“Is there any prayer that is not answered – sooner or later, directly or indirectly? I think there is nothing called an unanswered prayer and I am speaking from experience. But first- let us see what the Bible says about this.
In the story of the raising of Lazarus in the Bible (St. John 11), the prayer of Martha and Mary to save their dying brother seems to have been ignored by Jesus even though he was known to be a close friend of their family. He remained where he was when the desperate call for help came to him!
What a seemingly cruel gesture on the part of Jesus who was known for his compassion! How the sisters’ faith in him must have been shaken. Even they, in spite of their close relationship with Jesus must have questioned the efficacy of prayer.
But the story of Lazarus goes on to tell us the real nature of God. When Jesus did arrive at the tomb of Lazarus, he was, humanly speaking, too late. Lazarus had been dead for four days. Jesus, on seeing Mary and Martha’s grief was visibly shaken and overwhelmingly moved with grief. Who can question the genuineness and the poignancy of Jesus’ sorrow? Can God enter into the depths of human sorrow and tragedy? Yes, He can- that is what we see in Jesus’ reaction at the tomb of Lazarus.
The story doesn’t end there – Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and wonderfully and miraculously answered his sisters’ prayer. He gave them more than they had expected – but at His appointed time and in His marvelous manner.
I grew up in a Christian family in Kerala. I knew that I was a Christian because I was born of Christian parents- at that stage, my religion meant nothing more than being regular at church and obeying certain moral principles like reading the Bible every morning and praying rather mechanical prayers for my daily needs. When I was eighteen, my parents arranged a match for me. Johnny was handsome, dashing and everything a girl of my age could dream of in a husband. His love and understanding helped me make a smooth transition from girlhood in a sheltered home to married life in a big city. Life was wonderful and the only thing which would have added to our joy was a child of our own. As time went by, we sought medical help but the possibility of having a child seemed to elude us. Our prayers seemed to be an exercise in futility and though Johnny constantly reassured me that our companionship was compensation enough, I longed to hold his child in my arms.
But how little I knew of the dark side of life at that time. One day, all too soon, the most unexpected happened. My Johnny- vital, lively Johnny collapsed while playing badminton one evening. An aneurysm in the brain and with it burst my bubble of life too. The only and sure foundation on which I had built my life came tumbling down and I was lost-adrift on the stormy waves of life.
My loved ones and well-wishers tried to cheer me up with several well- intentioned suggestions. I was advised to complete my university education, secure a job and start a new life. But eleven years of holiday from classes and books was too big a gap to bridge and I was not too confident of my memory after the colossal shock my brain had received. It was then that God stepped in with His healing touch and divine sense of timing. To my utter disbelief, I realized that I was expecting the child of my beloved Johnny. He had left me- but I had a part of him with me. With the birth of our daughter Sneha, I felt that Johnny had been restored to life. But that was not all. After the years of my wandering in a spiritual wilderness, faith and prayer began to appear personal and real. I have been given by God, a life with much more meaning and content, even more than the one I lived with Johnny, with its excitement and fun. My prayer has been answered: my Johnny has been given to me in the form of his daughter, and my life has achieved a kind of joy and meaning which I had never before experienced. Jesus provided me with everything to bring her up independently – even a cousin of her own age as companionship for her and a second daughter for me.
Prayer was no more asking favors of God and then living my life the way I wanted it. My life has received a strange new contentment by the coming of Jesus to stay with me. I am absolutely convinced that I will never lose Him as I lost my Johnny.”
– Mrs. Molly John Zachariah [November 1997]
50 Years Later. April 2013
“This year, I turn 50 and as is usual on such occasions, I looked back and wanted to testify to God’s wonderful care over the years. So I asked Amma for what she could remember of the challenges over the past years- the difficulties and problems she faced. I was irritated when she couldn’t remember details. I remembered times of stress…”
Amma had built the upstairs flat and rented the downstairs house to the Railways. Though we had wonderful families staying there who welcomed our little triad into their midst, the house went into the hands of the Rent Control Board and we heard that a politician had his eyes on it. After much legal wrangling during which many generous people supported Amma’s battles with their time and energy, we got back both houses.
Amma went through a period of great depression when she developed premature cataract in both eyes at the age of 48. In spite of this, she resourcefully taught my cousin Reena and myself driving (we had just turned 18) and managed all her responsibilities. Two eye operations eventually cost her her eyes and today she manages with less than 20% vision.
There were many more such occasions but more than the times of stress, I marvel at how God directed her once she submitted her sorrow and her fears at His feet. He enabled her to make our house a home, she was a wonderful cook and hostess and so many people have visited and dined at our house. More than that, she became a ‘giver’ in spite of her difficulties: many relatives going through a tough time found sanctuary in the quiet home she created. My friends remember her gentle acceptance of them. Shaji and she had a unique mother-son relationship based on an instinctive understanding of each other’s strengths. When Mariam was born, many of Amma’s qualities were perpetuated in this new generation and her grand-daughter could make her smile like no one else could. God used her strengths to comfort many people and gave her the support she needed to live an independent life till the very end.
I remember a time of financial difficulty when Amma rose from her knees after prayer and announced that she would be taking paying guests to meet her expenses. To this day, we have these people- when one leaves, God provides someone else and they provide her security and someone new to fuss over.
My faith has come from God’s care over these years. She built her house on the Rock.”
– Sneha Titus