The Canaanite Mother
What shall we make of it, when God is deaf? At least we can start out by knowing that the experience is not common only to you and me, and that it is not necessarily a lack of faith on our part. We can take comfort from the fact that great spirits of the Bible, St. Paul and even our Lord Himself knew what it is like to pray and apparently have the prayer go unanswered.
Let us turn to today’s Gospel lesson – the story of the woman of Canaan – which is a kind of case history dealing with the problem of unanswered prayer. To her cry for help for her sick daughter, Jesus “answered her not a word.” Why?
Strangers to God
Well, in the first place, the woman was a stranger. Jesus had just left Judea and was traveling into a non-Jewish country where He had not been before. This woman had never met Jesus before. She had probably heard stories of His miraculous cures, and, being at her wit’s end, she came to Jesus, a total stranger, for a cure. After all, she had nothing to lose.
And perhaps right here you will find one obvious answer to a lot of unanswered prayers. Is it too much to say that when in our extremity we turn to God for help we come, more often than we’d care to admit, as comparative strangers to Him, getting around to prayer only when we don’t know where else to turn, and then not bothering to pray until we are up against it again? And when we do come to Him, is it ever to listen, to praise, to thank Him? Isn’t it always to give Him orders as to what He should do for us? As someone so well phrased it: “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” which really means: “Why doesn’t God do what I say?”
to be continued…