Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayers
Listening to the Voice of God
by John J Pelley, M.A., S.T.L.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION. 4
CHAPTER II. SPOKEN PRAYER. 13
CHAPTER III. LISTENING PRAYER. 45
CHAPTER IV. LISTENING TO OURSELVES. 60
CHAPTER V. LISTENING TO CREATION. 84
CHAPTER VI. LISTENING TO EACH OTHER. 107
CHAPTER VII. LISTENING TO GOD. 137
APPENDIX. ADDITIONAL BODILY FUNCTIONS 156
“Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” How often have we asked that question? “Almost too many to count,” we reprimand ourselves. We look for reasons why we aren’t heard by God.
Do I pray hard enough?
Do I ask for too much?
Do I ask for too little?
Am I just being ignored?
Do I need to be more specific?
Maybe God has more important things to do than answer my prayers. After all, He has a great universe to manage.
Am I not worthy to be answered? Perhaps God is paying attention to someone else either on this planet or elsewhere.
Am I just praying for the wrong things? Maybe, perish the thought, God does not exist at all. He might be merely a figment of my childhood imagination like the tooth fairy.
The problem is not with God. Maybe the problem is within my self. If I look at myself honestly, I might see both the problem and the solution.
First, I know how to pray. I was taught by my parents. As a child they showed me the way to pray, the times to pray, the words to say, the proper postures to assume, and the correct frame of mind to enter. I said my prayers when I arose in the morning, before and after meals, at different times of the day as prescribed by my religious teachings, and when I went to sleep. I observed the Sabbath, the important holy days, and even important national holidays. I prayed for myself, my family, my friends, my government officials, men and women in uniform, my religious leaders, and even my enemies. Yes, I was taught to pray very well. I know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. So I have no problem there.
Second, prayer, like any form of communication depends upon two individuals: the communicator and the communicant, that is, the speaker and the receiver. Yes, I know how to speak. But have I learned how to receive? Have I learned how to listen? Now that I think about it, I’ve learned how to say all of the right words. I memorized all my prayers. I know all about the proper way to pray. But no one ever taught me the art of listening. Like many of us, I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of living, planning my tasks for the rest of the day or for the week, or critiquing my past performances. I am so busy, that I seldom relax. I marvel at people who take time in the day to meditate. I say to myself that I do not have time for that. I have too many demands on my time and energy. I honestly don’t know whether my prayers are being answered or if I am being ignored. I don’t even have the time to find out. Help! I am overwhelmed. How do I make some time in my schedule to try to listen?
Praying and dieting are very similar. (We all know we should and we all know it is good for us). Many books have been written on each subject. We have read many of them. We know what foods we should eat. We know about proper nutrition. Still we frequent fast food restaurants (Love those french fries). The same applies to prayer. Most of us have been taught how to pray. But most of this training in prayer does not include the lessons in listening.
We address the Deity by name. He knows our name and we have learned His. We speak His name in the many languages of our diverse cultures. We call Him, God, Allah, Adonai, Brahmin, or Her, Goddess. For the purposes of this book, we will utilize the traditional masculine English title, God. As the reader, please substitute your preferred name: ____________
Many of us feel comfortable conversing with God. Why shouldn’t we? We believe we have a personal relationship with God. Some of us, however, have a difficult time talking with God or with other people. We are the quiet ones. Once there was a five year old boy whose mother and father thought he was mute, because he had not uttered a word since birth. One night, while eating at the dinner table, he exclaimed, “These potatoes are cold!” His parents looked astonished. “Johnny, you can talk,” they said in amazement. “Why haven’t you ever said anything before?” Johnny shrugged his shoulders replying, “I never had anything to say.” Like Johnny, we might have nothing to say, or at least we think we don’t have anything to say.
Sometimes we want to pray but we are tongue-tied. We might not always know the correct words to say or might be intimidated by speaking directly to God. In the Catholic Church, the devotion to the Virgin Mary evolved because people, especially women, did not feel worthy to talk to God or Jesus Christ directly. The priest talked to God the Father and to Jesus Christ for us in the Mass. For many lay Catholics the thought of speaking directly to God, Himself, was intimidating. It was akin to a peasant addressing the king or a private in the army interrupting a general. Many Catholics, especially women , felt that the only way to get the ear of Jesus Christ was if they spoke to His mother, Mary. She would intercede to her Son on their behalf. It worked at the marriage feast at Cana, where Mary told Jesus that the wedding couple ran out of wine, a real no-no. He performed the miracle of transforming the water into wine.
Once there was a newly ordained priest who was asked to officiate at the wedding of his sister. Before the ceremony, he felt somewhat nervous. But he performed the ceremony, said the Mass, and gave an eloquent sermon; all splendidly done. After the Mass was finished, he felt pretty proud of himself about the job he had done. He would relax at the reception. At the reception different guests complemented him on the ceremony and his sermon. The maid of honor, his sister-in-law, came up to him with some telegrams in her hands and asked him to read them aloud to the guests. One happened to be from a prominent public official. Feeling satisfied about the complements he was receiving about the ceremony, he declined her request saying that it was the best man’s job to read telegrams. Feeling smug he continued to enjoy the party. A few minutes later his sister and sister-in-law approached him with the same telegrams. Once again, he argued with them, pleading his case that his responsibility was finished and the best man should read the telegrams. Still smiling to himself about his apparent victory he had with the women folk, he looked up from his table and saw his sister-in-law striding up the aisle hand in hand with his sister and his mother. Needless to say, he read the telegrams.
