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Why Answer Some Prayers But Not Others


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If anyone can explain this in a rational way I'd appreciate it greatly.

Mrs C. next door prays to god and finds the wedding ring she lost last year. God obviously answered her prayer.

Six million Jews pray to god for their lives and are turned into ashes. God had a lesson to teach.

This is a loving god?

And please don't say god's ways are mysterious and not for our understanding. The only lesson learned from the second example is that humans can be cruel to each other.

Who knew?

Eustace Flynn

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Hi Eustace Flynn. I understand where you are coming from. I personally feel that god doesn't answer prayers like that. If someone prays and what they prayed for happened to come to pass, it was either coincidence or they "reaped and sowed" and received something good because they put good energy out there and drew it to them. I certainly could be wrong, I don't claim to have ANY clue when it comes to god or the afterlife, etc. (I wish I did, lol.) There is no way to know why these things happen. It bothers me. I don't know why a god would allow the things to happen here that happen. But I do think there is some type of Creator being who is loving. It just seems for some reason that horrible things are allowed to happen. Some say it is to learn. Some say it is because of darkness ("satan"). I don't believe in satan but I do believe there is darkness on the earth and that is what causes evil to happen. And then the "lightness" and beauty in the world is "god energy." I have my own version of spirituality, I don't follow any one religion (and don't like religion, actually). Everyone has their own views on the nature of god, and it's important we treat all views with respect and try to be kind, even when we disagree. :)

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Hi Eustace Flynn,

What type of prayer? There are many, intercessory, imprecatory, etc.

Praying to God (Christian) is in itself a supernatural act, so if you mean you’d like a rational (scientific) explanation, then the answer cannot be given to you using the science tool, God promises to hear all our prayers but whether they will be answered depends on His will, sometimes yes, sometimes no, or sometimes something different than what you originally asked for.

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It is my Christian belief that when God doesn't answer a prayer, this is in itself an answer. This is not what God feels is the best plan for you. Some requests are absurd and we are tempted by satan to make them (anyone can think of a million of these), and if it is not God's will, he isn't going to answer it.

My father is a Jew, and the fact that six million of them were needlessly killed does not make him less of a believer in God (even having family members killed), and I see openly where many of his prayers have been answered even though as a Jew he is not a believer in Jesus Christ as our savior.

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I like Maddie´s answer. I have spent a long time thinking about this question, particularly after my visit to the Jewish museum in Berlin. I´m a Christian and pagan blend, believe in the Almighty but not God or Jesus in particular. My father was an atheist. I do pray, but I don´t ask God to grant me something, I ask some of my guardians in the afterlife to help me to make something happen.

When it does not happen, it may not be the right time for you. Dailai Lama said that "some of the best wishes do not come true" meaning that sometimes an unfulfilled prayer may be good in the long run.

Check out Rabbi Kushner´s book "When Bad Things Happen To Good People". It´s a remarkable book and is written with much love and sincerity.

Edited by Violet31
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I agree with the general ideas expressed in this thread as far as God not really being responsible for that woman finding her wedding ring. But if she believes that God helped her find it, I don't see any real harm in that. As for God "not hearing the prayers" of those who were killed in the gas chambers (and every other victim of m*****), again, I agree with those who say it is the "darkness" in the world (which I define as sin) that is responsible. And as a Christian, I believe that God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ so that God could totally identify with our suffering and redeem us.

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It's a good question. It may be "the" question, since in a way it asks why there is evil in the world when God is good.

I still believe that God is good and that God loves us. But it's a messed up world with messed up people in it. Is God's eye on the sparrow that falls from a tree? Yes, I believe that. But in the paper today I read about a 3 month old girl in India who was tortured and killed by her own father (because he wanted a son, not a daughter). How could God let that happen?

I don't know.

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Hi Eustace Flynn,

What type of prayer? There are many, intercessory, imprecatory, etc.

Praying to God (Christian) is in itself a supernatural act, so if you mean you’d like a rational (scientific) explanation, then the answer cannot be given to you using the science tool, God promises to hear all our prayers but whether they will be answered depends on His will, sometimes yes, sometimes no, or sometimes something different than what you originally asked for.

Although prayer is not an exclusively judeo/christian practice it is most commonly associated with those faiths and their derivatives. In those areas of the world that had no exposure to the god of the bible/koran/torah, prayer often was expressed in some very nasty ways eg. human or animal sacrifice,deprivation or even genocide (removal of a group that "displeases" god in order to gain favor). The common thread, I believe, is that something is being asked of god to gain personal or societal advantage or to avoid the disasters that often befall our species. I am not equating "rational" with "scientific", I am simply asking for an example of a prayer being answered that could only have resulted from the intervention of an unseen intelligence.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had no idea that even the concept of prayer could be different for so many people. Is it only fanatics who believe god speaks directly to them or is that a view shared by many believers?

When I hear someone tell me that god spoke to them (and there have been more than a few) and that they have even met her, I can't help but have doubts. Some true believers seem so sure of god's presence and they actually have a conversation....well I have to doubt that.

