"Failed" novenas

So as I understand with novenas, we make an effort to praise a saint like St. Jude for the miracle or answer to prayer we obtained through the novena to that saint. What do we do if several novenas have not produced an answer? I know the standard reply is that the prayer was answered - just not how we wanted. But when one prays for something that is intrinsically “good,” and that something does not come to pass after much time, prayer, and hope, what are we to say of the saint we prayed to? God’s ways are not our ways and that’s it? We have good desires in our hearts that shall go unfulfilled? How is this a witness to skeptics?

Just because something is intrinsically good does not mean it is the best thing for you.

It may be intrinsically good for me to have a new car. That doesn’t mean it’s what God wants for us.

I suggest that you begin praying for Gods will to be done in your life. Pray for your heart to be open to see and hear from him.

I prayed like this for my marriage reconciling. Maybe someday it will happen maybe not, but God has done a lot for me including bringing me to the church which was literally beyond the last thing on my radar.

We always have to remember that God has the whole picture; every single little thing that has happened or ever will happen is known to him. Because of this, He may not grant us particular wishes, harmless as they may be, because of a reason which we could not possibly know.

And key to your post,

“We have good desires in our hearts that just go unfulfilled”

Yep, that’s called selfishness, pride, envy etc…

God is to fulfill us, just let him in. It is hard, counter cultural.

We are to try to serve, not be served.

Happiness and fulfillment will never come if we are seeking our own desires.

And as to whether you know what’s best for you over God I would refer you to Job 38
38 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,

It also needs to be in God’s time, not our own. Once I prayed several novenas, but they were not answered for about 2 years. I know another person who was praying for about 20 years, and it just now seems to be in the process of being answered in a way greater than our expectations. Many times when praying for people to be converted it takes many years and many prayers.

I would also say that the effects may not be noticeable to us. I know in the conversion of a family member, he later admitted to us that he would feel our prayers being “dumped” on him at very strange times, even though he never told us that until later on. In his own words, it was like God stored up all the prayers offered on his behalf, and then poured out those graces all at once to break through his hardened heart. This happened multiple times over several years. Just keep at it with trust in His wisdom and mercy, in God’s timing and in God’s way.

I second this.

In the case of a broken family, I know of a wife that prayed for her husband to return. It didn’t happen in an instant, but when he finally returned, it was in the BEST way.

I think you should discuss this with a priest where you can talk about what you are praying for and the why. There isn’t a way to judge here why or why not a novena was or was not answered and maybe will be answered. I know St Monica prayed 30 years for her son St. Augustin. But without knowing what you are praying about, no one here can answer why the novena wasn’t answered in the way you thought.

No it isn’t. If I have desires placed in my heart by God, it is not selfishness to pray for that fulfillment. If my heart desires the conversion of a loved one, it is not selfishness for me to pray that be fulfilled. If I desire a spouse in accord with my vocational call, that is not selfishness to pray for that to be fulfilled. If I desire the health of a friend, that is not selfishness for me to pray that be fulfilled.

I am well past 20 years of seemingly unfulfilled praying. :o Hopefully, God has used the power of those prayers somewhere else.

So this is the best answer we can get, right? Kind of like, “Be quiet, Job, and keep suffering with a smile, I know what I’m doing.”

Isn’t it though?

We tend to look at selfishness in a purely negative light. Like in the gross examples of selfishness. But whenever we choose ourselves over God it is selfish. It is a constant daily hourly struggle.

The things you list are all things you want.

Maybe God wants them, maybe not with the exception of your conversion example.

Further, it is not selfish to pray for these things. It is selfish to not be open to an answer from God of no or not now.

For example, your spouse is not in accord with your vocational call. Perhaps that is the answer to whether or not you are called.

It is too easy to deceive ourselves into thinking God has spoken to us. If he did, it will work out. But be open to the fact that perhaps it was our desires not his we are seeking.

Please don’t take what I am saying the wrong way. I just want to encourage you to be open to what God wants.

You are exactly where God wants you.

You were yesterday

And 20 years ago

And ten years from now.

