The Mystery of God’s Will. There is still one question we need to answer as we look at the call to intercessory prayer: What about prayers that never seem to get answered? Related to this is the age-old question that even shows up at various points in the Bible: Why is there so much suffering-especially among those who are trying to obey the Lord? Why does God let good people die young? Why does he not intervene and stop all the abortions or put an end to war and genocide? We can look at passages like Psalm 13 and Habakkuk 1:1-3 for examples of how even the holiest of people-prophets and psalmists-puzzled over these questions.
It’s pretty safe to say that there is no simple answer. If there were, people wouldn’t still be asking it so persistently. But even as we admit that there is a mystery here, we should not conclude that intercessory prayer is useless, or worse, that God is too remote to care about us. He wouldn’t have sent his Son to die for us if he didn’t care. The witness of countless saints and biblical heroes tells us that we should always pray when we face difficult or challenging situations. But it tells us also that our prayer should not be limited to asking God to take away the problem or to demand the solution that we think is the best one. Rather, in our intercessions, we should also ask God to soften our hearts and help us stay open to the mystery of the way he is at work among us.
In our world, the word “mystery” usually means a riddle that needs to be solved, as in a crime novel or a crossword puzzle. But this isn’t the kind of mystery we mean here. Rather, mystery here speaks about God’s eternal, all-encompassing plan and purpose. It has to do with a plan from our heavenly Father that is so vast that we cannot possibly grasp it in its fullness. It is something that we will never figure out-but something that God can reveal to us a little bit at a time.
So when we face a trying situation or dilemma, we should continue to pray for healing or a solution. But we should also ask God to shed some light on the mystery behind this situation and to give us the grace to embrace his plan, whatever that may be. We should always keep our hearts open to the Lord and repeat the words of the psalmist: “I trust in your faithfulness” (Psalm 13:6).
May we never limit God or tell him exactly how he should intervene! Of course, we should feel free to tell him honestly how we feel about a puzzling situation-even to tell him what we wish he would do for us. But we should always make our prayers with the humility of children, acknowledging that our vision is clouded and our knowledge is limited. It won’t be until we are with the Lord in heaven that we will see the whole picture and understand exactly how “all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). In the meantime, our best response is to pray fervently and to try our best to follow the Lord and live in his love.
We Can Change Lives! In all of our intercessions, be they for the sick, for an end to war or abortion, for the church, for healing in a marriage or family, or for our loved ones to come to know the Lord, we should never be anxious. Instead, let’s follow Paul’s exhortation: “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Philippians 4:6). He is all-powerful, but he is also all-wise. And that means that we can rest in his provision, even as we try to work through difficult, challenging situations.
As we “stand in” for others and intercede, we will see our Father working powerfully among us. As incomprehensible as it sounds, we can change people’s lives with our prayers. It may not be exactly as we would wish, but we should know that whenever God’s people turn to him in prayer, he works marvels. So let’s never go a day without lifting up the needs that are on our hearts-both the large, global crises and the small, personal ones. He is a loving God, and he will hear and answer us.
(Joe Difato is the publisher of “The Word Among Us” devotional magazine. To contact him, go to his website at www.joedifato.com. Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to use his articles from their October 2009 issue. Used with permission.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. The first paragraph of the article begins with the heading: “The Mystery of God’s Will.” It then poses the following questions:
- What about prayers that never seem to get answered?
- Why is there so much suffering-especially among those who are trying to obey the Lord?
- Why does God let good people die young?
- Why does he not intervene and stop all the abortions or put an end to war and genocide?
How would you answer these questions?
2. The article goes on to say that when we face a “trying situation or dilemma,” we should do the following:
- We should continue to pray for healing or a solution.
- We should also ask God to shed some light on the mystery behind this situation and to give us the grace to embrace his plan, whatever that may be.
- We should always keep our hearts open to the Lord and repeat the words of the psalmist: “I trust in your faithfulness” (Psalm 13:6).
If you have ever taken these steps, what were the fruits of doing them?
3. How have you seen Romans 8:28, “all things work for good for those who love God” answered in your own life?
4. The last paragraph begins with these words: “As we ‘stand in’ for others and intercede, we will see our Father working powerfully among us. As incomprehensible as it sounds, we can change people’s lives with our prayers.” Do you believe this? Why or why not? Share any examples of this.
5. If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to lift up each others pressing needs, believing these words of Scripture: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11).
(The discussion questions were created by Maurice Blumberg, a Trustee of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/), and currently the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a ministry of The Word Among Us to the Military and Prisoners. Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)