Does God answer prayers? A question often asked. Some say God–if there is a God-doesn’t pay attention to us at all. We’re on our own. No one’s listening and no one cares.
Certainly, Jesus believed his Father listens and cares. He trusted God and asked God for things and taught us to pray as he did. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals a trust that’s unfailing. Over and over he asks that his life be spared. “Father, let this cup pass from me.” He knocked and the door opened; the answer came, yet not as he willed, but as His Father willed. “An angel came to strengthen him,” to accept that answer.
His experience is a model for us. Yes, God gives good gifts to his children, but according to his will; he knows what we need. He gave his only Son the gift of new life, yet he had to first pass through death.
St. Paul of the Cross recognized the mystery surrounding petitionary prayer. Ultimately our prayer is answered, but often enough in mysterious ways that’s hard to understand. Our faith is tested when we pray for things.
“I thank the Father of Mercies that you are improved in health, and you say well that the Lord seems to be playing games. That’s what Scripture says: “God plays on the earth,” and “My delights are to be with the children of men.” How fortunate is the soul that silently in faith allows the games of love the Sovereign Good plays and abandons itself to his good pleasure, whether in health or sickness, in life or in death!”
The first reading today from the Book of Esther is an example of someone who comes late to praying. We might say that Esther was a non-practicing Jew, who only considers praying as things get worse for her. Is Lent a time for non-practicing Christians to consider praying again. Faith grows through prayer.
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.
As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.
Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,
O LORD, my God. And now, come to help me, an orphan.” (Esther 12:14-16)
I ask, I seek, I knock.
Let me never tire of prayer.
“In the day I called you answered me.” So attentive, so quickly you turn when I call. Hear me
and let it be done
according to your will.