Let’s be honest. More prayers are unanswered than answered. The amount of suffering in the world suggests God doesn’t intervene a lot of the time. If miracles are simply having enough faith and praying to God, why don’t supposed miracle workers go into all the hospitals? I bet hospital folks have as much faith as those healed at their rallies. Many are rightly disheartened about God when claims about prayers don’t match up with reality.
God can’t answer many prayers
We can’t pretend God can wave a magic want and always heal in a free world. It isn’t that we didn’t pray enough with the right words and behaviors so God will answer. There are many different situations. God can’t make one’s partner willing to stop drinking. It isn’t that God had the power to do something about it, but chose not to; it’s that God can’t. Divine love limits divine power. True love is uncontrolling. Ask adults about their parents. God’s love must be supportive.
A lot of prayers asking for healing are obviously not answered. I doubt God is just being stingy. Are miracles really arbitrary? Conditions in our body may not always be right. Various biological and environmental factors are involved such as cells, organs, etc. If God wouldn’t take away your human freedom, it may not be a stretch to say God has to account for natural freedom as well. Miracles can happen when God’s uncontrolling love aligns with countless factors known and not known. God surely intervenes by all means when circumstances will allow.
A truly loving God is doing all they can before asked
Do we really think God is waiting to help others until we ask? Prayer must be more than manipulating God to act. God may wait for our invitation for personal help to be more the person we deep down desire to be, but God is tireless in doing all they can for others and desperately seeks our help to change the world. One can always assume God’s blessing if not violating the rights of others.
How God answers a lot of prayers
Praying can remind us to offer help. God is an omnipresent Spirit. God already knows needs before spoken. It is easier sometimes to pray for someone rather than take cooperative actions with God. This may be the most common way that God answers prayers. Rather than praying your friend’s partner stop drinking, which is harming their family, see if your friend would rather you say something to their partner. When you know two friends are in conflict, speak to the one wrongly denying any wrongdoing. God always seeks our permission to use our lives to help others.
But the Bible says….
The truth is for almost every passage on prayer, there are opposing interpretations and other passages that suggest additional perspectives. Mathew 7:7 is used to support the false prosperity gospel: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Isn’t this passage in context simply saying that if we parents give good gifts despite our imperfections, will not God as our perfect Parent always want to give good gifts? First-century readers didn’t assume this was a blank check for requests. We must balance that the Apostle Paul believed in the power of prayer, but he also expected persecution for beliefs (2 Tim. 3:12).
So, why pray?
Prayer is more than asking for things. We can also talk to God for self-examination, for sharing our concerns so to not feel along in a chaotic world. Seeking God’s influence in our lives can lead to making wiser choices. God is already doing all they can in a free world. Pretending God can simply heal without accounting for freedom makes one’s suffering worse. God is tireless in working through individual lives to change the world.
God is always listening. God has endless mercy and forgiveness so we don’t give up no matter how demoralized we may feel. God is always available in times of loneliness. Friends can’t always be available in the middle of the night, or we may feel that we are overburdening our friends by always going to them. God speaks to us mostly through self-reflection as God only wants us to feel free to make decisions based on our gifts and aspirations. We know God is speaking when we hear: I love you; I forgive you; I won’t abandon you.
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