For many Orthodox parents, the day comes when our child asks the question, “why doesn’t the Lord answer my prayers”?
For many this question can be quite daunting. Think of it, we try to provide our child an answer for what the Lord wills and does. Who could possibly traverse such depths!
For the spiritually minded, we can ponder this question more deeply and prayerfully, carefully considering the Lord’s words and deeds, as set forth in sacred scripture. We can turn to the Holy Fathers for guidance and meditate on their counsel. Saint Ephraim, the Syrian, provides us with an answer that is consonant with Orthodox understanding:
“The Lord is an omniscient giver of gifts. He considers what would benefit the supplicant; and when the Lord sees that a man is asking for something harmful or even merely useless, the Lord does not answer his prayer and refuses him that which he thought good. The Lord hears every prayer, and he whose prayer is not answered receives from the Lord the same saving gift as he whose prayer is answered.”
We assume, in our sinfulness, that we know what is best for us. We, just like our children think erroneously that we can manage our own affairs, that we “can do it all by ourselves”, as my child said on more than one occasion. Truly, truly, we are mistaken. In today’s Gospel reading from the Tenth Chapter of Saint Matthew, we read the following:
…Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31-32
All things are in accord with God’s will. The Lord knows all these things, He knows what is in our heart and certainly what is on our lips. He knows what we need better than we ourselves do. Does this mean He is a despot, moving us on a gameboard like chess pieces? NO, far from it. He has imbued us with free will. But He also hears our prayers and grants what we need, though we may not realize it at the time, nor do we often like it! In the passing of time, we reflect on these things and give great thanks as we recognize God’s great mercy and providence has saved us – from ourselves! The Lord has a plan, one that plays out through our entire lifetime and the goal of that plan is for us to be with Him forever.
Let us be ever mindful that this game of life is filled with bumps, hardships, and trials; but the reward at the end is worth the ride!