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Why our prayers are left unanswered


[I Thess. 2:1-8; Luke 11:9-13] The Lord convinces us to pray with the promise of His hear­ ing, explaining this promise as the soft-heartedness of a natural father, favourably disposed to the petitions of his children. But here He hints at the reason why sometimes our prayers and petitions are not heard or are not fulfilled. A father will not give His children a stone instead of bread, or a serpent instead of a fish. If a natural father does not do this, how much more will the Heavenly Father not do it? And yet our peti­ tions not infrequently are similar to petitions for a serpent and a stone. It seems to us that we are asking for bread and fish; while the Heavenly Father sees that what is requested will be for us a serpent and a stone — and does not give us what we ask for. A father and mother pour out before God heartfelt prayers for their son, that He arrange for him what is best, but in addition they ex­ press what they consider to be bet­ ter for their son, that is, that he be alive, healthy and happy. The Lord hears their prayer and arranges for their son what is best, not according to the understanding of those ask­ ing, but as it is in reality for their son: He sends a disease from which their son dies. Those who think that everything ends with the present life will feel that the Lord has not heard them, but rather did the op­ posite of what they asked, or left the person about whom they pray to his own fate. But those who believe that the current life is only a prepara­ tion for the other life have no doubt that the son for whom they prayed fell sick and died precisely because their prayer was heard and because it was better for him to leave here than to remain here. You will say: then why pray? No, you must pray; but in prayers for specific things you must always keep in mind the condition: “if, O Lord, Thou Thyself deem this to be saving.” Saint Isaac the Syrian advises to shorten all prayer to this: “Thou knowest, O Lord, what is needful for me: do un­ to me according to Thy will.”

Saint Theophan the Recluse