I called to the Lord in my distress, and He answered me. I cried out for help in the belly of Sheol; You heard my voice.Jonah 2:2 (HCSB)
If the first verse of chapter two teaches us that, wherever we find ourselves, we must pray to the Lord our God, the second teaches us the important result of our prayer: “and He answered me … You heard my voice.” God hears the prayers of His faithful people, and God always answers when His children call upon Him.
If the most loving earthly fathers answer their children, how much more will our amazing and awesome heavenly Father answer? No, we do not always get the answer we want! Sometimes God says ‘no’. Sometimes God says ‘later’. Sometimes God says ‘yes’. A good father would not allow his child to put his finger in an electricity socket, nor would a good father let his child eat all the sweets in the house. These are not good parenting—Dad knows best.
As Christians we must always remind ourselves to pray “if it is Your will…” because if it is not God’s will for you, or whomever you pray for, then God knows best. It is not for us to question the answers that God gives—it is not for the clay to answer back the potter as if it knew better (Romans 9:20-21). Sometimes the answer is ‘later’; an earthly father would be showing wisdom in not allowing his child to eat the pudding till after the greens or to play with friends till after their homework. Likewise, our heavenly Father knows what is best for us and when it is best. This can be frustrating, but we must not throw tantrums before the throne of the Almighty. Instead, we must humbly submit to His rule and trust—as hard as it can be—trust in Him and His time.
Sometimes God says ‘yes’, just as our earthly fathers do. God says ‘yes’ when what we ask for is His will for us, when what we ask for is in tune with His heart and His desires. Let us always pray in the words of the Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity from the Book of Common Prayer: “Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”