Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 186..........Part 3
And when My servants ask you about Me, indeed I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So let them respond to Me, and believe and trust in Me, so that they may be guided. (Chapter 2: Verse 186)
It is important to know that there are conditions you must satisfy in order for God to listen to and respond to your prayers. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned a man who, having traveled far, is fatigued and soiled. He raises his hands to the heavens in prayer asking "O Lord! O Lord!" But this man’s food is from unlawful means, and he bought his clothing from unlawful money, and he has been living off unlawful earning, so how can his prayers ever be answered?" This narration teaches us that in order to be close to Allah, you need to make sure that your faith is pure, and your body and what you put into it is also pure.
Another factor that determines if your supplication is answered has to do with your status in the eyes of Allah. If God grants you good in this world, it is temporary good that will last a few years or decades; but for those who hold a special status, Allah withholds answering their supplications until the Day of Judgment where good and blessings are everlasting. Yet, an even higher status is held for those who God loves to hear from. We are always immersed in our own problems and needs. And if our problems are not solved, we continue to call upon Allah: “O Lord, O Lord.” God says in the 77th verse of chapter 25:
Say ‘What are you to my Lord without your supplication?
Allah may delay answering your prayers if He loves hearing from you, and loves your company in supplication. Perhaps this is best explained with an example. Say that a father gives his son pocket money to enjoy every month. The son often takes the money and disappears for the entire month only to show up again at the beginning of the next month. So, the father –who loves to see and talk to his son often-, decides to divide this money and give it to his son little by little once a week. Now, the son comes to visit his father weekly, and if that father is late, he would wait for him and look forward to seeing him. The father in this case, by not fulfilling his child’s entire wish, has compelled the child through need to come and visit more often.
This brings us back to the verse. God says: ‘I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So let them respond to Me, and believe and trust in Me’ indicating that you have to come to Allah first with love and devotion, in order to be deserving of His company. God says in a sacred narration: “whoever is too preoccupied with my remembrance to ask of Me, I shall give him that which is better than what I give those who ask.”
Take the example of prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) when he was about to be cast into the fire. The archangel Gabriel came to him and asked if he needed anything? Abraham replied: “from you, I have no need.” There is no doubt that Abraham was in dire need of help, but he knew that his salvation from fire is beyond the ability of any creation; He understood to go directly to the source and ask God who created the fire. Thus, Abraham told Gabriel: “from you, I have no need; as from your Lord, He is fully aware of my situation for me to ask.” God answered:
"O fire," We ordered, "Be cool and safe for Abraham!" (21:69)
We should also learn from the prophet’s cousin Ali (may God be pleased with him) when a man came to visit him while he was sick and found him groaning from pain. The man asked: are you complaining father of Hasan? Ali replied: “I’m not courageous over God.”
The verse continues: “So let them respond to Me, and believe and trust in Me.” You are asked to believe in your Lord. You are asked to have absolutely no doubt in His knowledge and wisdom. God’s wisdom grants every supplicant the good that is appropriate for him or her at the time. It is not measured by your desires, wishes, or understanding; rather it is measured by God’s wisdom and wishes, and by your trust in Him.
The verse concludes with ‘so that they may be guided.’ What does it mean to be guided? It means to reach your goal using the easiest and shortest path. This verse was revealed after the verse that stated “the month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind” making it even clearer to you that the purity you gain in body and soul from fasting brings you closer to God, and makes you more eligible for supplication. Your share from a supplication may not be a direct response; but an increase in worship and purity.