When prayers do not change circumstances

Many words have been dedicated to understanding matters around prayer. Almost every current of Christianity has a different position on its power or its applicability. Many debates even arise in different media, leading to heated discussions about the relevance of praying in one way or another according to the biblical mandate or personal and community experiences.

In Latin America, for example, the vast majority of non-Catholic Christian believers are concentrated in Pentecostal, neo-Pentecostal and charismatic churches. In these places, it is common to find the belief that prayer is a tool to make God act on behalf of the person who prays, and thus, God intervenes by meeting the needs for which one prays.

Actually, a smaller group of followers of these kinds of movements maintain that by making certain prophetic declarations and decrees, they will snatch from Satan the legal rights over particular situations of the children of God. In this way, blessings will be released and believers will receive them, regardless of what nature they may be, from healing, elimination of poverty or economic difficulty, wisdom, among many others; as varied as there are people in their congregations.

Likewise, it is common to see that some enthusiastic preachers order God to change their unfavorable situations or those of their followers, through public prayer in different ecclesiastical settings. According to their words, everything is possible to those who believe, from finding a new job for those who ask for it, to helping a soccer team become champion of a competition.

These types of religious expressions are highly criticized by atheist and agnostic groups, who mockingly throw rhetorical questions into the air to distort the power of prayer, even the omnipotence of a God, who, according to their reasoning, randomly allows the hunger of Christians in remote parts of the world, while helping a high school swimming team to be crowned champion of a student cup.

Seeing Christian soccer players who give glory to God for their sporting triumphs thanks to their faith and devotion has become very popular on social media and public stages, but the questions around that are always held by people who question what methods God uses to bless a Christian athlete to be recognized and signed by a European team, but not another, also a Christian and equally devout.

Of course there are always answers. From the possible lack of faith in the least favored, to the certain hidden sin that does not allow them to advance to a new level. However, what is certain is that there are always sentences that have an affirmative answer, as well as others that do not.

On the other side of the spectrum, we can find other Protestant churches, which do not understand prayer as an opportunity to move the hand of God in their favor, but rather to, through it, understand and accept God’s will.

Thus, a sovereign God, who acts in ways that although not understandable, always seeks the good of God’s children, whether through blessing or test. God allows things or causes them, and in this way, human beings must accept that providence, since the ways of the Lord are mysterious.

Biblical texts in context or out of context have served as support for both positions. From the prayer of the Old Testament prophets asking for fire from heaven against other false prophets, to the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane asking the Father that not the Son’s will be done, but the Father’s own.

However, many of the prayers are born as a cry of anguish from the soul, from moments of greatest need, and even sadness. From that position in which evil has left us. That evil that expresses itself in an illness, in economic failures, in the midst of a child’s rebellion or obvious drug use, through heartbreak or infidelity, in the discontents of life, etc. The evil.

In the midst of this panorama, answers are sought… What is evil? What caused it? What did I do to deserve it? What did I fail at?, many of which are addressed through prayer.

But Jesus apparently does not concentrate so much on discussing evil in the world, or what caused it, or why it happened. Rather, he spends his time reacting to it. If there is someone sick, he heals him; If he finds a leper, he touches him; If he sees a sinner, he hugs them, offering them forgiveness.

Of course, we are accustomed to reading these passages through our literal mystical eyes and that has distracted us from seeing the miracle behind the miracle. There is a phrase that in recent days became popular on the internet. It states that the gift is always, always, the hands that give it.

So God may well perform miracles, and a lot of people testify to them, but when God does not, when prayer does not change the circumstance, it is possible that its object is not that, but to change ourselves. To be more like Jesus.

It is very difficult to assume a compassionate attitude in the midst of an evil and indifferent world, but perhaps that is the true prayer. May we be living prayers. May the Church of Christ, responsibly assuming the metaphor that the Apostle Paul assigned to it, be a body. A body with arms to hug, hands to help, shoulders to console, a heart to love and feet to serve. And let us become that prayer to the Father who not only asks God, but rolls up its sleeves to do God’s will.

That prayer that does not ask for food for the hungry, but rather gives food, that which does not require the healing of the sick, but rather visits and heals the soul, accompanies the body and cries with those who suffer. To pray in the name of Jesus is to live like him and do what he did. The prayer that changes us, and then, changes circumstances.

Meanwhile, while we are here and we are human, we should learn how to be more compassionate to those who raise a prayer out of their pain. Sometimes we need to take away our theological wisdom and understand that although many do not believe in miracles, in the midst of despair, one miracle is their only solution. Maybe God does produce it. Maybe not, but in the midst of adverse circumstances, hope and contemplation alone are all the miracle anyone needs.


Ps. David Gaitan

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