Is every prayer answered by God? What does answering prayer mean?
‘Pray to me and I will answer you’ (40:60).
If someone objects:
“We pray many times, but we are not given what we pray for, although the verse cited says that every prayer will be accepted inclusively,”
the answer would be as follows:
The prayer being answered does not necessarily mean its “acceptance” in all circumstances. There is an answer for every prayer; but to accept the prayer, and to give what is prayed for depends upon the Wisdom of the All-Mighty. Suppose that a sick child is asking a doctor to give him a certain kind of medicine. The doctor either will give him that certain kind of medicine or he will give him a better one for the benefit of the child. Or he will give him no medicine at all, if he judges that any kind of medicine may be bad for the health of that child.
Similarly, the All-Mighty, Who is the All-Hearing and All- Seeing, certainly answers the prayer of His servant, and He changes the depression of loneliness into the pleasure of His company. But His answer does not depend on the fancies of man, rather it depends on the Divine Wisdom. According to His Wisdom, He either gives what is requested or what is better or He gives nothing at all.
Moreover, prayer is a form of worship and the reward for worship is principally given in the Hereafter. Prayer, in essence, is not done for worldly purposes; worldly purposes are rather causes for saying the prayer. For example, prayer for rain is a kind of worship and the lack of rain is its occasion not its purpose. If rain is to be held as the only aim of prayer, then this prayer will not be acceptable since it will not be sincere, not intended to obtain the pleasure of God.
Sunset likewise determines the time for evening prayer, and the solar and lunar eclipses are two special occasions for two particular kinds of worship. Since the eclipses of those luminous signs, the sun and the moon, are two means of the manifestation of Divine Majesty, the All-Mighty calls His servants to a sort of worship peculiar to those occasions. But such prayer is not done to cause an eclipse to pass away-the duration and the end of such events are already known through astronomical calculations. The same argument applies to drought and also to other calamities or perils. They are all occasions for certain kinds of prayer. Man, at such times, best realizes his impotence and, accordingly, feels the need to take refuge in the high Presence of the Absolutely Powerful One through prayer and supplication. If, therefore, a calamity is not lifted despite many prayers, one should not say, “My prayer has not been accepted” but should say, “The time for prayer is not yet over.” If, on the other hand, God removes the calamity, then this is because of His endless Grace and Munificence, and that moment marks the disappearance of that special occasion for prayer.
Man must pursue God’s pleasure through his worship. He must affirm his own poverty and weakness in his prayer, and seek refuge with Him through prayer; he must not interfere in His Lordship. He should leave the taking of measures to Him and rely on His Wisdom. He should not accuse His Mercy.
By Bediuzzaman Said Nursi