a day late…
OK, so can prayer change things? After looking at a few biblical passages with some brothers in Christ, I think the answer is that apparently it can…
I freely admit that this is based on that fact that I trust the Holy Bible to be accurate, and that might be another article at some point, but I do. Also, though there have been many times when I prayed for something that I saw no direct result of the prayer, there have also been times when I did. Experience is not the best proof of truth, but it cannot be ignored by me either.
What I don’t understand is why or how prayer works… the mechanics of prayer seem to be something that God has not revealed, at least not to me.
In the midst of being super frustrated at times that I don’t understand this about prayer, and that I don’t understand how and why God answers what He does and doesn’t… and the way He does or doesn’t… in writing this, I have realized that I am also very glad.
That may sound odd, but here are why:
The concept of a Father
First, I cannot imagine how I would be able to perceive God as a Father (much less as sovereign Lord) if He was always predictably responsive to my whims – or even my real, honest and intense desires.
This would be a poor way to parent. I regularly (and maybe every single time) I pray for things that I don’t understand and I don’t even know if they are a good thing or not. Often I have prayed for things that I can look back and see how devastating their fulfillment could have been. As the old theologian said, “sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers…”
I have a son who would eat nothing but sweets if we let him. He is obsessed with candy, dessert, etc. Recently he said “Dad, I wish cake was good for you.” If I gave him what he wanted all the time, he would eat nothing but junk food. I would be a poor father who let him do that.
I totally understand why it is hard to perceive Him as a Father if He also allows His children to suffer abuse… and I want to comment on that too… cause I don’t want treat God in a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” way – I admit it is the toughest part of all of this for me. Suffering in general, though, cannot be called evil. Much of the time, we look back on suffering as a powerful time of growth that we wouldn’t trade now.
Good fathers must let their children face challenges, fail, fall down, and even suffer – or they will never learn to walk, run, seek help, ride a bike…
“Our children need to be needy so that they will need God.” Kathy Collard Miller
I said I would be totally honest about the questions in my own heart, and one of the toughest one for me is about abuse.
I am completely convinced that God loves freedom for people, and that He prizes freedom conceptually as a means and an end (Galatians 5:1) and that a consequence of humans having freedom is child abuse.
At the same time, it is very difficult for me to imagine having the knowledge of ongoing child abuse, having the power to stop it and not stopping it, especially as a father.
I have only two thoughts that bring me comfort with it:
Before I write them down, I would like to make it clear that I believe and understand that though there are dozens of conceptual, intellectual and/or philosophical rationales in regards to these issues, but the problem of suffering would be another article entirely… I am also aware that few of these offer much emotional solace.
Also, this article is about wrestling with prayer in particular, not suffering in general. Clearly, the two topics are connected, but I don’t want to chase that rabbit too far. So, right here I am just going to mention the specific reasons why find comfort in regards to prayer…
First, that I know that, just as was true of my earthly father, he often did things or allowed things that I didn’t understand when I was a child. This was constant when I was a child, so I can accept that it is obviously the case that God has a much more complete perspective on all of this. Though I cannot imagine what it would be, but there have been times when I could not imagine from my limited perspectives a ton of things that have made sense later. I believe that only God has, or could have, that perspective.
Second is the idea that this isn’t it. This life isn’t all that there is. In fact, this life isn’t even primarily what this life is all about. I do believe that God will make all of this right.
This brings us to what is one of the big three (suffering, prayer, judgment) questions for which my answer is that I trust God that He knows what He is doing and will also still know what He is doing when He judges, and in ways that any of us would be radically incompetent.
God will make things right; He will make all things new.
Actually, there is one more way that the extremes, like abuse, play into my wrestling with prayer… imagining a world where horrible wicked things happen despite me and others praying for them to stop. A world in which God doesn’t even always answer my prayers about something as obvious as this…
As this article has made me really ponder this I realized something… and is has been shocking to me… the only thing worse than a world in which God doesn’t always answer my prayers the way I ask…
is one in which He does.
More to come.