Does God Answer Prayer?
Today I'll be continuing my thoughts on prayer with reflections on how to understand how/if our prayers are really heard/answered by God.
I frequently get asked if I believe that God answers prayer.
I used to give a not-very-well-thought-out answer that was grounded more in the black-and-white fundamentalism of my youth. Here it goes:
"God always answers prayer. Sometimes the answer is 'Yes,' and sometimes it's 'No.' But often it's simply 'Wait.'"
There. It's a simple answer that covers all of the potential bases when it comes to dealing with the outcomes of whatever situation we are dealing with at the time.
But what if your prayer is that God spare the life of your child who has a life-threatening disease, and then they die anyway? Does that mean that God simply said, "No, sorry. Not going to do that today."
We run the risk of turning God into a monster in that instance, or worse as a God who is arbitrary and capricious in the way that prayers get answered. Some people are favored, and others aren't.
Some might say, "Well God is God and you aren't. So it's best not to question God's methods. After all, God's ways are not your ways."
That doesn't sit well with me at all. It's fatalism at best, and terrible life-sucking theology at worst.
Here's what I think. I think God desires healing and restoration. God desires that we live flourishing and abundant lives. God longs for us to have peace and clear direction in our lives.
And often it is during times of prayer when we come to God with our longings, hopes and dreams for ourselves and others that we begin to see more clearly how God is always working within us to move us toward the wholeness we seek.
We might even be willing in those moments of prayer to learn what it means to surrender our outcomes, and to trust God.
And we might also realize that the sometimes things just happen. People we love get sick and die. Tragedies strike us. Depression looms. Our life feels like it's falling apart.
This is part of what it means to live in a Creation that operates in freedom from Divine coercion or demands for love. God might not cause all things, but God is present in all things.
We also have the opportunity to realize that the answers to our prayers are often within us. I've written here before that prayer more often than not changes us, transforms us and shapes us to become the answer to our own prayers.
As you pray today, give yourself the chance to surrender your outcomes. Trust that God is with you and has your best interests at heart. Believe that in spite of all that you might be facing, you have the kingdom of God within you.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.