The Blessing of Turning our Why into What

What is your response when you don’t believe God answered your prayer?

Do you humbly respond,

“Lord, You know what is best for me. I trust that You have a better plan for my good.”

Or . . . do you respond more often like Naaman, the highly esteemed and respected army commander suffering from leprosy that we read about in today’s Mass reading from the second Book of Kings (5:1-15)?

After hearing from his wife through her Israelite slave that a prophet of Israel can cure him, Naaman asks permission of his master to go and see the healer and prophet Elisha. He travels into a foreign land with his entourage bringing gifts to impress the king so as to gain access to the prophet.

In other words . . . he goes all out in hope his efforts will bring about a healing.

When Elisha refuses to see him, sending him a message instead, Naaman has a tantrum and yells,

“I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand there to call on the name of the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the place, and thus cure the leprous spot!”

Naaman then “turned about in anger and left,” (2 King 5:12).

Sound familiar?

How often do we expect God to come as we say and when we say?

Naaman was an army commander and therefore expected people to do what he said. Aren’t we all a bit like that?  We expect control of our situations. When God does not respond as we want, we are easily tempted to question His motives and fall into the sin of pride. We become angry and demand why, “Why did you not heal/fix this?” which can be translated, “Why are You not doing what I tell You to do when I tell You to do it?”

What we can learn from Naaman is that God wants so much more than just healing Naaman of his leprosy, He wants Naaman for His own. God desires to be seen and known by Naaman. Had it been as Naaman expected, he could have assumed his healing was due to his own efforts in visiting the prophet.

He would have been healed, but never encountered God, the Source of all healing.

It is normal for us to do the same. We think praying x-number of Rosaries, keeping the Sacraments and/or offering our devotional prayers regularly will secure all the blessings we ask for. They are necessary to be sure, but if our attitude is one of control, “If I do this or that I will get what I want,” we may find ourselves stomping mad like Naaman.

What should we do?

Wonderful advice I received is to replace our demands on God to answer our ‘whys’ with an invitation to come into our ‘whats.’

Here’s an example of a prayer of what: “Lord I know You are Good and You want the best for me. I don’t understand what You are doing here.  I feel like You have abandoned me, but I know You never abandon us, so what am I not seeing? Come into this place where I hurt, where I am so angry, and please help me to understand what You are working in this situation.”

This simple change of ‘why” into ‘what’ takes God off the defensive and into the reality of who He is. I have never known the prayer of ‘what’ to fail. I may not get what I expect, but I receive so much more. I receive God’s Presence with me, bringing His light, His warmth, His consolation, and an eventual answer to my prayer that always heals, fixes or restores in ways so much better than I could have imagined!

In surrendering his expectation, Naaman learns the same. He returns at the advice of his servants and obeys the instruction of Elisha receiving the full healing of his leprosy and best of all . . . God Himself!  Naaman says,

“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel!” (2 Kings 5:15).

Naaman’s conversion in faith was so profound this foreigner and Gentile won entry into Jewish Scripture, and 500 years later, recognition on the lips of God. In rebuking the people of His hometown of Nazareth for refusing to believe Jesus as a prophet, our Lord says in the Gospel of Luke (4:27), “Again, there were lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet no one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”


Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood, and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.