their petition is not heard. Here two questions should be asked:
Why do we think our petition has not been heard? How is our
prayer heard, how is it “efficacious”?
Why do we complain of not being heard?
In the first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when
we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are
not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to
him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions.
What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to
be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Are we convinced that “we do not know how to pray as
Are we asking God for “what is good for us”? Our
Father knows what we need before we ask him,
but he awaits
our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their free
dom. We must pray, then, with his Spirit of freedom, to be able
truly to know what he wants.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to
spend it on your passions.”
If we ask with a divided heart, we
God cannot answer us, for he desires our
well-being, our life. “Or do you suppose that it is in vain that the
scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has
made to dwell in us?’”
That our God is “jealous” for us is the
sign of how true his love is. If we enter into the desire of his Spirit,
we shall be heard.
Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from
God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even
greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.
God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that
we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give.
4:3; cf. the whole context:
4:1-10; 1:5-8; 5:16.
29 Evagrius Ponticus,
34: PG 79, 1173.
30 St. Augustine,
130, 8, 17: PL 33, 500.