What God Wants of Us

“Give me wealth or want,

Delight or distress,

Happiness or gloominess,

Heaven or hell,

Sweet life, sun unveiled,

To you I give all.

What do you want of me?”

—Teresa of Avila “In the Hands of God,” Poem II

Today we celebrate the feast day of Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church who is said to have observed, “There are more tears shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” This sixteenth-century Carmelite captured my imagination soon after I entered the Catholic Church in 1994 as a single adult. At a time when the two options available to most women were marriage or the convent – and consequently the convents were full of unconverted hearts – she abandoned herself to divine providence, and went on to reform her community purely out of love for God. This kind of passion, I wanted.Though she is perhaps best known for her poem that begins, “Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you, all things pass away, God never changes,” St. Teresa endured true hardship and opposition, often from those within her own order. Yet she repeatedly offered her heart with faith and tenderness to “Her Majesty,” trusting God to give her exactly what she needed, when she most needed it.

Each of us faces such moments when our faith is tested, almost to the limit, by the circumstances and people who surround us. “Please God, I have faith that you will do this for me.”

But today we stop to contemplate another, deeper truth: That faith is as much about what we do not see – about the prayers that go unanswered – as it is about receiving the miracle we asked for. Sometimes faith is not in the receiving, but in the trusting.

Action Step

When was the last time you had to exercise faith by choosing to trust in God even when he did not answer your prayers as you’d hoped? What did it teach you that you could not have learned any other way?

About the Author

Heidi Saxton is the editorial director at Ascension Press. She received her Masters in Theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and is the author of five books. Heidi and her husband Craig foster-adopted a sibling group in 2005; her blog "The Extraordinary Moms Network" is dedicated to mothers of adopted, foster, and special-needs children. She is currently working on her first novel.

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  • http://JamesTPereira.com/ James T Pereira

    I’m still in the midst of an unanswered prayer – 4 years and counting. I guess I’m learning to persevere in my prayers. I’m learning to have faith that it will be answered one day…

  • Bob S

    The Lord gave me this in a retreat recently – helps me thru the tougher times…


    Hope w/o Light
    Faith w/o Trust
    Love w/o Justice

  • George Alexa

    Having unexpected heart surgery a few days ago, and now resting, my prayers are for my wife who has cancer. We, like all those who have illnesses that are life threatening, pray for a miracle. And so, we pray.

  • Gabby

    God does answer all prayers. Sometimes He says Yes. Sometimes No. Sometimes Not yet, I have something better in mind. I’m learning that the most important prayer in my life is “Dear Lord, help me accept Your will in Your time.” I need to learn how to worry less and trust God more. This is so very hard for me. Let go – Let God. So easy to say; so hard to live!

  • Marianne

    A lot of times I’ve noticed that when my prayers were
    unanswered, there were obstacles in my own heart that kept me from receiving full grace and blessings from God. Plainly speaking, not always, but often, many of the obstacles were due to my own sin.

    St Paul teaches us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes 5:18).

    It’s easy to be thankful when “God gives you what you want”. But just think how much more God will bless us when we trust Him enough to thank Him, even for the hardships.

    Looking back on my life, I can almost always see how
    ultimately, something good came out of the bad. It is that which strengthens us. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder that we can’t do ANYTHING on our own power, we MUST rely on God.

    I trusted in God last year when He helped me as I was losing my marriage, my home, and my job. And even now, right at this moment, I have to trust that He will provide because it’s taking longer than I thought to get back on my feet. This is teaching me to let go of material things, something I might not have learned if things came about too easily. I walked away from the earthly inheritance, in order to hopefully receive the heavenly inheritance.

    Every morning when I pray, I mention the things I’m thankful
    for, the good and the bad. When I find it hard to think of something good, I start small. The shining sun. God’s beautiful earth. I also thank God that He hears and will answer my prayers (ask and you shall receive).

    This time of waiting also teaches patience! Praise God that His timing is more perfect than mine!

  • A J

    It’s hard to measure the effects of something which never happened. Prayers can end with, “lead me on, Lord” a prayer that is always answered. I am also reminded by the comments I have read today, that prayer is the time we give the Lord to arrange the world so our prayers will/can be answered.

  • A J

    the truth is always simple, seldom easy

  • A J

    As people, our hope is to have the world arranged in a certain way, events and circumstances of our choosing. The Lord’s hope is for sure and for certain. Through my struggles, I realized, The Lord hopes the people who need the most help.

  • KR

    The divorce which I never wanted shattered my dreams for my life and for my daughter’s life in a 2-parent family. I learned to walk with the Lord, one step at a time, through a “dark valley.”

  • Beverlyann

    very good reply. That is what I tell someone who has been praying for some time and thinks that God didn’t answer.

  • Beverlyann

    Peace be with you

  • Beverlyann

    I sympathize. When my husband of 53 yrs. died of cancer, I had been praying that I, at 76, would live long enough and be physically strong enough to care for him at home where he could die in his own room with the family around him. God did that. I then told God I was ready to go any time he was ready to take me. I really expected to pass within that first year. God had other plans. Four days before my husband’s first anniversary, I found my daughter near death, lying on the bathroom floor in our home, where my husband had fallen more than once. If I were dead by then so would she now be dead It was a Sunday and if I had left the house at my normal time for Mass, she would now be dead .

