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“Ask a Priest: What If I’m in Worse Financial Shape After Years of Prayer?”
Q: In light of Luke 11:11 (“What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?”), and the understanding that God loves me more than I love my son, how can there be hope if I have prayed for years that my financial situation improves, and that same situation has only gotten worse? Why, instead of a fish, did I get a snake? I would have been a lot better off if my situation had remained the same, but I am in a terrible situation financially despite praying and hoping for years that the situation would improve. – P.H.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: God indeed loves you deeply. Yet when you pray to him, he might not give you what you want but rather what you need.
Being a son of God and a follower of Christ doesn’t necessarily mean we will have an easy life. Still, God tends to give us more than we expect.
In this case, the fact that you have been praying all these years is a sign in itself that your faith might have deepened.
Imagine an opposite scenery. Imagine if after a month of prayer God gave you everything you wanted financially. That could have led to complacency and more than a bit of pride.
Instead, you have had to struggle. And this might have kept you humble — and closer to the path of holiness. In the end, whenever God doesn’t give us what we ask for, it’s because he knows more than we do, and he is planning to give us something even better.
You are in good company, for St. Paul faced something similar. Recall his words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
“That I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Indeed, when we feel our own inadequacies, we have reason to rely on God more, rather than less.
Perhaps it would help to add into your prayers a petition to accept the cross that Our Lord has allowed you to share with him.
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One thing I’ve learned is that God will meet my needs. He won’t necessarily give me what I want, but I will always get what I need. The last time I lost my job, my wife was very anxious about our financial situation and was emphatic that I had to get another job immediately. I told her if our situation was so dire, then God would send something soon. I wasn’t worried – I had been through this many times before. So about two weeks later I landed a job that paid just what we needed.
I have a friend that is a real inspiration to me. She has almost no income and is in retirement age. Somehow her material needs are always taken care of. When she needed another car, the means to obtain it arrived.
There are many people who experience this and know they will be taken care of.