Monday, October 17, 2011

When the Novena "Doesn't Work"

I have come to the point that I really like novenas.*  I didn't like them for a while, because it felt like so many of them were "say this prayer, say that prayer, do it just so at this time, and turn around in 3 circles just to be sure."  (Okay, I never saw any with that last one.) Seemed superstitious almost, the way some of them were so particular about all the little details. However, over time I have changed my mind.

I love that novenas connect the Church on earth with the Church already in heaven.  I love that they take some discipline and planning so that you can be very intentional with your prayer.

Now if only they would "work"!

Here's the thing, I can't tell you how many novenas I have prayed in years and particularly the last couple of years for ending this singleness of mine.  I hear all of the wonderful stories of praying this or that novena, and all the wonderful things that come just after it.  I have no such story at this time in my life.  I've done novenas to St. Therese, and never seen so much as a flower petal. St. Anthony, St. Andrew, a litany of saints, nothing.

However, I use the quotes about novenas "working" for a reason.  Praying is not like rubbing a genie's lamp to get a wish granted.  I have no doubt that praying those prayers bears fruit, and if I don't get the answer that I'm looking for, then so be it.  As much as I want my time of waiting for a husband to be over, I really do trust God's timing more than my own.

Prayer doesn't change God's mind or heart, it changes ours.  I think that when we ask for something, if we are open to whatever His answer is, it can change us and help us to grow closer to Him.  To be honest, I can't know for sure if His answer is "no" or "wait".  I really do feel that it's "wait". (Okay, fine, God, but not too long, mmkay?)

Anyway, since so many people share their stories of awesome answered novenas, I wanted to share mine of awesome novenas that appear at this point to be unanswered, because I know that there are others of you out there that are in the same boat.  The boat named "Everyone Else Gets Their Answers, Where Are Mine?"  I don't think that our novenas are unanswered.  I just don't think the answers visible yet.  I don't know whether time will show that there were answers on earth that we just didn't see until later, or whether the answer is spiritual fruit that we won't see here on earth.  But there are answers.

*For those of you who are not familiar, a novena is traditionally 9 days, though there are many different lengths. It is often prayed to a particular saint, asking their intercession on a particular matter that they may be a patron of in some way.  Know that the saint themselves do not answer prayer, but they only pass on an answer that they receive from God.  I know, why go to saints when you could pray straight to Jesus? Well, why did God use humans to write the Bible when He could have just sent it to us? Why did Jesus use Mary in coming to earth, rather than just appearing one day? Why depend on us to feed the homeless and visit the sick instead of just appearing Himself?  I think that God has graciously allowed the human race to be a part of His plan and take part in the life He offers.  I think praying for one another is a part of that, and we all know how awesome it is to get prayers from friends.  Such it is with the saints.  They are AWESOME prayer warriors; why wouldn't you have them praying for you?


  1. "Prayer doesn't change God's mind or heart, it changes ours." Whammo! I can identify with that! I've noticed it while praying my current novena to St. Gerard.
    I am also in your same boat ... left without answers, at least that I can see anyway. So far, I haven't "seen" a novena work for me either. I still pray, hope and trust that the saints I'm praying to are delivering my messages to God. Like you, I'd like to see an answer this side of heaven. :)

  2. Loooove this post. So, so true. I actually have avoided novenas for the most part because I am so afraid I'll get caught up into almost demanding a certain outcome or get OCD about doing it "right". Also, probably the "worst" novena I ever prayed was regarding an ex-fiance. It was nothing but disaster after that novena. BUT... but... that disaster *needed* to happen for my true vocation to unfold. And you're right that the prayer bears fruit no matter what... in our souls, in a future spouse's soul (hey, those spiritual fruits could be helping speed things up even if you can't see it).

    1. what is your true vocation that unfolded Sarah?, did god bring you a husband?

  3. Thanks for making me aware that prayers (particularly novenas) are helpful in so many ways and not necessarily the way you expect them to be! You have inspired to start up another novena. Great post.

  4. I love this post! I especially love your explanation at the bottom about praying through the intercession of the saints.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I have actually avoided saying novenas for my own intentions because of fear of the answer. Perhaps it's not the answer I need to be so concerned about...

  6. This is beautiful!

    I once had a commenter tell me, when I was complaining about watching everyone else's prayers being answered, that some people need that miraculous timing in answer to their prayers to increase their faith (and the faith of those around them who see it). But others don't need that type of miracle timing because their faith is already so strong. That made me feel, well, pretty darn good :) I hope it does the same for you!


  7. I've been there. I have had many novenas that haven't worked, and a few that have. Right now I am on Day 4 of a 30-day novena. Sometimes there's a lag time between the novena and an answer - a very long lag time.

