Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Unanswered* (Refused) Prayers?

If we counted the YESes vs the NOs over a lifetime of prayers, what would the percentage be? 80/20? 20/80? Do we ever feel like Nephi, that the more anguished and fervent the prayer, the more rebellious / stiffnecked / antagonistic the siblings (or in other cases: child, spouse, parent, friend, “enemy,” leader, institution, nation, and on and on)? or the more dire the situation becomes? or the greater the sense of fear or failure?

Of course there are thousands millions on millions of answered prayers, but the mystery of refusal for things that seem right, just, equitable, and surely within a loving Father's will, is, perhaps, beyond mortal ability to fathom. Does it sometimes seem that the harder we try the further away we feel? Here are some insights from C.S. Lewis:
    Prayer is not a machine. It is not magic. It is not advice offered to God. Our act, when we pray, must not, any more than all our other acts, be separated from the continuous act of God Himself, in which alone all finite causes operate.
    It would be even worse to think of those who get what they pray for as a sort of court favourites, people who have influence with the throne. The refused prayer of Christ in Gethsemane is answer enough to that. And I dare not leave out the hard saying which I once heard from an experienced Christian: ‘I have seen many striking answers to prayer and more than one that I thought miraculous. But they usually come at the beginning: before conversion, or soon after it. As the Christian life proceeds, they tend to be rarer. The refusals, too, are not only more frequent; they become more unmistakable, more emphatic.’
    Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ When God becomes man, that man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.1
Could it be that at some point in our spiritual progression, we will be required to choose good for its own sake with utter disregard for fear of consequence or expectation of favor?

* (As in, “God didn't answer my prayer: I didn't get what I asked for — what I needed”; in short, not acknowledging that “no” may be the answer.)

1. Lewis, C. S.. The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings (pp. 361-362). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. (From 'The Efficacy of Prayer', The World's Last Night)