We all face situations in our life where we need to pray for ourselves or those who we care about. At times, we feel that our prayer has been answered. At others, we feel it has not been answered. Sometimes we think it has been answered and then later we think we were wrong. On some occasions, we wonder why a prayer has not been answered. Much later we are thankful that it was never answered. Some other times we feel disappointed that we prayed and did not get what we prayed for.
This writing is not to discuss why we feel some prayers are not answered. Another important point has motivated this writing:
We know that we are given life in this world to be challenged (tested as some say) so that we can improve ourselves through spiritual purification. This covers all aspects of life and all daily affairs including the situations where we feel the need to pray for a request, the prayer itself, and our reaction to what we perceive as an answered or unanswered prayer.
The following example may illustrate what this means:
My uncle is sick. He is in hospital. I love him a lot and am praying for his recovery day and night. After a few weeks I may face the situation where I think my prayer has been answered (i.e. my uncle recovers) or the situation where I think my prayer has not been answered (i.e. my uncle passes away).
The above is only a very limited perspective of what is going on. What really goes on (based on our religious understanding) is as follows:
- My uncle’s sickness is a challenge for me so that I can improve my patience and trust God’s wisdom
- All the worship and prayer that I do to ask for my uncle’s recovery contributes towards my spiritual purification
- My perception of whether my uncle has recovered or not provides me a new challenge
Looking at it from this perspective the clever ones are those who, while passionately praying for their requests, do not forget that there is a bigger picture and a higher level of inquiry here, that is, spiritual purification. I am praying for my uncle, but what I am “really” doing is to use the opportunity to further purify my soul. At the end of the day, if my uncle survives today he and I will die some day later. What really matters is that we both fulfill our obligations in this world and have a good place to abide in the hereafter.
To pray for some one, we need to talk with God humbly and we normally do some acts of worship before or after the prayer. Our prayer may be answered or not (according to our perception) but this “talking with God”, our “requesting” attitude and “the act of worship” all contribute towards our spiritual purification.
We therefore need to separate the two issues of our request in the prayer being granted, and the prayer itself being answered. It will be wonderful of course if we feel that requests in our prayers have been granted. However what is more wonderful, is that our prayers, when sincere, are always being answered. This is because whether our request is answered or not, a sincere prayer itself always contributes in further spiritual purification.
Looking at it from this point, we should always be thankful to the people who ask us to pray for their requests, as they provide us with an opportunity for spiritual purification.