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I think a lot of people do think god speaks directly to them. I don't think it is common for people to claim god spoke to them in ways like, the world is ending in 2012, or so and so is the antichrist, or god told me we should all move to Texas and build a compound where everyone has to wear white robes and shave their heads, etc. I think most "believers" just think they hear god's voice speaking in their heads in very subtle, little ways, giving comfort, confirming or alleviating doubt.

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If God does not answer your prayers, you might say "it is all part of his divine plan". So if he is going to do what he wants to do anyways, why bother praying at all? It doesn't make sense to me. I guess it may help to give the illusion of some control over your life circumstances, but when things don't work out, you will just feel worse off due to feeling disappointed as well as a whole other host of negative feelings because your prayers apparently didn't get answered.

Edited by Avian86
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If God does not answer your prayers, you might say "it is all part of his divine plan". So if he is going to do what he wants to do anyways, why bother praying at all? It doesn't make sense to me. I guess it may help to give the illusion of some control over your life circumstances, but when things don't work out, you will just feel worse off due to feeling disappointed as well as a whole other host of negative feelings because your prayers apparently didn't get answered.

I think that's the paradox that keeps me from understanding the idea of prayer.

It is universally accepted among christians that god does have a plan and god's methods and motives are beyond our comprehension. So does this mean god anticipates prayer and his/her response is ready to go before the prayer is made? Or is the one praying hoping they can surprise god with an unforseen situation (difficult when god is all-knowing) and asking for an alteration in the Great Plan?

Isn't that a bit arrogant?

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  • 1 month later...

If God does not answer your prayers, you might say "it is all part of his divine plan". So if he is going to do what he wants to do anyways, why bother praying at all? It doesn't make sense to me. I guess it may help to give the illusion of some control over your life circumstances, but when things don't work out, you will just feel worse off due to feeling disappointed as well as a whole other host of negative feelings because your prayers apparently didn't get answered.

I think that's the paradox that keeps me from understanding the idea of prayer.

It is universally accepted among christians that god does have a plan and god's methods and motives are beyond our comprehension. So does this mean god anticipates prayer and his/her response is ready to go before the prayer is made? Or is the one praying hoping they can surprise god with an unforseen situation (difficult when god is all-knowing) and asking for an alteration in the Great Plan?

Isn't that a bit arrogant?

Yes, God's methods and motives ARE beyond our comprehension and God does know and anticipate our prayers before we pray to him because He is all knowing. The Bible also tells us these things. I personally believe in prayer and that God desires intimate fellowship with us through prayer. I also believe He speaks to us with the Holy Spirit's guidance through His Holy Word. Nothing surprises God!
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This is really interesting and something I relate to very much. Eustace, I have asked that exact question regarding the holocaust many times. I can only imagine they 'had faith' a loving god would here them, and as 'a father' how could god not reach out and save them. Yet everyday I hear people tell me they are 'blessed' because of silly little thins (similar to your finding the wedding ring example) or because they have a great partner etc. Well I dont, does that mean I am not blessed, not chosen? I find this goes against everyything the bible teaches. I was bought up in a Christian home so have 'all the answers'...yet I find it incredibly difficult to hear responses like its an opportunity for growth, or god disciplines those he loves. Sometimes in life things that are horrible happen and I think people should not assume because things have happened to them in a certain way they are blessed/had prayers answered when others have not

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wow, Eustace! You are asking a BIG question. Not that it's a strange one, it's just that many Judeo/Christians struggle with answering this kind of question, including myself.

Many prayers may go unanswered because God has His Timing, which is often not ours. This can be explained (a little) by the fact that God is Omnipotent & therefore is not bound by time. It is also a slippery slope to only pray to God because we 'fear Him' or because we want/expect something in return.

I agree with one of the previous replies, that reading the book

"When Bad Things Happen To Good People" would be helpful & another book "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis.

As far as 6 million + Jews/gays/etc. ******** by Hitler & not rescued by God… My feeble way to explain this: may exist, in part, at perspective. God may have intervened & saved countless millions more. Hitler was a sick, sick human, & Satan must have delighted in his derangement.

Eustace, I applaud your inquisitiveness. :detective2:

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I have struggled with finding a meaning in the holocaust and other terrible tragedies. A good friend of my family was a holocaust surviver - she was taken by the French police during the roundup in 1942 when she was a child but managed to escape with her mother after a terrible incarceration. The rest of her family was sent to various death camps.When she was seventeen she had to go to the camps to gather informations on her dead sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles... the list was endless. I lived with her abroad for some time and interviewed some holocaust survivers for a memorial.

I´ve visited the Jewish museum in Berlin and a death camp outside of the city. I felt so much evil energy there, I had difficulties sleeping for weeks afterwards. My feeling was that there was no god there. There was only some evil kind of energy I felt sickening.

I´m not a church goer and not particularly religious, and I don´t believe in Satan as depicted in the Bible, but I believe in a higher power. I also believe in free will. I found some solace in Viktor Frankl´s books, particularly "Man´s Search of Meaning" which is a unique book about surviving four death camps and being able to make a decision, even in extreme circumstances to choose how to react to suffering.

