Faithful Questions: Does God Answer Prayer?

Anna on mt washburn
Anna Ortung

I’ve always been self-conscious concerning prayer. I’ve been self-conscious because I pray, but, being a priest’s kid, growing up I didn’t want to seem “too religious.” I’ve been self-conscious because I don’t pray—at least, not enough. I’ve been self-conscious while praying. I stumble over my words and forget what to talk about and always make it about myself.

I worry God may think I’m an idiot because I don’t know what to say and always ask for the wrong things. I feel self-conscious while praying because I know it’s been too long since I last set out time to pray instead of a quick “oh yeah hey God, I forgot, you’re something I’m supposed to be thinking about.”

Praying can be really hard, but Faithful Questions asserts that it really needn’t be. Prayer is simply a conversation between you and God. I guess I’ve found it hard to believe that I can talk to God in a similar way to how I talk to my friends—about how my day was, what’s weighing on me, what’s making me joyful. Of course, I think about these sorts of things all the time. But often, I forget God is listening. I forget that, when I’m lost in my own thoughts, I can simply direct them upwards and know that I have a caring friend.

I have seen recently that God does answer prayer, even prayers that are left unspoken. The book quotes Kathleen Norris, saying, “Prayer is not asking for what we think we want, but asking to be changed in ways we cannot imagine.” I feel as though over the last few months, I have been changing, but it took me a long time to see God’s hand in it. I’m currently living in Yellowstone National Park, working at the Old Faithful Inn. I’ve thought of my big Yellowstone adventure as a way of coming to terms with and working to overcome my anxiety disorder, as backpacking for two weeks and living in a different state for a few months are definitely low on the list of things that typical Anna would do.

I don’t believe I’ve ever once asked God directly to grant me courage. There have been so many times this past year where I could go days at a time without even thinking of God for a fleeting second. And yet, He has done so. God has continually been granting me courage. I didn’t see this until I was speaking with my good friend Gina, whilst walking around Old Faithful, about the hardships I’d endured over the past year and how I was here trying to work through it. Her first response was, “Well, you’re here. It’s so obvious God has really provided for you and is guiding you here.” I had just met Gina the day before, but soon we were hugging and laughing. It seems absurd that it just took someone pointing it out for me to see that I haven’t been alone in my adventures.

Being in Yellowstone really has changed me in ways I couldn’t imagine. When I’m outdoors in God’s creation, I feel at peace. I recently led three other girls on a two-day, twenty-mile backpacking trip where we jumped off a forty-foot cliff into glacial waters, something I never would have done. Never have I been so sure that God is all around me, listening to my thoughts and guiding me in my actions. I’ve only been here for one month, and yet I’ve met people who have changed my life, Gina especially. I just know God put her in my life for a reason, right here, right now, to remind me of how blessed I am.

I’m still not totally sure. I still have doubts. But I’ve written this entire blog post while sitting at Observation Point overlooking Old Faithful and the whole upper geyser basin, and as I watched Old Faithful erupt, I knew God was listening and heard my awe, even if I couldn’t come up with the words to describe it.

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