First of all, let us all agree that this happens: God doesn’t always answer prayer the way we hope. It doesn’t matter how deeply we love God, how vast our faith is, or how much we pray, sometimes our prayers just flat out don’t get the answers we want. Jesus Christ himself prayed to have the cup of his Passion taken away, albeit bowing to the Father’s will. But still, he prayed to be rescued from the torture, and God didn’t do that. So, if Jesus didn’t get the answer he was hoping for that night, let’s admit that we don’t always get the ones we want either.
I wrote the book The Prayer List…and Other True Stories of How Families Pray, and amongst the stories were several that did not turn out the way the people praying had hoped. While pondering the question of why this happens, my training as a math teacher prompted me to create a flowchart to explore the various possibilities stemming from prayer. It is a simple design, asking only yes or no questions. I was surprised by what I learned about myself and about God from it.
Perhaps my example may inspire you to create your own flowchart with questions that are pertinent to your particular prayer situation. Begin by giving your flowchart a title, such as, “When God Says ‘No’ Flowchart,” or, “How Long Should I Pray? Flowchart.” Once you have your title, begin by asking a simple question that has a yes or no answer. Then write the next logical yes or no question that results from each answer. Keep going this way until you get an answer that doesn’t need another question. Enjoy the process and what you learn about yourself and God. God is in the process, so just keep moving forward.
Jane Knuth is a longtime volunteer in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 2011, Jane's first book, Thrift Store Saints, was awarded first place from the Catholic Press Association for Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith.