January 25, 1998
Brother John Raymond
Recently I read a very interesting story by the famous actor, Kirk Douglas. He was interested in getting a part in a movie called "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway." Another well-known actor also wanted the part. Now being that Kirk Douglas had been acting for years he normally got the parts he wanted. This time he was told he would have to come in and audition for the part. It was, somewhat, a humbling thing for him but he did it. Kirk then tells us, "When it was over, I was exhausted but happy. That night I prayed I would get the part." Now I found that interesting. Here was Kirk Douglas, the famous actor, telling us in a non-religious article that he prayed for a part.
He went on to say that he did not get the part in the movie. When the movie finally did come out he couldn't wait to see it. Kirk was very disappointed in what he saw. He thought that maybe it was because he didn't get the part, that he was perhaps prejudiced in his opinion. But then he read the reviews of the movie and found them agreeing with him. The movie was a flop.
At the end of the article Kirk surprised me once again. He said, "So what's the moral of my story? Be grateful for unanswered prayers. God has a sense of humor. Sometimes He looks down as we pray, and He laughs. 'How can I tell this guy that Wrestling Ernest Hemingway is gonna be a flop? How can I tell this guy that the nicest thing I am doing for him is not to answer his prayers?'
"One thing I have learned: God always answers our prayers, but sometimes the answer is no." (Readers Digest, December 1997, p. 188)
I sometimes receive e-mails from people complaining that God is not "hearing their prayers" in regard to some intention. Does God need a hearing aid? Actually, what is meant by this expression is that God is not doing things the way we want Him to do them. And that God could possibly be saying "No" to the way we would like things to be is an answer that we seldom consider. Now certain intentions in prayer are definitely God's Will, as, for example, a sinner's conversion. (Here though we need to keep in mind that God respects the free will of people and will not "force" them to change.) And certain things are definitely not His Will, as, for example, prayers for sinful things. But some things we pray for may not be so clear cut either for our good or the good of others. Our Heavenly Father, wanting to give us good things, things that will really help us, may say "No" to our prayer.
The word "No" seems a little harsh to our ears. But when we love somebody we, at times, have to say "No." Parents say it all the time to their children. Why? Because from experience they know (or think they know) what is good for their children. So when God says "No," He is doing it out of loving concern for us. And even when He says "Yes" to a prayer, He may work it out in a way that we could have never guessed. Remember when Lazarus was sick and Our Lord delayed in going to him? The apostles and others were wondering why Jesus hadn't come to cure His friend Lazarus before He died. Who would have ever thought He was going to raise Him from the dead?
Looking back one can see the Wisdom of God in certain events in our life. But when praying repeatedly for something that doesn't seem to be happening, how do we know if God is saying "No?" We could pray asking Him to enlighten us about what we are praying for. Does He want us to keep praying for it or not? Or some people in imitation of Our Lord's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane append a "Not my will but Thy Will be done" to their prayer. God is not offended to listen to His children asking Him for things even when He doesn't grant them. Some things have to take place for a greater good that we cannot imagine. But our disposition toward God when praying does make a difference. And we have to be careful not to take a prideful attitude of a stubborn little child who must get his or her way or else.
One thing we need to always keep in mind is that whatever God does He does for our good. So God doesn't need a hearing aid after all!