It was almost 30 years ago, but I remember it well. I had been praying for God to reveal His will to me about a very important work related issue. I believed then (and I still believe today) that I heard God’s answer and proceeded accordingly. I hoped and prayed that by doing so the situation would be resolved. However, when all was said and done, what I hoped and prayed for didn’t happen. The situation was not only not resolved, but had gotten worse. To put it bluntly, I was fired from my job. Which raised the question “why bother praying?” Since then I have had that experience a number of times. And I have heard from others that they have experienced the same thing from time to time. And the question is still there. “Why bother praying?”
The larger question is “if God is really in control of all things and people, why can’t He somehow just make everybody do what He knows is the right thing?” The right thing being whatever is needed to fulfill the hopes God has given you and which you are praying for. Over the past 30 years or so, I’ve learned a lot about hope and prayer. I’m sure I still don’t have a complete answer to this question, but possibly what I write here will be helpful, especially if something is going on in your life which has caused you to raise the question “Why bother praying?” All of what I say here is based on my understanding that prayer is not simply talking to God and telling God what you want Him to do, even if it’s in agreement with what God wants. Prayer is two way communication between God and yourself. It is talking with God, with an emphasis on listening to God. It is also being with God without speaking a word.
I believe God can control every detail of every thing in this world, but He is a self-limiting God. He has created human beings, not robots. Which is what we would be if God decided to take direct and total control over everyone and everything. God has instead chosen to work with and through human beings who He has made in His image. Toward that end He has given us free will, allowing each one of us to choose to accept or reject His invitation to participate with Him in moving toward the fulfillment of His ultimate hope for humanity – the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. If and when we accept his invitation, He will give us all the resources we need to do precisely what He wants us to do and to be who He wants us to be. The self-limitation He places on Himself is an expression of His love for us all.
Some of us will say “yes” to Him, adopting His hopes for us, and accepting and applying all the resources He gives us in order to participate and cooperate with Him. However, we have to bear in mind that there will be those, sometimes a significant and even overwhelming number, who will say “no”, or will say nothing at all, which still amounts to “no”. They also have free will. As they exercise their free will to say “no”, they often prevail. It is especially in those times and situations that those who say “yes” need to pray, with emphasis on listening to God’s direction. If we do that, here are some of the things we are likely to hear:
* God might say, “keep at it, eventually you will wear them down” (them being the naysayers). You might also discover some new approaches as to how to proceed.
* God might say, “you have done all I expected you to do. Now it’s time for you to move on and let me work on this issue through someone else. Then you need to be listening as to what, when, where, and how He wants you to move on. This usually doesn’t come all at once. It takes time.
* God might say, “because there is so much opposition or apathy concerning this issue, at this time and place, with these people, I’m going to start something entirely new. However, understand that while your hopes were not fulfilled here, what you did here was valuable and will have lasting effects”.
* God might say “right now you might not understand what I’m doing or the significance of what you have been doing, but the time will come when you will know what I have done and what you have done – what we have done together. And you will see that it was very good”.
I’ve said it in a previous blog, that the God’s ultimate hope is spoken as part of The Lord’s Prayer, “…thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” If I were writing that prayer today, I would use the word “kingdom”, because I know nothing about kings and kingdoms. Instead, I would say “… may Your (God’s) hopes for all of us be fulfilled …. Ultimately, whatever words you use, that hope in that prayer will be answered. This includes the hope that when we leave this world, we will see Jesus, and we will be like Him. As will the hope for eternal life, in a state of being with no more tears except tears of joy, no more fears, no more pain, no more death or dying. There will be nothing but peace, love, and joy – forever. There is no grater hope than that.
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.