As a follow up to an article I recently posted by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield entitled “Does Prayer Work?”, I was lead to share some thoughts on God’s Will and how we reconcile it with our desires. As the Rabbi rightly pointed out prayer is not catalog shopping, and the fact that you don’t get what you want doesn’t mean prayer doesn’t work. In the Bible it tells us that if two or more believers pray together their prayers will be answered, some people think that means you get what you want. It means that prayers will be answered, and sometimes the answer is no.
Why is the answer no? God has a plan for us and if what we want goes against his will it will not be granted. So many people ask, if God has a plan for us then why pray for the outcome? Why does God allow us to suffer with loss and pain? If there is a plan, if we have a destiny, then how can we have free will?
Imagine yourself sailing a boat on the ocean, you have a limitless number of directions you can choose to steer your ship. Now think of God’s will as the wind that fills your sails. If you sail across the wind or attempt to go against the wind it will slow you down. Eventually those winds will take you to a specific destination, but the choices you make will determine how quickly you get there and how difficult the journey is.
Prayer isn’t just about asking God for help, it is also about opening our hearts to hear him speak to us. God is merciful and compassionate, but as a good Father he also wants what is best for us, and often what we want is not what is best for us. When we open our hearts to him he will reveal to us his plan. He has something far better in mind for us than we do and our journey through life is preparation for us to receive his gifts and not squander them.
God uses bad things for good, the story of Joseph is illustration of that. But on a personal level God teaches us and strengthens us through adversity. For those who put their faith in God and rely on him to deliver them through heartache, pain and loss, will have peace and their faith will grow.
So we pray to God because that brings us closer to him, he speaks to us not through words, but when our hearts are open, in ways that are unique for each of us. If you are sincere in your desire to hear him and to be close to him, you will know with certainty when he does speak to you. We pray for the outcome not to change his will, but to seek his will knowing that he has a better plan than we do.
We have free will because in exchange for Gods love and all the gifts he has given us, he wants the gift of our love in return. Most importantly he wants us to love him because we choose to not because he commands it. A gift that is demanded is no gift at all.
The challenge we all face goes back to the original sin. We all want to be God. Adam and Eve ate the apple so they could be like God, and after all that time has passed we still want the same thing. Once you can let go of that desire and recognize that God is in control, and that in the end all things work towards his will, then you can find peace and his will, will become your will.
Lastly you have heard the expression God works in mysterious ways, in other words you never know how he will help you when you need it. You may be familiar with the story about the man sitting on the roof of his house during a flood. Some men in a boat come to rescue him and the man says “I am waiting for God to rescue me” so they leave. Then a second rescue boat comes and again the man says “I am waiting for God to rescue me” so they leave too. Then a helicopter comes and the man says “I am waiting for God to rescue me” then after the helicopter leaves the man is overcome and drowns. Now he is before God and says “Why didn’t you rescue me?” and God says ” I sent you two boats and a helicopter what more do you want?”