We all face situations in our life where
we need to pray for ourselves or those who we care about. At
times, we feel that our prayer has been answered. At others,
we feel it has not been answered. Sometimes we think it has
been answered and then later we think we were wrong. On some
occasions, we wonder why a prayer has not been answered. Much
later we are thankful that it was never answered. Some other
times we feel disappointed that we prayed and did not get what
we prayed for.
This writing is not to discuss why we
feel some prayers are not answered. Another important point
has motivated this writing:
We know that we are given life in this
world to be challenged (tested as some say) so that we can
improve ourselves through spiritual purification. This covers
all aspects of life and all daily affairs including the
situations where we feel the need to pray for a request, the
prayer itself, and our reaction to what we perceive as an
answered or unanswered prayer.
The following example may illustrate what
My uncle is sick. He is in hospital. I
love him a lot and am praying for his recovery day and night.
After a few weeks I may face the situation where I think my
prayer has been answered (i.e. my uncle recovers) or the
situation where I think my prayer has not been answered (i.e.
my uncle passes away).
The above is only a very limited
perspective of what is going on. What really goes on (based on
our religious understanding) is as follows:
- My uncle’s sickness is a challenge for
me so that I can improve my patience and trust God’s wisdom
- All the worship and prayer that I do to
ask for my uncle’s recovery contributes towards my spiritual
- My perception of whether my uncle has
recovered or not provides me a new challenge
Looking at it from this perspective the
clever ones are those who, while passionately praying for
their requests, do not forget that there is a bigger picture
and a higher level of inquiry here, that is, spiritual
purification. I am praying for my uncle, but what I am
“really” doing is to use the opportunity to further purify my
soul. At the end of the day, if my uncle survives today he and
I will die some day later. What really matters is that we both
have a good place to abide forever in the hereafter.
To pray for some one, we need to talk
with God humbly and we normally do some acts of worship before
or after the prayer. Our prayer may be answered or not
(according to our perception) but this “talking with God”, our
“requesting” attitude and “the act of worship” all contribute
towards our spiritual purification.
We therefore need to separate the two
issues of our request in the prayer being granted, and the
prayer itself being answered. It will be wonderful of course
if we feel that requests in our prayers have been granted.
However what is more wonderful, is that our prayers, when
sincere, are always being answered. This is because whether
our request is answered or not, a sincere prayer itself always
contributes in further spiritual purification.
Looking at it from this point, we should
always be thankful to the people who ask us to pray for their
requests, as they provide us with an opportunity for spiritual