“Are you there, God? Are you listening to my prayers? Do you even know what I’m going through?”
I think we all have thoughts like these from time to time—especially when we’re facing challenges in life. To keep our faith strong, it’s important to remember those times—and we’ve all had them—when our prayers have in fact been answered.
Recently a friend told me about a trip she’d taken in which she encountered one hurdle after another. The final blow came when she was driving home alone at night from the airport and realized she had a flat tire. Not knowing what to do, she was about to panic when a friend “coincidentally” drove by. He stopped his car and helped her change the tire; soon she was on her way home.
Her story reminded me of an incident in my own life that happened about fifteen years ago—one that I’d forgotten. A friend of mine had been diagnosed with widespread cancer. To slow the disease’s advance, she began receiving intravenous chemotherapy. A group of her friends would take turns driving her to the chemo sessions, and would sit with her throughout the day until she was done.
Marilyn (this was her name) was a quiet, gentle soul who was a devoted follower of Yoganandaji. She never complained about her diagnosis, the treatments, the changes they wrought on her body, nor the upheaval the disease caused in her life. She passed away peacefully about a year after this story took place.
On that particular day, Marilyn had finished her latest chemotherapy session, and I was driving her back to Ananda Village. It was late afternoon; exhausted from the treatment, Marilyn reclined in the passenger seat and drifted off to sleep.
We were a few miles away from Ananda on a rural road, when suddenly I heard the dreaded “thump, thump, thump,” and knew we had a flat tire. I pulled over to the side of the road, and not knowing how to change a tire nor seeing anyone around, inwardly I offered a desperate prayer for help.
Just at that moment, an old, beat-up pickup truck pulled over in front of us. Two disreputable-looking characters with long, greasy hair and dirty clothes came over to the car. Since I didn’t know what to expect, I cautiously rolled my window down a crack. To my great relief one of them said, “Looks like you ladies can use a little help.”
In short order, they changed the tire and were on their way. I was sitting in stunned silence, when Marilyn opened her eyes and quietly asked, “What happened?”
“I think God just heard my prayer,” was my quiet reply.
One of the most beautiful and powerful chapters in Autobiography of a Yogi is “Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban,” in which Yoganandaji’s eldest brother, Ananta, challenges him to put his faith in God to a test. Ananta proposes that young Yoganandaji travel to the nearby city of Agra with a friend, Jitendra, but with no money and no return ticket.
To complete the test, they must not beg, reveal their predicament to anyone, nor miss any meals. Further, the boys must see the sights of Agra and return home by train before midnight.
Perhaps feeling some remorse for sending two young boys on such a journey, the skeptical Ananta added: “If by any chance or grace you pass successfully through the Brindaban ordeal, I shall ask you to initiate me as your disciple.”
Maybe you are familiar with the rest of the story. While still on the train to Brindaban, they were approached by two strangers who invited them to lunch at their ashram. The meal turned out to be a sumptuous repast prepared for two princes, patrons of the ashram who at the last minute were unable to attend.
As they were leaving the ashram, replete from their elaborate banquet, Jitendra complained, “A fine mess you have got me into! Our luncheon was only accidental good fortune! How can we see the sights of this city, without a single pice between us? And how on earth are you going to take me back to Ananta’s?”
Yogananda’s reply was one we all need to remember: “You forget God quickly, now that your stomach is filled.” His account continues, “My words, not bitter, were accusatory. How short is human memory for divine favors! No man lives who has not seen certain of his prayers granted.” (If you haven’t read the Autobiography, I’ll let you discover for yourself how the story ends.)
Indeed, how short our memory is for the graces we have received. As you finish reading these words, I suggest that you take a moment to recall an instance in your own life of an answered prayer, or a feeling of certainty of God’s love for you.
The great saints tell us that God’s blessings, guidance, and protection are always with us. It is we who too often forget them.
Seeking always to remember,
Listen to Devi as she reads the blog, then expands on it, often adding special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (10:13):