What are we to think when our prayers aren’t answered?
question points to personal prayer, particularly the prayer of
petition, not to congregational prayer. The premise of the question is
that all religious observe private prayer. This is not a foregone
The pernicious effect of rampant secularism has not left religious
communities untouched. Some spirituals also prefer meditation to
prayer, especially those from certain Hindu, Buddhist or New Age
Several reasons could account for unanswered prayer. To be effective,
prayer must be fervent and frequent. Tepid prayers are not usually
effective prayers. We should pray in such a way that we fully
anticipate that our prayer will be answered. To the extent possible, we
should also work for the realization of our prayer. We should strive to
turn our prayers into action.
Our prayers may also remain unanswered if they do not conform to Lady
Wisdom. When we petition the Divine Will, we should do so knowing that
God is all-loving and omniscient.
If we firmly believe that we know what is best for us when we pray, we
may be fooling ourselves. This misconception is reflected in the
popular cautionary saying, “Be careful what you pray for, you may get
If I pray for some benefit for which I am not qualified, or which is
neither proper nor timely, I risk being crushed by the answer to my
prayer. If I pray, for example, to become the CEO of a transnational
corporation when I do not possess either the experience or the
constitution for such heavy responsibilities, I may end up paying too
heavy a price for my ambition.
‘Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921), the son of the Prophet-Founder, Bahá’u’lláh
(1817-1892), and the authorized interpreter of his father’s teachings,
pointed out that if prayers for wealth were universally answered, the
order of the world would be deranged. Who would be left to farm, to
build, to clean the streets or to run the trains?
Consider this analogy: The patient asks the doctor for a harmful drug,
but the doctor refuses because he knows the medicine will harm the
patient. Similarly, when we pray for something that will not benefit
ourselves or others, the petition may remain