    I think there's a country song called, "Thank God for Unanswered Prayers."

  8. This is good, and a great reminder. I've only done one or two novenas, but this has me wanting to pray them more often!

  9. My Heavenly Father answered many of my prayers thru the intercession of so many saints and most especially our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary. But I have this very important prayer, a spiritual and physical healing, for my son t who is 30 years old now. I don't like to complain but it is getting so heavy and so many people is hurting. I believe that God will listen to every mother's prayer but it's not happening now. I am running out of idea how to help my son who is hooked with drugs after the 3 rehab. I never stop praying the Holy Rosary, Divine Mercy, joined the Adoration every morning and Holy Mass after.
    My brothers and sisters, this is my only prayer/petition to God which is very important that he's not answering. I don't know why but I don't want to complain. I believe He is always in control and it will happen... IN HIS TIME as long as my son will not be thrown to the fires in hell.

    Just love to share my latest answered prayer thru the intercession of St. Joseph. I started the 30-day novena on Jan. 17, 2015. I was asking a 4-bedroom house, in a gated community, walking distance from a Catholic Church and I want it before I turn 56. On Feb. 17, 2015, exactly one month, while I was cooking our dinner, my husband told me that it would be nice if we have a big house in Cebu Philippines. I said, Did you read my journal? No, he said! I was about to cry! I did not expect him to offer since it involves huge amount of money. I was hoping that my lottery ticket will win!!! LOL
    I found one in the internet that I like and had my family checked it. The owner was also here in California, so the processings was easy! Get this, it is in a gated community and a walking distance from Our Lady of Sacred Heart and we paid it on April 9 and my kids moved in on April 18th And I turned 56 four days later! It was so fast!!!!

    St. Joseph, a good family provider and a carpenter, that's why I picked him to intercede for my petition to have a big house for my kids! I can't stop thanking him!

    Hope you like my miracle story! Glory to God in the Highest!!!!

  10. I've tried the same novena 5x now that's 45 days and nothing. Oh well, at least I have a nice prayer to say even if it hasn't given results.

  11. I am going to start a nine-hour novena for the healing of my cat who was diagnosed with wet/effusive FIP. We are getting a second opinion and a proper blood test instead of the Rivalta on Monday and are hoping that this is a misdiagnosis. If not, I hope that he makes a full recovery, no matter how slim the chances are. :)

    Pray for Pepsi please.

  12. So, I hear all that is said on this forum. Some cases are serious and others I can't help but to laugh at.

    I am (was?) a Catholic who had faith in God until recently. I met my (ex) husband (soon to be annulled), who I had two daughters with. I gave up my good job to marry him and put my career on hold and raised my girls; I loved them more than anything. I always will. Then, after years of abuse I divorced and soon after (stupidly) dated a sociopath who did awful things one night. I fired back with a smack and a spray after confronting this man (again, stupidly) and although he turned out to be rapist with a criminal history of the act, I picked up a criminal conviction for misdemeanor DV. Now, four years later, I can't find work, in spite of my stellar work history (prior to taking time for kids) and a college degree. Ha!

    I've said sooooooo many novenas, recently to St. Anthony for meaningful work that will supply for my children. But, I only found work in jobs I couldn't do (required extreme extroversion) and made no sense in comparison to my work history and interests.

    While many of the commenters on this forum write of things I consider trivial (your cat, really???), my situation is anything but. Mine is, literally, life and death. Homelessness is on the horizon; loved children taken away. Still, no prayers answered. So, unless, one of the saints or God Himself answer soon, I will have no choice but to do the unthinkable; suicide.

    I'm afraid of dying, not because of death, but because of the consequence of suicide. I've always heard all suicides go to hell.


    1. Laurie, I don't have words. Your situation is truly heartbreaking. It sounds like you've tried a lot of different things, so I don't know who you've talked to, who you've reached out to. I'm not sure what kinds of things are available in you area for your situation. I don't want to give you a bunch of trite answers and things that you've already tried and haven't worked. There are only two things that I know for sure. One is that your pain matters. I don't know why you have to go through it. I don't know why there are no answers right now, but I know that your pain matters. The other thing that I know is that YOU matter. I couldn't tell from the wording of your comment if your children have already been taken from you or if that is something that is on the verge of happening, but know that your life matters to them, whether they are with right now or not. Your life in this world matters. I wish I had something more to offer than that, but know that I mean that with all my heart. If you see this, if you want to talk more, please feel free to email me at I am always willing to listen. The other thing that I would ask you to do is to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. Given the scope of what you are dealing with, there is no way to address all of it on your own, and I think that they would have more of an idea of where to start, and what resources may be available in your area. I don't know where you are from, but it is a national number. Know that I am praying for you!!!