God Does Not Answer Prayer

by Stephen Levine
for little Whitney of 5 weeks

God does not answer prayer.
It is a sacrilege to think so.
An insult to the god-drenched hearts
of all who pray through the night
and in the morning are nonetheless
handed a dead child.

The churches in Salem used to burn heretics
to increase attendance. Now those who feel
their prayer didn't reach quite far enough,
that they were not pure enough,
are victims of a merciless atheism
that says all good fortune comes from God
though the brutal often prosper
and it is not uncommon to torture
the pure of heart.

We pray for the best, forgetting
the unpredictable unfolding
that must occur for us to learn
prayer for others works better
than for ourselves. Jesus prays
in the garden of Gethsemane
and is refused. Ten thousand,
ten million prayers rise in Latin,
Arabic, Hindi, and Hebrew

yet their husbands and wives,
children and sisters, fathers and brothers
do not survive well if at all
though in their chest beats the strong sacred heart.

No prayers are granted, none denied.
True prayer reaches well beyond the edge of the world.
It enters head bowed into the arms of the Beloved.


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