Does Prayer Change God’s Mind?

When I wasn’t hurlting like a porpoise on speed down a slip-n-slide, or trying to tear the arms off of my neighbor’s Stretch Armstrong as a kid, I often played Solitaire. (“Where is this going?” you ask.)Playing Cards

Of course, Solitaire is all about getting the right cards at the right time. And when the prospect of “winning” (a strange term when you’re playing against yourself) grew dim, I would praise God. “You’re so great, God. Thank you for life. Thank you for making me a boy and not like my gross sisters.” And so on.

In my twisted little world, I thought God would respond to some “buttering up” and give me the right card. Overhearing me from the kitchen one day, my mother called out, “It doesn’t work like that, Matt!”

And before (or after) you’re finished chuckling at my expense, take a look in the mirror. We’ve all done it. When we want or need something really badly, we “ramp up” our activities vis-a-vis God. Maybe we say a few extra “Hail Mary’s” or darken the door of an adoration chapel at midnight. “Hey God! You seein’ this?” we cry? “How about helping me out?”

Computer modeling of what I'll look like playing Solitaire in 2040.
Computer modeling of what I’ll look like playing Solitaire in 2040.

The problem with this is that Scripture (Heb 13:8) and the Catechism both tell us that God is unchangeable. You could move into the adoration chapel and it wouldn’t change his mind. (Though it might get your parish membership revoked.)

His perfect will is going to be accomplished one way or the other. We can either accept it, a choice that leads to happiness, or we can reject it, a choice that leads to misery. It’s that simple.

Still, I know some of you are still asking, “If it’s ultimately going to happen one way or the other, why bother to pray?”

Yes, God is unchangeable and his will is going to be done one way or the other. But just as there are many ways to arrive at a particular destination, God’s will can can come to fruition in any number of ways. In fact, he is constantly working around our mistakes or capitalizing on our faithfulness. Prayer is part of that faithfulness.

We pray because that’s how God set it up. It’s an homage to his providence. In fact, prayer acknowledges there is a God and that we are governed by a divine Being who is deeply interested in the affairs of our life.

Just like a parent wants their child to ask nicely (“please” is the magic word, after all), our Father desires we approach him as the children we are. Prayer keeps us humble and reminds us of our place in the supernatural order. God is Father. We are children, completely and utterly dependent upon him.

There’s certainly more to say on this subject. We’ll pick it up next week. In the meantime, keep praying and trusting!

God bless!

Matt

Why God Sometimes Doesn’t Seem To Answer

Have you ever looked back on something for which you were prayingBusinessman is praying to solve the financial crisis hard and thought, “Man, am I glad that didn’t happen!”?

Whether it was desperately searching for a stylist at SuperCuts to perm your mullet before prom, or a significant other you wanted to ask out to dinner who later went on a three state crime spree…We’ve all had things (or criminals) for which we begged God that wouldn’t have been good for us…at all!

Remember that God always answers our prayers in one of three ways: “yes”, “no”, or “not yet”. Hearing nothing but crickets from heaven is especially frustrating when you’re jonesin’ hard for something. But let’s be honest, Garth Brooks knew exactly what he was talking about back in the 90s when he sang “sometimes  I thank God for unaaaannnswered prayers.” (Love that song.)

Remember that as your Father, God always has your best interest at heart. And that doesn’t mean just the “here and now.” Rather, like any good parent his biggest concern is for your eternal well-being. So if you’re currently praying for something, remember that there is a distinct possibility that the best answer may be no answer.

One way or the other, keep praying, my friends! God bless you.

Matt

 

The Easiest Way To Become Spiritually Perfect…Guaranteed!

So you want to become perfect. (Or at least you should.) But there’s one little problem.Perfection concept.

Except for Our Lady, not one of us was born into the perfect life. (Your mother-in-law might think her son is perfect, but…)

Here’s the thing. Jesus says in Matthew 5:48 “be perfect even as your heavenly father is perfect.” And let’s be honest, that’s a bit of a high bar. “C’mon Jesus! Isn’t that impossible for everyone descended from Adam and Eve? I’m struggling hard to be good, much less perfect!”

But while Christ calls us to the perfect life, we have to understand how that happens. We have to reorder our understanding of perfection. The bottom line is that we can’t make it happen on our own.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re a bit weak thanks to that original couple with no belly buttons. But that’s okay. God is well aware of our inadequacies. In fact, he sent his Son to make up for our inadequacies.

In 2 Corinthians 2:9-10, St. Paul says of the Lord, “but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Except for your Uncle Phil apologizing for taking another hot dog at the family picnic, when was the last time you heard someone boast of their weakness?

Paul continues: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (v. 11)

In other words, perfection means accepting our weaknesses. It’s only by giving them over to Christ that we become strong. That’s why Paul is “content” in his weakness. He knows Christ works through it to make him holy, to move him toward perfection.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t striving with all of his might to be holy. Rather, he accepts that without Christ, he can do “nothing.” (John 15:5)

So if you get frustrated with various spiritual struggles, don’t get too down on yourself. Instead, relax a little and give them over to our Lord. That’s the only path to perfection humans can actually travel.

God bless!

Matt