Folks, I want what I do to be for the village… the community… the place where the spiritual unites with the physical.
So, for me, taking classes at George Fox Seminary to get my certificate in spiritual formation is about more than just me. I am doing it because it is what I must do… for the community and for God.
I recently finished my semester paper for my class on prayer and as I wrote it with the community in mind it is important for me to share it here. I will be posting it up in sections over the next week or so. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
To read part 1, Starting with Prayer, GO HERE…
To read part 2, Prayer and it’s place in the Spiritual Life (pt 2), GO HERE…
To read part 3, The difficulty of sustaining our prayer life, GO HERE…
To read part 4, Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology, GO HERE…
Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology (part 2)
I don’t know God’s reasons for answering or not answering prayer, whether they be earnest, not earnest, Christian, or not Christian. Theologically, I believe a number of things, many of which I mentioned above, that help me in my understanding of God and prayer.
I believe that God desires to be in relationship with us. He has shown us this through the way he has revealed himself in the scriptures, the God-man Jesus, and throughout history. I believe being in relationship means he feels our suffering and he desires our wholeness. He wants to see us joyful, happy, loved, and healthy.
I also believe that God is infinite. So while he is more present and more compassionate than our finite minds can wrap around, he is also infinitely more beyond us than we can imagine. He does not experience time as we do… which changes everything. Pain, suffering, unanswered prayer, planetary cycles, birth, death and so many more things change drastically from an eternal perspective.
Part of this infiniteness of God is that there is a much bigger story, of which we are uniquely connected to, that we do not know. God operates in this story. Within that story, however, we live… and die. God has created the universe to operate in a certain way… a way that includes many things that cause us pain… a way that many of us pray to be different. I sincerely believe that much of the sorrow that we experience, the things that we pray to be different, have come about because of choices that we as humans have made that are outside of the way that God has made the universe to be. God’s universe is meant to be sustainable. Humans are meant to experience health, to be cancer free, to live full lives. This is how God wants us to be. But because of many choices that humanity has made over hundreds of years, we experience much non-health because of it. As I mentioned above, God has given us free will and I believe that his actions to heal or answer prayer that go beyond the natural consequences are indeed miraculous. It is very important for us to pray in the way of God’s story. With that comes taking personal responsibility for living in ways that align ourselves with how God would intend us to live. This is our taking responsibility for our free wills and surrendering to living as created beings… seeking to be in communion with the Creator. We cannot live unhealthy lives, eating junk food and sitting inside all day, and hope that God will answer our prayers for good health.
This is the stark reality of an honest theology regarding prayer and God’s interaction with us. I, of course, would not take a theological approach to someone struggling and suffering because of unanswered prayer unless I was truly certain that they were asking for it and needed it. As I said above, the way of compassion, presence, and understanding is much more called for in most situations. Ultimately, I believe God wants us to be fully human in all that that entails… created in his image, living in union with him and each other, relying on him for our daily bread, and living in a way that creates harmony on this earth. When this is our prayer, when this is the deepest yearning of our hearts, he will answer our prayers… because it is what he wants in this beautiful universe. May his kingdom come!
One thought on “Unanswered prayer (part 2)”
Excellent way to handle this difficult concept, Nate! I agree completely. It would be so much easier for us to understand God if we could see the “bigger picture”. Guess we are not meant to.