What If Prayers are Unanswered?


Text: Luke 22: 39-42

Then Jesus went out and made his way, as was [his] custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples too followed him.Coming to the place, he said to them, “Pray not to enter into [what will be a] trial [to you].” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw and knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if you will, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done!”


In this passage we see Jesus struggling before crucifixion. He says an honest prayer, “Father, if you will, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done!” this shows the picture of Jesus’ sense of forsakenness and desperation. He expresses his will to be spared but adds with humility “Your will be done”. If we ask the conventional question was Jesus’ prayer answered, the answer is ‘No’.  So then at this point let us think together what is prayer.

I am sure that many of us in our lives have had a plethora of unanswered prayers. This leads us to questions like “What is the point?”, “Why should I Pray?”, “Is God really listening?”, “If God does not answers prayer, then why believe?” The frustration just builds up. These are all the questions that I have gone through. The problem lies in our belief that God is a Supermarket that dispenses our purchase lists. We are made to believe that if we have faith every prayer will be answered. But then let us look at unanswered prayers and meditate on it. Prayer is beyond our self interest. Unanswered prayers reveal the divine possibilities of God that we need to patiently wait for. This is called the spiritual ‘watching out’. This watching out in the ‘hour of darkness of the heart’ is the beginning of the process of aligning ourselves to the ‘Will of God’. Here we need to meditate on Jesus prayer to understand the sequence of prayer. Prayers are words that express our will. This prayer leads to meditation that is the period of watching and waiting and discerning the will of God. Meditation leads to the integration with the will of God, aligning ourselves to God’s purpose over human agendas. We no longer love God just because of his gifts of grace which make life comfortable. We begin to love God for His own sake. We are blissful in the selfless contemplation of His beauty. This leads to adoration that helps us to be silent and surrender our human will to God’s will.

We live in an age where results and proofs legitimize our faith. Our prayers have also become slaves of result that project the emptiness of human will. So God becomes God and worthy of our faith only if he does our will. This is the logic of a devotee. But we are called to be Disciples. “If someone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and let him take up his cross daily,, and let him follow me. (Luke 9: 23) So we are called to be disciples and our prayers need the humility to be conformed to the will of God. Let me close with the story of Secret disciple of Jesus narrated by one of the best story tellers of our times, Anthony Demello.

The Secret disciple of Jesus used to follow Jesus wherever he went. When Jesus performed miracles he was there. When Jesus narrated a parable he was there. When Jesus was alone he was Jesus side. But the Pharisees of his time did not like what the secret disciple was doing. So they decided to confront him. The High Priest along with his followers cornered the secret disciple. “ O they say he is a wonder maker. They claim that fool called Jesus does miracles. Pray tell us what miracles did he do, that you follow him?” The disciple politely replied “ Sir we need to know what is a miracle is in that case. For some when God fulfills the will of man, he claims that God has done a miracle.” ( Popularly if we have prayed for a job or success in exams, or asked for healing of a friend we claim that God has done a miracle. When God fulfils human will we claim he has done a miracle.) Disciple continued “ But for me, when Man starts doing the will of God, a miracle takes place. I am trying to be that miracle.” My dear friends, Prayer is the initiation and our openness to do the will of God and be a miracle.


Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church