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Why Haven’t My Prayers Been Answered? Part 1 of 2

Olga Yastremska, New Africa, Africa Studio / Getty Images.

Nichiren Daishonin asserts:

Though one might point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and flow and the sun rise in the west, it could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered.[1]

So why do some prayers take longer to be fulfilled than others? And why do some seem to remain unrealized no matter how passionately we pray about them?

It can be easy to lose heart, especially when our dreams don’t materialize on the timeline we set for ourselves; and it can be even more difficult to work up the courage to keep chanting daimoku until they are.

But Ikeda Sensei reminds us that great meaning lies in not having our prayers answered right away:

This is a manifestation of the Buddha’s wisdom—so that we can deepen our prayers, become stronger people, live more profound lives and secure deeper, more lasting good fortune.[2]

In other words, Buddhism isn’t magic. Having our prayers answered takes time and effort. 

So, let’s take a look at what Sensei says about what it takes to realize our prayers.

1. Even if not immediate, our prayers will be answered in a form greater than our original prayer.

You don’t normally receive your paycheck at the end of your first day at work. The sapling you planted today isn’t a mighty oak tomorrow. If our prayers were automatically answered, with no true, deep prayer on our part … we would become spoiled. If that’s how it worked, our Buddhist practice wouldn’t make us into outstanding people—it would destroy us.

There are many other elements involved in a prayer being answered, but the important thing is to keep praying until it is. By continuing to pray, you can reflect on yourself with unflinching honesty and begin to move your life in a positive direction on the path of earnest, steady effort.

Even if your prayer doesn’t produce concrete results immediately, your continual prayer will at some time manifest itself in a form greater than you had ever hoped. It will also protect you.

For example, you may pray about something at work, and your continual prayer about that one area of your life will eventually place your whole life, every aspect of it, on the road to happiness—on a much broader scale than your original wish.

You will look back on what happened and realize that your prayer was indeed answered. And you will be completely satisfied with the result.

The essence of it is this: If what you are praying for will truly contribute to your happiness and to your becoming a better person, it will be answered without fail. Even if you don’t see the result immediately, it will in time become apparent. (Sensei, Aug. 14, 1998, World Tribune, p. 9)

2. Challenges give us an opportunity to deepen our prayer.

When our fundamental mindset changes, we ourselves change. And when we change, the environment and the world change, too. 

The source of this great transformation is found nowhere but in a radical deepening of our own chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. This sort of prayer to the Gohonzon is completely different from that found in a dependent, supplicant faith; we do not weakly and passively beg someone for salvation or assistance.

Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism is fundamentally a vow. It is a pledge or commitment to follow a chosen course of action; it is a declaration to challenge a clear objective. (Sensei, March 17, 2006, World Tribune, p. 3)

3. Chanting through a difficult problem makes us fundamentally stronger.

Young saplings are buffeted easily by the slightest wind, but when they grow into sturdy, tall trees, they stand unshaken by even the fiercest storm. People, similarly, when their life force is weak, are easily disturbed by the “winds” of even minor problems or worries. Living in this saha world, it is impossible to stop the winds of suffering from blowing. Our only alternative is to become strong. 

When we develop dauntless fortitude, like mighty trees, we will be untroubled by even the most powerful gales. In fact, we can even find them exhilarating. The aim of our Buddhist practice is to carry out our human revolution so that we can lead such lives and develop such inner strength.

Though we may not notice it, a tree grows every day. In the same indiscernible way, our daimoku nurtures our growth day after day into people of unshakable strength who abound with good fortune. After 10 or 20 years of practicing with the Soka Gakkai, the great benefit we have accumulated becomes clearly visible. (Sensei, The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, revised edition, pp. 49–50)

4. When we persevere, we build more profound lives and secure lasting fortune.

It’s unrealistic to think we can achieve anything of substance overnight. …

You may have a passing interest in drawing, for example. But if you think you can simply dash off some paintings, suddenly hold an exhibition and have all your work snapped up by art collectors, you are hardly being realistic.

Suppose that rather than working, you spend all your money playing and are now destitute. Do you think someone giving you a large sum of money would contribute to your happiness in the long run? … 

It would be like making superficial repairs to a crumbling building without addressing the root problem. Only by first rebuilding the foundation can we build something solid upon it.

Faith enables us to transform not only our day-to-day problems but our lives at their very foundations. Through our Buddhist practice, we can develop a strong inner core and a solid and inexhaustible reservoir of good fortune. (Sensei, Discussions on Youth, p. 226)

5. We develop the fortune to manifest benefit in our lives by making continual causes for kosen-rufu.

[Second Soka Gakkai President Josei] Toda also used to say: “If people lived their lives thinking only of what’s happening to them now, focusing solely on the present effects of past causes, humankind would never grow or develop. Practicing the Buddhism of true cause means bearing in mind that every instant of our lives is a cause for the future; it means having the firm resolve to make every instant a cause for the future.” He also said: “Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the way to transform our karma for the better. Through chanting, we are able to clean our slate of past causes and effects and reveal our true selves as ordinary people enlightened since time without beginning.”

No matter what happened in the past or what has taken place up to now, we can make a new cause in the present—a true cause based on the Mystic Law, which is the strongest of all causes—and redirect the current of our lives. Our faith empowers us to continue moving forward victoriously into a bright future. (Sensei, Oct. 8, 2021, World Tribune, p. 2)


  1. “On Prayer,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 345. ↩︎
  2. Aug. 14, 1998, World Tribune, p. 9. ↩︎

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