Columban Lay Missionary, Ireland
“God answers our prayers all the time, believe me all the time! I promise you. I can assure you God answers our prayers all the time.”
This is what I share with the children when I visit schools around different parishes to do mission promotion. Many of you might think I could be taking big risks in making such claims about God. Could it create big trouble for me? Could it result in me being accused of false doctrines, of teaching something that maybe the Church does not teach?
Well I am sure you would want to know why I make such a claim; I can assure you that I speak with conviction, and that such conviction arises from my own lived experience. When I was eight years old, I suffered from a urinary tract infection. It was not a very serious illness, but at that tender age, taking big tablets the size of kidney beans three times a day was like life coming to an end. It was an awful experience, and I felt scared. However even at that young age, I knew about God. I knew that I could pray to Him, and that He could make me well. That was what my godmother assured me. So I did. I prayed to God, actually I bargained with Him. I told Him that if He made me better I would go to Mass every Sunday. Promise, every Sunday…Then I got well.
I never prayed so hard as I did in 1995. It was the year I took my board exam to become a teacher. It was the most important thing in my life that year as it governed my future. If I passed the Board Exam, I could get a teaching job and help my family... I did trust in God’s mercy, but without prayer I feared I wouldn’t get it. I always did my best during exams, but on my own I couldn’t be sure. I needed God’s help. So I prayed every day until the results came out. And I can tell you that it was the most exciting and life-giving experience of my life when I saw my name on the list of those who had passed the Board Exam. God had again answered my prayer.
On January 27th, 2002, I was standing in front of our lady’s statue in St Columban’s Church, Olongapo City, Philippines. It was the night I was surrendering my sister to God as she was struggled to survive on a life-support machine. She had been in a coma for almost a week. Entrusting her to God was the only way I could comfort myself. At four o’clock the following morning my sister passed away due to complications from her rare illness of systemic lupus E.
On September 25th, 2002, just eight months after my sister died, I was lying on the bed in tears, praying so hard after getting the text message from home that my father had been brought to the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest and had only a 50/50 chance of survival. He was in coma. Did God answer my prayer? My father died twelve hours after he had the cardiac arrest. Did God answer my prayer? Yes. He did! How did I pray? I asked God to help my father. Did He help my father? I’m certain that He did.
You see God answers our prayer. But his answer may not always be in accordance with our wishes. God answers our prayers according to what is best for us. He knows exactly what is planned for us. Remember what He said, “even before you were born, I knew you.” When we pray to God, and we don’t get a yes, it doesn’t mean God did not answer our prayer. No, is also an answer, isn’t it?
I remember during my first year on mission there were moments when I was homesick and upset, and I felt alone and lonely. I took refuge in a chapel in the Ilac Centre in Dublin, Ireland. There I knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament and started to cry. Then a woman came to me and asked me, “Are you okay?” I told her that I was upset and missed my family and that I wished I was at home. She was so sympathetic and was trying to console me. She told me, “Pour out everything to Jesus,” (pointing to the Blessed Sacrament) “Tell Him everything. He will listen to you, and you will be okay.”
I thanked her for her kindness, and my heart was lifted. I was longing for my mother and there she was, a woman who talked to me the way my mother would speak to me. After few minutes, she came back and handed me €20. She said she had returned the trousers she bought and had her money back. She was giving it to me so I could go to the cinema and treat myself. It was such an overwhelming experience. You see, I was only asking God for comfort when feeling sad and alone. But I got more than comfort. He sent me to the cinema.
Maybe for that woman what she did was just a simple act of kindness, but the impact on me was tremendous. It was like experiencing God face to face. It was an affirmation that God is so close to me and walks with me always. In that simple act I was assured that God reveals Himself through every person I meet, allowing me to know that He loves me no matter what, and that He loves me especially at the lowest times of my life.
May all of us meet the God who is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in mercy. He is the God who answers our prayer all the time. Believe me, He answers all of the time.