One aspect of prayer, however, continues to befuddle us, whether we are comfortable or uncomfortable praying. We pray, but often are not sure whether our prayers are answered or even heard. We get no perceived feedback or response. We feel frustrated, because we have the sensation that we are talking to the walls. We wonder whether God really does pay attention. Does He care? Are we just giving lip service? Does God, in fact, answer our prayers?
We have doubts and reservations about our prayers being heard for very good reasons. We learned to recite our formal prayers correctly. We then learned to speak to God as we would to any person, using our own language and not relying on specific formulae. But we missed one important aspect of communication: feedback. No one taught us how to listen. We fashioned ourselves into a Tower of Babel of prayers: praising, petitioning, thanking, and atoning. Talk! Talk! Talk! We developed into a cacophony of chatterers. Now we need to learn the complementary element of praying: effective listening. In this book you will be given the principles of listening, not only to God, but also to ourselves, to nature, and to each other.
Listening does not mean that I respond only to someone yelling into my ear. Most of the time listening involves recognizing subtle nuances: something I might be surprised to see, or feel, or hear. Expect the unexpected. Heighten being aware of your environment and surroundings.
God is speaking to each one of you at this very moment. He is saying to you, “Now is time to learn the art of sacred listening.” At this precise second He is complementing you, “You are smart.” “You are beautiful.” “You are My favorite son/daughter.” Yes, He is speaking to each one of you through these very pages. Are you skeptical? Right now He is looking into your heart, your brain, your very being and is whispering your name, that special unique name that He has for you. Deep in your self you recognize that special name and want to respond, “Yes, help me.”
This book will set you on the path to learn how to listen to God. You might not find all of the answers to every one of your questions here, because God speaks to you uniquely in various ways and styles, and through different media. He converses with you through your physical and spiritual selves. He speaks through His magnificent creation, sometimes so beautiful, serene, and majestic; yet other times terrifying, dangerous, and overwhelming. He speaks to you through other people too, using His angels to protect, comfort, console, and challenge you. He speaks to you through the most unlikely of people: a child, a homeless person, or a friend in emotional need. He speaks to you individually in His own specific way. Remember that special name God has for you and you for Him. Only you can fathom the messages, which God is sending to you. No book can reach into your heart and touch your special relationship. This book, however, can point out to you guideposts and signs, so you can be aware of God’s ineffable presence in your life. But only you can interpret how they apply to you.
In the following pages we will examine both aspects of prayer: speaking and listening. Because so much literature is available about the speaking aspect of prayer, we will only cover its basics. Many prayer books and books dealing with prayer are available in bookstores and other locations.
Prayerful listening, however, deserves to be examined in depth. Learn the skills necessary to listen to yourselves, to creation, to each other, and to God. Learn to ascertain the obstacles, that prohibit you from effective listening. Think of ways to avoid them. Acquiring these techniques and becoming proficient in overcoming these obstacles will enable you to use them as jumping off points to increase your awareness of God speaking to you. By keeping your ears and hearts open to the Creator's word, you will come to realize that your prayers are always answered.
The art of listening is, perhaps, the most difficult activity we human beings do. Many of us spend most of our time, when conversing, wanting to express our personal viewpoints, rather than concentrating on what the other person is saying to us at the present moment. Our minds race ahead like a chess player, mentally planning four moves ahead of the present move by an opponent.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our emotions we stop hearing. Recently I was in a place of business waiting to speak to the proprietor regarding a project in which we were involved. A lady was talking with her about tracing down some jewelry which had been sent out for repair. The conversation then evolved into a problem her friend was having with the police. The lady was close to tears and was emotionally distraught. After a half hour of her repeating the exasperating story, the proprietor constantly said that her friend needed a lawyer. The lady did not hear a word the shopkeeper had said. Watching this exchange reminded me of a person who prays so fervently and incessantly that he/she becomes totally unaware of any possible response. More often than not we totally misunderstand or become deaf to the dialogue we are attempting to achieve with others.
I know many successful people. I have observed one quality they possess in common is the ability to focus and listen to the message of others. When they converse with someone, that person feels flattered by the undivided attention accorded them by these charismatic leaders. They address them by them name. They look at them in the eyes, not over their shoulder or at their bosom.
My wife and I were in Washington, D.C., attending the Thursday morning breakfast meeting the senators from the State of Illinois hold with their constituents. During the question/answer session I asked a question and introduced ourselves as geriatric gypsies. During the photo shoot after the breakfast, Senator Dick Durbin chuckled when we approached for the picture and said that he enjoyed our title. That he remembered, or even cared to comment about it, made me feel friendlier toward him than before. Here was a man who listened.
Because our human nature causes our minds to wander during conversations, the other person regards us as not caring or even uninterested. Recall how we feel when we want to express our ideas and no one will listen to us. We feel upset, rejected, angry, even dishonored. Others feel the same way too. Paying attention to another’s opinion makes that person feel worthwhile. We in turn look sympathetic and valuable in their eyes.
There are skills, which can enhance your ability to listen. By practicing the exercises in this book you will improve your ability to listen to yourselves, to other people, and to the Creator in your daily activities. Learning these techniques takes time and practice. Once learned, however, prayerful listening becomes second nature and pervades all areas of your lives.
Thank you for reading this chapter. If you wish to purchase a CD of the book please click below. The first time you read the book,
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