“God answered our many prayers!” you’ll see on social media on any particular day. Most days really. Usually someone got sick and prayer warriors gathered in person or virtually and lifted their prayers to the heavens. A beautiful, miraculous cure occurred, followed by exhortations of the goodness of God and how beautifully the Divine answers prayers.

On the same day we’ll see a death, a diagnosis or some other grim outcome announced. The same kind of prayerful response ensues, to no avail. There are no claims that God answers prayers, only healing wishes and prayers for strength to deal with the sadness..

Should we think that these families, who did not have their prayers answered, were not worthy of God’s benevolence?

So what’s the deal? Does God only answer some prayers and not others? How is that decision made? Is God even relevant to the things that happen, or are they random occurrences? Or part of a plan made before we got here?

I am always thrilled and delighted to see a miraculous recovery from something and these days it’s usually really bad Covid. When cancer patients get really good results from their treatment, I celebrate with them.  But every time I read how God has answered that family’s prayers, I wonder how families who have a different outcome felt. Do they feel less than? Were their prayers ineffective and why?

Most of the time I think that we plan our lives before we get here and that the outcome is mostly set. The role of “free will”  is always confusing. Sometimes I think it’s just a “out” of some kind.

I’m not sure what role intercessory prayer plays in determining outcome. Maybe none.

I know, right? NONE???

That’s not to say I don’t pray, because I do. But it’s more a comfort, a way to attempt to exert some semblance of control into a situation that I know is not at all in my control.

As a cultural Catholic I never miss an opportunity to light a candle in a church and remember a loved one who has transitioned. I’m not exactly asking for anything, I am remembering. A different thing. Or maybe I AM asking for something. Because I HAVE asked for prayers.

It’s so confusing. Because I don’t think prayer works like a simple cause-effect.

As I age I find myself wrestling with big issues — that seem so illogical– more than I ever did. It’s hard to make sense of a world in which so much seems unfair. It’s natural to try to beg someone or something to step in and make it better.

Although we may not be able to easily influence outcome, we can say this with assurance: the one thing we do have control over is how we respond to these big life issues. We choose what we do with that situation.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about those whose prayers aren’t answered. What’s going on there?


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