Prayer is a mystery. It is through prayer that I live most days in peace. Without prayer, I get stuck repeatedly obsessing and emotionally reacting to the many wrongs that are a part of my daily life. It’s the little things that take away my peace and focus on prayer. It’s only when I have myself all worked up that I notice I have not been in touch with God about that situation. But the bigger issues in my life—the ones I know I have absolutely no control over—those I daily commit to prayer and rarely take them back after they have been fully turned over to God mainly because the prayer subject is way too much for me to devise a plan to fix.
Recently, I received an answer I did not like at all to one of these huge prayer commitments. I mean I had done everything right. I accepted that I was not in control. I accepted that only the Lord of God the God Almighty knew what was best. When I got the answer “No,” it devastated my soul. I was just so sad. I didn’t want that answer. I thought I had accepted the answer My Lord and Savior, who I trust completely, gave me in answer to my prayer until the next day. Particularly since I have been recovering from foot surgery, I have been asking God for a miracle parking place when I run certain errands that I know it will be difficult to park close. God has granted miracle after miracle in response to my prayer. The day after I received the news, I prayed for a miracle parking place. As I prayed, my own thoughts spilled out to me and God: “I’m sure you will give it; You answer positively the prayers that aren’t as important." I drove to the place and all the parking spaces were filled with happy people, enjoying their day, children popping out of cars with ease, and adults smiling, walking to their happy destination. I drove on to find one space across the street at a weird angle and parked there. It required much more effort having to change from my shoe to my boot to make the journey across the street, only to discover that my errand could not be completed. I went back to my car, and without much thought of my bratty prayer, started to back out when in the middle of the street a car almost hit me. That experience shook me back to reality about God. Yes, He is the one who is in charge of the answers to my prayers. He will never leave me or forsake me; He is taking care of me, not because I pray the right way, but because I pray. His answers are always right even when I can’t see it. I so appreciated His protection on my journey and keeping me from having an accident that day.
When God asks us to suffer more in answer to our prayers, we must put out total confidence in Him alone. Our minds are too finite to comprehend the intricacies about the situation that He alone knows. Francis Fernandez wrote these words in a sermon about the Suffering of the Innocent babies who were killed by Herod the Great after He learned of Jesus’ birth found in Matthew 2:16-18:
“Suffering comes in many forms. No one willingly looks for it in any of them. And yet, Jesus proclaimed as blessed (privileged, happy, lucky) those who mourn, that is to say, those who in this life carry a heavier cross; illness, handicap, physical pain, poverty, slander, injustice…Faith transforms the meaning of suffering.”
Thomas Keating explains it this way. “There is a great mystery in the suffering of the innocent. Perhaps it is just to accept it as a mystery, rather than to try to explain it. Apparently Job did not take Satan into consideration in his complaints step by step, materially then spiritually, as you see from the text, especially we read on, he is left with only outward consolation: the fact that God is God, the creator who can do whatever he likes, and nobody can say to him “You can’t do that to me.” As he is reduced gradually to the acceptance of that fact, and to silence, the purity of his love grows a pace. In the end, God made Job twice as rich (…a symbol of his interior grace) as he was before his trials began.”
Paul encourages us to claim this hope found in Romans 8:28:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
I may not be able to understand my own suffering, but I can understand that God invites me to have confidence in Him and not doubt His goodness when He allows suffering.