I think prayer is a wonderful tool. It may be useless for some, but for me it´s like a meditation and I feel instantly better. I believe a prayer involves good energy, letting go of pain and turning it over to a power greater than ourselve. It may make us less arrogant and more humble and then the mind is more open, so we might find a solution.

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I tend to believe if there is a God (personal jury's out on that), he doesn't answer prayers, except when we answer them ourselves. Hear me out.

Free will is the core of human existence. Per nearly any Christian teaching you can find, God created us specifically with free will. We have the choice to make choices, both good and bad.

No, I'm not saying the Holocaust was the choice of the victims or anything. But it was the choice of those that caused it to happen.

I don't think that whatever deity rules us controls every facet of everything we do, even when we specifically ask that being for xyz. If God controlled us that thoroughly, and did what we asked, it would invalidate free will. The victims in the Holocaust asked God for salvation. He gave their captors the ability to choose not to commit horrors. They ignored that choice.

It doesn't mean that prayer is useless. It just means that we perhaps shouldn't see it as a "get what I want just because I asked"

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There is a book called "When bad things happen to good people" by Harold S. Kushner (a rabbi). I kind of liked his explanation. Maybe God has created everything, but either cannot or does not interfere with the laws of science. Things seem horrific now, but what if when we leave this life and enter an eternity w/o a body, it is all crystal clear...

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  • 1 month later...

If anyone can explain this in a rational way I'd appreciate it greatly.

Mrs C. next door prays to god and finds the wedding ring she lost last year. God obviously answered her prayer.

Six million Jews pray to god for their lives and are turned into ashes. God had a lesson to teach.

This is a loving god?

And please don't say god's ways are mysterious and not for our understanding. The only lesson learned from the second example is that humans can be cruel to each other.

Who knew?

Eustace Flynn

That's one of the many reasons I lost my faith in God. You have people praying to win football games (isn't that the same as asking God to not let the other team win? And aren't we supposed to put OTHERS ahead of ourselves??) while other innocent people suffer and have no help at all. It doesn't make any sense at all.

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If anyone can explain this in a rational way I'd appreciate it greatly.

Mrs C. next door prays to god and finds the wedding ring she lost last year. God obviously answered her prayer.

Six million Jews pray to god for their lives and are turned into ashes. God had a lesson to teach.

This is a loving god?

And please don't say god's ways are mysterious and not for our understanding. The only lesson learned from the second example is that humans can be cruel to each other.

Who knew?

Eustace Flynn

The failure of prayer is one of the big reasons i stopped believing in god. If god doesn't help starving children in africa, he won't help me with anything. If he ain't listening to me, there is no reason to believe in him.
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Hi Eustace,

I don't think there is anything wrong with you being honest and holding fast to the truth as you see it. In fact I think it great and noble and admirable. I admire you for it. The questions you ask are the most profound that can be asked, in my opinion. Sadly, no one has answered them to the satisfaction of everyone.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think we human beings have an instinct for the truth. I mean truth is so important to our survival. It is important that I not eat poisonous substances. It is not a matter of indifference whether this plant is food or poison. At our best moments, I think all people want to embrace the truth, respect the dignity of the truth, want to hold fast to it. That in itself seems significant to me: how people deep down want to be on the side of the truth, how deep down people know that error can be dangerous.

Sometimes it feels like I am in a jungle with a map in my hand. The map helps me make sense of the jungle. Other people are holding different maps. Sometimes the differences in the maps seem minor. Other times they seem major.

There is something very mysterious about a map. A map is designed to show what it intends to show as accurately as possible. But every map is a simplification and this is not a fault in maps. Maps are intentionally simplifications. Why? Because a map of a jungle, say, that was as complex as the jungle, showing every plant and grain of sand would be as difficult to get through as getting through the jungle itself. And then maps are simplified by their purpose. A geological map is different from an aeronautical map. A map for hikers is different than a map of underground water sources. A cute map for a tourist is different than a map showing the location of avalanche hazards. Maybe I am wrong about this.

Sometimes the best place to go for questions of philosophy or religion is a book on the history of philosophy or a book on comparative religion. If you find good ones, they usually deal with the big questions and how various people and cultures have tried to map out the terrain. But sometimes it is good to remember that every map is a simplification and the same goes for every philosophy and religion. And while no one wants to embrace outright error, it is not a fault of a map that it is a simplification. Nor is it the fault of a philosophy or religion. Perhaps I am wrong here too.

I think it is important to love oneself wherever one is. If one is doubting, love oneself. If one is lost, love oneself. If one is confused, love oneself. What is that old Zen saying: Wherever you go, there you are. I would like to say something on the problem of evil and on prayer, but this is not a religious Forum. So all I can say is that truths are not just propositions with subjects and predicates. I believe that you are a truth. You are a truth which adds something to the universe. You do something true for the world simply by existing. I believe that you are not only a truth but a law too. I don't know, but this is what I think.

Anyway, I am glad you exist! I know that doesn't answer your questions or help much. But I don't know what else to say. Sorry!

Edited by Epictetus
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