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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