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A mother’s plea: Why does God delay answering my prayers? I of II

July 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Difficulties, Fr. Bartunek, Prayer, Suffering

Why Does God Delay Answering My Prayers?
Part I of II


Dear Father John,

Two of my college educated sons have been out of work for several years. Fortunately, both wives work. What happens typically is that our hopes get raised when they get called in for an interview, are asked to come back, and then another for post on why does God delayinvitation follows for additional meetings. Then the news comes saying they chose someone else. The emotional roller-coaster is brutal. My prayer to God has been that I will pay any price that needs to be paid for them to get jobs as long as He doesn’t tell me in advance what He will ask. I am at a loss to understand why nothing seems to break for them. I know that God often delays answering prayers. I also know the value of redemptive suffering. I am beginning to grow concerned that their faith will weaken because of what seems like disinterest from God. You have written about redemptive suffering before. But what do you say when God appears to delay in giving any succor, especially when the request is to be able to take care of your family. I know God cherishes the family, especially when it is under such attack. It seems like nothing is coming from heaven to support them. Please help me find something to say to them so they don’t lose faith and hope in this relentless phase of struggle and ongoing disappointment.

The pain and suffering you are undergoing in this crucible of family struggle is palpable. I wish I could give you an easy answer – actually, I wish I could offer your sons a job! Thank you for sharing this question, as I am certain you are not the only one engaged in this kind of spiritual battle.

Unfortunately, I am afraid you may not like my answer very much. In fact, you actually answer your own questions (and I detect at least two questions), but the answer is a hard one, and I think that’s why your soul is seeking confirmation.

Intentional Exercise

Your first question boils down to this: “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers the way I want them to be answered?” After all, you are asking for something not only reasonable, but good and, it seems, necessary. Why would God delay? Let me answer that question with another question: How firmly do you believe that God loves your sons even more than you do? We know that he does – not because your love is paltry, but because his love is infinite. The love you have for your sons, as strong and passionate as it is, is only a reflection of the infinite love God has for them. And at the same time, God is all-powerful. And so, by faith, we know that since God is permitting this cross, he has his reasons, and he will bring a whole series of glorious Easter Sundays out of this seemingly endless string of Good Fridays.

In times of crisis, we have to intentionally exercise our faith, purposely and courageously reminding ourselves that God’s ultimate purpose is to bring each person into a deeper and deeper communion with himself. This communion begins and grows here on earth, but it reaches its fulfillment only in heaven. The battles, struggles, sorrows, and often horrible sufferings we face on our earthly pilgrimage are inescapable in a fallen world; but God, far from being absent in the midst of them, has transformed them into channels of grace, gymnasiums of virtue, and bridges to greater wisdom, mercy, and spiritual maturity.

Practical Helps

You feel your faith being stretched by your present trial. It should bring you to your knees more intensely – and that, it seems, is what God is asking of you. By pushing you out of your spiritual comfort zone, he is purifying your faith, and a purer faith will bring you into a greater union with the Sacred Heart. As St. James puts it: “My brothers, consider it a great joy when trials of many kinds come upon you, for you well know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance and perseverance must complete its work so that you will become fully developed, complete, not deficient in any way” (James 1:2-4).

In this season of suffering, you may find encouragement through doing some extra spiritual reading. You are not alone in this trial; you are a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. Drawing inspiration from the lives of the saints and other Christians who have undergone tremendous suffering on their path to holiness will encourage, guide, and edify you. Read, for example, Robert Royals Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, or Blessed Mother Teresa’s Come Be My Light, or Walter Ciszek’s He Leadeth Me. We have to purposely fill our imagination with reminders that God works through suffering, otherwise, our faith and our hope will wane, and we will fall into the blinding spiral of frustration and discouragement, where we are vulnerable to the deadliest of all sins: pride.

In our next post on this topic, we will look at the second question, “When a Mother’s Love Feels Helpless”. We will talk about how to let go and leave everything in God’s loving hands.


Art for this post asking Why does God Delay?: Nossa Senhora das Dores (Our Lady of Pains or Our Lady of Sorrows), Domingos Sequeira (1768-1837), 18th to 19th century, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at

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  • LizEst

    Hello my friend,

    This is such a difficult time for you and for your sons. I understand the pain you feel for them and the willingness to do anything for them. This truly is a mother’s love. And, right now, what you know, what you feel, is not unlike, though not the same, as that of our Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross. She too, knows your pain. You are helpless in the face of these great difficulties and you are ready to do whatever God asks of you. This is a trial for you, for them, for their families and their marriages. Fr. John has some good advice for you.

    It seems that God is asking perseverance, patience, humility and trust from all. I would only add two things to what Fr. John said above. If you do not have a spiritual director, you should seek one out…and your sons, likewise. A director will help with this.

