Proba asks Augustine, “If the Lord’s Prayer contains everything we need to know about prayer, why did Paul struggle with finding “words to pray properly?” (cf. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.(cf. Romans 8)).
St. Augustine’s advice to Proba offers us a guide to prayer when the proverbial “roof caves in”.
“when we are suffering afflictions that might be doing us either good or harm, we do not know how to pray as we ought. But because they are hard to endure and painful, because they are contrary to our nature (which is weak) we, like all mankind, pray to have our afflictions taken from us. At least, though, we owe this much respect to the Lord our God, that if he does not take our afflictions away we should not consider ourselves ignored and neglected, but should hope to gain some greater good through the patient acceptance of suffering. For my power is at its best in weakness.
Scripture says this so that we should not be proud of ourselves if our prayer is heard, when we ask for something it would be better for us not to get; and so that we should not become utterly dejected if we are not given what we ask for, despairing of God’s mercy towards us: it might be that what we have been asking for could have brought us some still greater affliction, or it could have brought us the kind of good fortune that brings corruption and ruin. In such cases, it is clear that we cannot know how to pray as we ought.
Hence if anything happens contrary to our prayer, we ought to bear the disappointment patiently, give thanks to God, and be sure that it was better for God’s will to be done than our own.”
Pope John 2, in the apostolic letter on suffering, Salvifici Doloris connects suffering with our redemption. He writes; “One can say that with the Passion of Christ all human suffering has found itself in a new situation. And it is as though Job has foreseen this when he said: “I know that my Redeemer lives …”, and as though he had directed towards it his own suffering, which without the Redemption could not have revealed to him the fullness of its meaning.”
In a brief moment of lucidity, Job cries out, “I know my Redeemer lives.” God connects more of the missing dots of unanswered prayer in Job 38-40 but its not until our Redeemer cries out, “Father, if it is possible, take this let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” we understand the importance of Job.
Paul states prophetically, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul writing in a prison cell envisioned “crucifixion” as an answer to prayer.
Pope John Paul 2 writes: “The Cross of Christ throws salvific light, in a most penetrating way, on man’s life and in particular on his suffering. For through faith the Cross reaches man together with the Resurrection: the mystery of the Passion is contained in the Paschal Mystery. The witnesses of Christ’s Passion are at the same time witnesses of his Resurrection. Paul writes: “That I may know him (Christ) and the power of his Resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead”(64). Truly, the Apostle first experienced the “power of the Resurrection” of Christ, on the road to Damascus, and only later, in this paschal light, reached that ” sharing in his sufferings” of which he speaks, for example, in the Letter to the Galatians. The path of Paul is clearly paschal: sharing in the Cross of Christ comes about through the experience of the Risen One, therefore through a special sharing in the Resurrection. Thus, even in the Apostle’s expressions on the subject of suffering there so often appears the motif of glory, which finds its beginning in Christ’s Cross.”
Whether we have “answered” or “unanswered” prayer, its only meaning is in the cross, resurrection and future glory of the king.dom