It can be confusing when God is silent.
You pray hard for something and it never comes to be.
It seems like a good and holy desire...why wouldn’t God want you to have it?
When this happens there's the very real temptation to wonder if he’s really listening. I know people who felt abandoned and wanted to give up on God completely. They were convinced prayer didn’t make a difference.
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When God is silent, I find it helpful to remember how prayer actually works. This keeps me from feeling frustrated when God is silent.
I recently found a great explanation of this in a book by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church.
If you’re getting crickets in prayer right now and feeling abandoned, this post is for you.
How prayer works
Sr. Theresa writes, “C.S. Lewis tells us that God created us so that we would be able to make things happen both through physical action and spiritual action, or prayer.”
It’s easy to understand how we make things happen through physical action. It’s simple cause and effect. Sr. Theresa uses the analogy of opening a door. You move your arm and see the door open. With spiritual action “we are opening a door for grace,” she says.
But that’s the difficult part. I don’t see that spiritual door opening. I may never see it open!
Here’s the key understanding that makes all the difference in how you pray and what you hope for. Sr. Theresa says, “Prayer is not like making a wish and rubbing a genie’s bottle; it does not make us all-powerful like God. Rather, prayer entrusts our desires to God who will respond to them the best way.”
Prayer is about entrusting our desires to God. We tell God what we want and have faith he will respond in the best way possible.
This may not be the way we think it should happen. We are giving ourselves and our desires to him with the certainty he has our best interests at heart.
Faith when God is silent
This gets at the core of what faith is and our fundamental spiritual weakness because of the Fall.
At some level we’re always wondering if God is holding out on us. The Enemy’s first lie is the one that pervades—can you really trust God to fulfill your desires?
We want control; to be masters of our own fate and decisions. However, we can’t see everything. We don’t do everything. Only God can, and he’s working with everyone’s best interests at heart.
Growth in the spiritual life means aligning yourself to God’s will for you. It’s also realizing you’re not the center of the universe.
This often causes anxiety, but it should give you peace. You won’t always get what you want. But you can be certain and have no doubt that God is for you, that he’s in your corner.
It will still be frustrating when God is silent, but whatever happens you can know it’s the right thing at the right time.
The challenge when God is silent
The challenging part when God is silent is perhaps having to re-frame your expectations.
Praying for something is not like ordering at the drive through and picking it up at the next window. Prayer is letting God know your desires and then cooperating with his grace to discern his perfect will. If you think it’s anything else, you’ll be disappointed.
Realize that everything is grace. When things go your way, it’s a gift. If things don’t go your way, have peace and know things are working in their right time and right order according to God’s providential plan for your life.
God does love you. He can be trusted. When God is silent, it doesn’t mean he’s not listening. Spiritual doors are opening. You just can’t see them.
At times like this, the temptation is to distance yourself and move away. Don’t. Here it’s even more necessary to draw closer to God and trust.
Only then will you learn to listen and hear him in the silence.
What helps you when God is silent? Do you have any tips to share on how to cope with this trial? What prayers help you get through it?
For more concrete advice on how to deal with trials, check out my book Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making it Stick. I include four practical, how-to chapters on overcoming the obstacles to deeper faith so you can share it with your kids.
Copyright 2016 Marc Cardaronella
About the Author
Marc Cardaronella is the author of Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick from Ave Maria Press. Marc directs catechist and discipleship leader formation for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO. He is married, has two teen boys, and writes about Catholic spirituality and how to share the Faith on his personal blog.