    Second, you are to be commended in your desire to do what the Lord requires of you. Be cautious, however, of the temptations of the devil who is ever on the lookout for someone who professes they will “pay any price” to resolve this situation favorably. The devil is ever ready to propose solutions that are perceived to be good. This you must be very deliberate in defending against. It is one of the classic temptations of Christ in the desert. Do thus and such and I will take away your pain, I will free you from this. You must resist the evil one’s proposals.

    Lastly, I just want to leave you with this short inscription found on a prayer card in my mother’s papers. It has helped me greatly in trials of great length (it is on my bulletin board in my room where I can see it all the time).

    “One of God’s arrangements is that, after winter, there should come beautiful spring days. It happens every year. And it happens in every life.” (Father Joseph)

    May God bless you and give you much grace in these trials. “Be patient in suffering, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

    • Dear LizEst, your wisdom touched my heart greatly…thank you. I pray for the latter rains to pour over these sons. That they be given the means to provide financially to their families, and that they would be a testimony to the faithful for their trust in Our Good Lord’s provision. I also pray the Lord will take the 2 fish and multiply them…that there would be baskets left over for the family to feed on and to share with others.

      • LizEst

        You’re welcome…and thank you for your kind words. The glory goes to the Lord!

        I love the thought of multiplying the two fish and having baskets remaining. Yes, let us pray for this!

        …and God bless you Sandra.

  • Rachel Watkins

    So many others (my family included) are going through similar struggles that I gain a bit of comfort. At times when it seems nothing we are doing in my home by way of prayers or sacrifices is of any benefit for ourselves, I can imagine they are going to someone else somewhere in the world whose faith is less strong or in real crisis. I know that no prayer is every wasted but all are being used – somehow, as God sees fit – for the benefit of the whole kingdom. Be assured of my prayers for your own sons as I pray for my dh.

  • Ramanie

    My sympathy for you. Please do not be discouraged for God in His mercy has a plan for you and your sons.He is in charge. Nothing happens without His knowledge. Just continue to trust Him and pray. He will answer in His own time the way He needs to. May God be with you always

  • Luisita

    Be grateful for what you DO have! If you are worrying that your son’s faith will weaken, at least they HAVE faith. Consider if there is a greater sorrow than this: my beautiful, precious, intelligent loving, adult daughter has LOST her faith, and in a very bad way. Though she was baptized, confirmed, and knowledgeable, none of that stands in the way of sin: specifically, an atheist boyfriend. She has now turned against everyone in the family and refuses to contact us, despite that we only showed love and care. Her “arguments” against Catholicism sound like they come from him, as they are astonishingly shallow and idiotic – things she would have been able to cut through instantly before! Sin makes you blind.

    Ah, you may say, there is greater sorrow: don’t we all have acquaintances who have lost a child to death? Yes, it is true that while there is life there is hope. But loss of eternal life is the greatest sorrow there is.

    • LizEst

      Luisita – It is hard to compare one person’s difficulties and sorrows to another person’s. A cross may seem easy for one person and yet the very same cross seems almost insurmountable for another. It has to do with a lot of things, of which God alone is the judge.

      You don’t say how old your daughter is. Young adults can be easily swayed by the world, the flesh and the devil. The atheist boyfriend has had a big, big influence on her. There could be other things going on as well.

      You are right that the loss of eternal life is the most serious loss
      there is. It sounds as if you are truly overwhelmed by this and are suffering greatly from the estrangement of your daughter. This is natural. It also makes you very vulnerable to depression, desperation and manipulation by the devil. Find a Catholic spiritual director, if you do not already have one. A spiritual director can be of help to you in making some sense of this very difficult cross. He or she should be able to make some recommendations regarding the spiritual issues which are involved.

      My prayers for you and your daughter and your family. May God grant you wisdom and peace.

  • I’m not an expert but from what I’ve been reading, employers prefer to hire employed people. Your sons might help their cause if they just worked somewhere as opposed to being choosy. People who don’t work at anything look lazy to the employer. They should also work their resume to suit what they job they are applying for needs.

    • LizEst

      Debbie – The person who wrote this only says the sons have been out of work for years. The writer does not say where or how often the sons have tried to get jobs, what type(s) of jobs the sons have applied for or not applied for, or what country or state the sons reside in (location is important). The sons’ actions cannot be judged by what is written. While you have valid points to make and, no doubt, have good intentions, it’s important to base comments on actual facts presented rather than make assumptions that may or may not be correct. Thanks so much…and may God bless you.

  • G8r

    I’d like an update on how things turned out for the sons. My interest stems from the obvious pain in the family, as well as from my own situation which mirrors the sons’.

    • LizEst

      G8r-When a person writes in and asks a question, we don’t ask that they get back to us and tell us how things turned out. We leave that up to them and their discretion. Sometimes, we do hear back from them…but, it is entirely up to them. As far as I know, we have not heard anything more about in this situation. So, we do not have an “update” on how things turned out for the sons in this post. I feel bad for your pain and have prayed for your situation. God bless you and all your family.

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