Look to serve him in your daily struggles and in the situation you are in because if we truly believe in God’s omniscience we can accept that he has placed you where he needs you.

St. Monica prayed for her son’s conversion for over twenty years, and then he converted and became a Doctor of the Church!

What more do you want? Do you expect God to be some kind of vendor machine; put prayers in get wishes out?

This is the crux of this issue.
We are to persevere in prayer,trusting in God’s judgement.
If praying several novnea’s and expecting an instant result,which sometimes does happen,it almost turns prayer into a superstitious act.
Also,through perseverance,we are receiving Graces to open our hearts to God’s will,to recognize that our prayers are being answered,just not in the way we expected.

I’m going to politely skip addressing those who have suggested I treat God like a superstitious vending machine. And anyone who suggested I expect “instant” results hasn’t read the thread.

A couple things remain unaddressed. How does one suggest we witness to skeptics who know we have been praying for things for many years and we are unable to witness to them by pointing out how our perseverance paid off when there is nothing to show them? Have you ever told a skeptic that you’ve been praying for 20+ years without the result of the intention? Do we just keep crying out with Israel for some signal vindication of our faith? We tell them the prayer is being answered in some unseen way? We read: “John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Do we explain to those skeptics that it’s our own fault the prayer has not been obtained because we must not have asked properly “in his name”?

And secondly - as I also mentioned in the OP, the tradition behind many novenas, such as the St. Jude prayer, includes sometimes in the very words of the prayer, the promise to share the answered prayer and to praise the saint for obtaining the favor requested as a witness to others. What are we to do when we cannot state this affirmatively? Do we say nothing about the saint to others? Do we keep telling them “the answer is coming”? But we don’t know if the answer is coming, because as some of you have pointed out, what we ask for might not be what God wants for us. If we are to share the joy of an obtained petition by praising the saint to others, what do we say of the saint when the petition is not obtained?

How long did the Israelites pray in Egypt?

You cannot control God, which is what you infer when you indicate your prayers can create a certain result.

You say you don’t view God as a vending machine but a genie in a bottle. "If I only rub the lamp so many times the genie god will grant my intention.

Prayer is not the way to witness to skeptics. Even if answered how you want they will just say it’s coincidence.

Be faithful.

Pray always. And discern Gods will.

You have no idea how your prayers are being answered and used for Gods glory.


I am sorry if I have offended you, but I have responded to you in answer to the way you seem to be speaking. You may not consider God a vending machine but at one point I distinctly got the impression you did.

The fruits of our prayers are often hidden from us until after death, and we will not see the full effect of all our good works until after our death. This is an undeniable fact. It may be frustrating to not be able to point to good results and say, “This was an effect of prayer.” but that is not the point. Prayer is not supposed to prove something to our fellow men, but to be a supplication to God, between him and us exclusively.

This is all I have to say.

That those who composed the text of such a novena or prayer were in error. We should be aware that such texts shouldn’t include elements such “never fail novena” or “Saint X is the ultimate wonderworker” or “spread the word about the power of this magical devotion”. The saints in question usually had no idea that their name would be used that way. They didn’t boast about their intercessory power and didn’t claim that God is compelled to obey their prayers.

Ok, thanks.

On the contrary, because of Christ we can approach the Father and ask him for an egg and not expect a scorpion. I would not call it “control,” because we remain powerless without His “action.” But this is the generosity of God, just as He will not save us without our consent. Would you agree that the Church teaches us to pray with the expectation that God will hear us? That does not mean we demand. It means we say, “You are God. You can obtain for us that which we cannot obtain for ourselves. Have mercy and hear our prayer.”


Pray without ceasing!

Pray for that Lamborghini!

Whenever we pray it brings us closer to God. That is the whole point.

God knows what we need and he doesn’t need us to ask, but sincere prayer will align our wills with his and make us receptive to following him.

Your problem lies with an expectation of answering it.

You can’t expect that.

Here is an example

We pray constantly through generations and generations for the conversion of men, Daily prayers are offered in the thousands. . God of course wants this, and yet it has not occurred. It may not occurr until the final judgement. Just because it doesn’t happen how we want it means nothing.

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