Jesus’ presence to help.
Pope Francis remarks that God doesn’t offer arguments about life’s pains, but instead provides the presence of Jesus, “whose story of suffering sheds a ray of light” to all in pain. God waits to hear Jesus’ response from us to His unspoken question: “Are you still with me if the answer is “no?”
And can we reply as Jesus did – that no matter the outcome, we stand by our God as He does us. Jesus knew that all life is dependent upon God. And in our dark moments, He wants us to trust in that truth too.
It’s a hard lesson as Chris discovered facing his team’s loss, but like Jesus and all God’s children, this truth stands firm: we have a God who promises to love us all equally and the same every day. And He does!
“Either he will take away our pain or give us the grace to endure it”
St. Francis De Sales