Why Are Some Prayers Not Answered? (Revelation to St. Gertrude)

“If I, the unsearchable Wisdom, do not always grant thy petitions according to thy desire, I give thee something more profitable, for by reason of human frailty thou art unable to tell what is best for thee.”

– Jesus to St. Gertrude  

Our Lord is all-wise, all-loving and all-powerful; if He does not answer our prayers, it is for our greater good, or because we do not ask rightly (James 4:3).

Our prayer must be persevering, humble and confident. God is Our Father and He alone knows what is best for us. Considering God’s goodness, let us abandon ourselves to God’s will, whether He permits suffering, temptations, depression, the death of a loved one, or anything else for that matter. Each of these things play a crucial role in God’s work of redemption. 

Ideally, we should accept the difficulties of life out of love for God, but it is not wrong to consider the immense benefit that we derive from lovingly accepting these sufferings (which will never come close to the sufferings of Our Lord and Our Lady). In an earlier post about the Rosary, I mentioned the following: St. Louis de Montfort tells us a story about a nun (who had a great devotion to the Rosary) who appeared to a fellow religious sister after death. She said: “If I were able to return in my body to have the chance of saying just a single Hail Mary, even without great fervour, I would gladly go through the sufferings that I had during my last illness all over again, in order to gain the merit of this prayer.” It is to be noted that she had been bed-ridden and suffered agonizing pains for several years before she died.

Now, consider that if this blessed soul was willing to undergo such great suffering again for the merit of one Hail Mary, how generously must patient, prayerful suffering be rewarded by God?! What incomprehensible goodness on God’s part! And what an incentive to combat sin- which requires constant prayer- for these merits will be only be experienced by those who persevere until the end in prayer and God’s grace. 

… Back to why God does not answer some prayers. Here is a relevant anecdote taken from ‘The Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude’:

As another person complained that she did not receive the fruit of the prayers which were offered for her, the Saint laid the matter before God, and received this reply: “Ask this person what she would think most advantageous to a cousin or any other relative for whom she ardently desired a benefice, whether the right to it should be conferred on him as a child, or whether he should be allowed the revenues also, and permitted to use them as he pleased. According to human prudence, she could only reply that it would be more advantageous to confer on him the right to the benefice, and the revenue when he could use it properly, than when he might squander it wastefully. Let her, then, confide in My wisdom and My Divine mercy, since I am her Father, her Brother, and her Spouse, and I will obtain what will be advantageous for her body and soul with far more care and fidelity than she would for any relative; and let her believe that I preserve carefully the fruit of all the prayers and desires which are addressed to Me for her, until a suitable time comes to permit her the enjoyment of them; then I will commit them to her entirely, when no one will be able to corrupt them, or to deprive her of them by their importunities. And let her be persuaded that this is far more useful to her than to pour into her soul some sweetness which might, perhaps, be an occasion of vain glory to her, or become tarnished by her pride; or than to grant her some temporal prosperity, which might prove an occasion of sin.”

If God answered all our prayers, and in the manner we expected, we might become proud. Discouragement is a sign of pride, but do not worry: God possesses the remedy for all our ills.

Whether or not our prayers are answered, let us act as the saints did by humbly entrusting ourselves to God’s Providence; to His Fatherly compassion, power and wisdom!  Also, let us praise these Divine attributes, regardless of whether or not our prayers are answered in the way we expect. By acting in this manner,  we will grow in virtue, which God rewards very generously. Patience, for example, is the most necessary virtue if we wish to become saints (according to St. Frances de Sales), and we are all called to be saints!

“Amen I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little
child, shall not enter into it.”

– Mark 10:15

(Likewise, let us pray like little children, who are entirely dependent on their parents. We are no less dependent on God.)

“Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own
prudence (understanding).”

– Proverbs 3:5