    Instead she came home today, on her daughter’s birthday. And on Wed. we will visit the cemetery and I will go to mass in the a.m. and pray for his soul. Then I will ask God to show me how to make a new life until he is ready for me.

  • Marianne


  • Marianne

    My heart goes out to those who suffer from illness or cope with a loved one’s illness. For months, I have prayed daily for a 19 year old who had a brain tumor, then suffered a stroke which then led to hospice care for weeks until she passed, just a couple days ago. When I got the email last night, though I’ve never met her, I just sat at my computer and cried.

    How can we ever understand why God lets prayers like these go unanswered? She should have had her whole life ahead of her. Somehow, her death will not be in vain?

    Beverlyann, I believe that God has a purpose for all of us. He already revealed this to you in a very dramatic way and thankfully you were there to save your daughter. He is not finished with us!

    May God grant peace and healing for both the physical and spiritual ailments that afflict us.

    “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? …The prayer of faith will save the sick, and
    the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:13-16)

  • DianeVa

    Romans 8:28! I am finally learning He is everywhere and in every situation and it is ALL in His hands all I have to do is follow His lead.

  • debi s

    I had an experience I’d like to share with everyone. Maybe you will learn from this too. Three years ago I had my right knee totally replaced. 6 months or so down the line my right lower leg was still numb. It can go either way: it can be temporary or permanent.. This worried me to no end so I prayed and prayed hard that my sensations will come back. It came back ( after a long time of praying) and came back with a vengiance. With the sensation was also feeling excrociating pain, I had to go back to Percocet 2 tablets every 4 hours, with temporary relief. I should just have le things be. When my sensation was down my pain was also tolerable. LESSON? Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it. When God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers, it is because it is the best for us. I learned the hard way.

  • http://JamesTPereira.com/ James T Pereira

    Debi, are you saying that God answered your prayer although He didn’t agree to granting you this? If God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers, it’s either not the right time, an outright no or an immediate yes.

    God will never give you what you ask for if he thinks it’s not in your best interest. He’ll never give it to you even if you prayed for it a hundred years, if he doesn’t want to.

  • Marianne

    Everything we do glorifies God.

    I’m studying the Gospel of St John and last night it occurred to me that Jesus purposely waited till Lazarus was dead for four days before he got there and performed his miracle.
    Jesus said to Martha,
    “Did I not tell you that IF YOU BELIEVE you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:40-42)

    Yesterday morning, as I was praying, trying hard not to worry about things, God spoke to me. He reminded me that I do have a backup plan for my financial difficulties, and so THERE’S NO NEED TO WORRY. I don’t have to use the backup plan but IT’S THERE. The only reason it’s there is to
    take away my worry…

    I know it was God and not my own voice, because I don’t want to have to be a burden to others and accept the help that was offered to me, though it is greatly appreciated, and especially since my friend is making a sacrifice to help me.

    Sometimes we have to “wait four days” (or however long it takes) so that if we believe, we will see the glory of God. And I will proclaim that glory, starting now!

  • Christine

    Yes, in these days of instant everything, we expect our prayers to be answered instantaneously! Took 40 years for my husband to come around to practicing his faith. So prayers are answered in God’s time.

  • Nhung

    yes, he always say “YES” in His Time:) and by His way not ours :)

  • Helen

    You are absolutely correct. God might not answer all our prayers as it is not in our best interest but we are always blessed. Our family has being through a very tough time for three years. I kept praying and asking God to bless us and give us the strength to carry on. God had a better plan for me. He showed me the way. I worked in the day time and went to school in the night time for three years. There were days that I had only slept for three hours. I continued to pray. It was always my faith first and then family and finances. With God’s blessing I have graduated with diploma in the program, togetherness and unity in our family and an job that pays well. I do pray and thank God for every thing He has given me. I firmly believe that The Lord was with me during my tough time and know as well. In my conclusion I would like to say that it is always The will of God. God Bless.

  • Sherry Sue

    Sometimes it’s a long while before a prayer is answered. I waited 15 years for a prayer to be answered and when God did, my life has changed so much!! I wanted a nice home and away from the area I lived. It was getting really bad. God finally answered 3½ years ago. I now have a beautiful home in a nice small town. I answered God’s call (a little over 2½ years ago) and because a Catholic (will be a Catholic 2 years this April). My life has become totaly awesome. I’m in my 3rd year of RCIA (loved it so much the first year I keep going and am a sponsor for my 2nd year), I’m in a 3 year program with the Bishop Helmsing Institute, I went to Cursillo and do my weekly and monthly meetings, I’m a member of the Adult Faith Formation group, go to workshops . . . it’s just be absolutely awesome!!!! Sometimes God answers right then, sometimes we have to wait. He knows best and what is right for us. Just have patience. God Bless you and keep you.

  • Marianne

    Welcome to the Catholic Church, Sherry Sue!
    I am also in Cursillo!

    Yes, God does bless us when we are faithful to him.