“...My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me...” (Mt. 26:39)
Jesus says, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14) If so, then why are some prayers denied or delayed? What do the Bible, the Magisterial teaching, and the living tradition of the Church say about it? The full revelation of God consists in the Bible, in the magisterial teaching and in the living tradition of the Church (Vat. II, Dei Verbum 10).
Why are Prayers denied?
Jesus cried and prayed in Gethsemane. “...My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.” (Mat 26:39, 42, 44) This prayer of Jesus was denied - why? It is for a higher good. ‘Why doesn’t God prevent evil things from happening in this world and why does God permit evil in this world?’ It is for a higher goal and blessing. (CCC 412) Sometimes our prayers are not answered as we expect. It is denied for a higher blessing. When God sees that non-granting of our petition is a higher good than granting the petition, he then denies it.
When I was doing my ministry in Mumbai in 1990 a young man asked me to pray over him. He had met with a train accident and he was admitted in the Railway Hospital, at Sion, in Mumbai. My team members and I went there to pray over him. He had an expectant faith that he would be healed. He expected a miraculous healing of his leg. For the doctor had said that his right leg was to be amputated. My team members and I prayed with the hope of a miracle that he would be healed. The following evening when I went to the hospital to visit him I saw that his leg was amputated. But this man was very joyful and exclaimed with a loud voice, “Father, I am totally healed.” I thought he was mocking me. But then, he explained himself quoting from St. Matthew’s Gospel, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Mt. 18:8-9)
He said, “I came to Mumbai with two legs but I didn’t go for confession. Neither did I pray to Jesus nor did I love Jesus. But yesterday when you prayed I received faith in Jesus. All my fears left me. I confessed my sins and prayed to Jesus directly. Jesus gave me an inspiration that with one leg I will enter into heaven. It is much better than to be thrown into hell with two legs. I also feel confident of being successful in this world. And so I say that I am healed.”
In 1997 when I was reappointed in Mumbai for my ministry the same young man came to visit me with a lady and two boys. I asked him who they were? He said, “This is my wife and these are my two children. I had lost one leg, but my Jesus has given me six more legs. When I was told that my leg would be amputated I had a fear as to who would marry me and who would give me a good job! I was very concerned about my future. But after your prayer all my fears disappeared and I received trust and faith in the providence of God. Now I am promoted as the Managing Director of my company in spite of my one artificial leg.” His prayer and my prayer were denied for a higher blessing. Though God is in no way responsible for any of our suffering or evil in this world, God allows it for a better cause. (CCCc. 57 and 58) And all things will be turned for the favour of those who love God. (Rom 8:28)
Why are Prayers delayed?
St. Matthew’s gospel reads, “Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” (Mt. 15:22) But Jesus didn’t give an answer immediately. Again she asked. “But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” (Mt. 15:25) Again Jesus delayed granting her petition. Upon her persistence Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly at a distance. (Mt. 15:28) Why was her prayer delayed? When her prayer was delayed, her faith increased and it did not decrease. She prayed persistently with an expectant faith.
Therefore, when our prayers are delayed we have to stay with Jesus and try to increase our faith by listening to the Word of God, attending more retreats, doing more prayers etc. When our faith matures, all our prayers will be answered.
One couple came to Logos, Bangalore to visit me with a medical report that the child in the lady’s womb was dead. It had to be taken out immediately. I told them to go and sit before the Blessed Sacrament, pray the divine mercy chaplet nine times and go home. I also told them to sit in front of the Divine Mercy icon at home and pray 9 Divine Mercy chaplets from 3 pm to 4 pm for two more days. During these 3 days nothing seemed to have been happened. On the 4th day they went to the same Gynaecologist and found in the scan that the child that was dead is moving in the womb of the mother. Why were my prayers and their prayers delayed? It was for them to stay with the Lord for a longer time and to increase the faith of the couple and my faith too. This is the reason that our prayers are delayed. To increase the faith of all those concerned. When it is delayed don’t conclude that it is denied. It will be answered later or in His time.
Another couple came to me with a medical report that their unborn baby had lot of abnormalities - no back bone, no nasal bone and symptoms of retardation. That was diagnosed during the third month of the lady’s pregnancy. I told the couple “Don’t abort the child. Keep it and pray to Jesus directly through the Divine Mercy chaplet.” I prayed over them and sent them. In the eight month they scanned in St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore. All the doctors were surprised to see that the backbone had been created and that the nasal bone was perfect. She also delivered a perfectly normal child. Each month during the pregnancy, they scanned but all the scans and tests proved that the child had no backbone or nasal bone till the eight month of her pregnancy. Meanwhile they attended a retreat, came for the weekly bible conventions in Logos for growing in the faith. So, at the end, even their delayed prayers were answered when their faith had increased and strengthened to such a level as to receive a miracle. When prayers are delayed it is an occasion to grow in our faith. Prolonged prayers are needed when our prayers are delayed.
When will all the promises in the Bible be fulfilled?
Bl. Virgin Mary received a promise through the angel, “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” (Lk. 1:31) But neither did Mary conceive immediately nor did she see the child. So she questioned the angel as to when that would happen? Mary asked to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Lk. 1:34)
Then the angel revealed the mystery of getting the answer to all our prayers and of fulfilling all the promises in the Bible. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” (Lk. 1:35) Through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit she received the power to conceive and have the promise fulfilled. Then the angel revealed one more mystery too. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Lk. 1:37) Until the Holy Spirit overshadows you during prayer neither the promises of the Bible will be fulfilled nor will your prayers be answered. For the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit please do all the prayers that I have given in my blog as “Home Work.”
God is always on time. He is neither too early nor too late. Abraham waited for long years to have the fulfilment of the promise of God and to have his prayers answered. Zachariah and Elizabeth’s prayers too were delayed to be answered but eventually they got a mighty prophet for a son – John the Baptist. When the Holy Spirit overshadows upon us, all the promises in the Bible will be fulfilled in us. Please wait for the over shadowing of the Holy Spirit for getting answers to all our prayers. Therefore “Humble yourselves under the mighty arms of God, so that he may exalt you in due time (1 Pt.5:6).