The confused souls who don’t understand faith, God, Satan or good and evil are at it again. After the horrific shooting at the Texas church on Sunday 11/5, many are mocking those who are praying. Their argument goes like this: “so much for prayer”, or “where is your God now”, or “See, people who pray are stupid”. Another line of mockery goes: pray for yourselves for not banning guns in America. These folks deserve our pity, and yes, prayer. They need our prayers because their rudderless souls simply don’t know how God does, and doesn’t, work. I know. I too was an atheist, agnostic, “raised Catholic” and other similar labels until the grace of God allowed me to find my faith again and return to God and the Catholic Church. Here is what they are missing about how God works – the secret.
Those who mock prayer, faith and religion in general usually carry the pedestrian view that Christians believe that God will intervene directly in their lives due to prayer. The unfaithful and mockers of Christianity tend to view the prayerful as “failing” if their prayers are not answered. These non-prayerful folks claim to know what people are praying for and believe it is for things that are more material and personally helpful like money, power, and protection from wrong-doing. They reason that if “God is so powerful, he wouldn’t allow bad things to happen”. They use their faulty logic to prove “there is no God” since bad things happen – despite our prayers. Some even suggest that God is causing the bad things, exacting revenge on groups he disfavors. So let’s clarify a few things.
God loves everyone. He wants all persons to come to him in heaven at their death. His love is so great that He is merciful beyond levels of mercy that men and women actually deserve. Individuals merely need to repent from sin and avoid intentional mortal sin and through the redemptive power of Christ they can be saved at the time of their death to exist within the presence of God for eternity. However, God is also very merciful in that he has allowed us our “free will”.
Yes, that is the secret to good and evil in our world and to how God works – Free will. We have to choose between good and evil. Our choice decides our lives on earth and how we will spend it in eternity.
God has not set up a current paradise on earth – not at this time: we blew that in the Garden of Eden! God has allowed us to exist in a world of choices. We have the free will to decide what choices we make. We can choose to follow His commandments which are all summed up in the two great commandments Jesus described: Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself. If we choose to ignore His commandments and instead embrace evil, then we will do things like murder, commit adultery, steal, engage in sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, blaspheme, and even deny the existence of God, his Son and the Holy Spirit! God is loving and would never condone the harm, murder or enslavement of another person – as some people claim God calls them to do (these people may not really be worshipping God, but something else).
So the unfaithful among us like to point to the existence of evil and evil acts as proof that God does not exist or ignores our prayers. But, in fact, these very unfaithful should instead see the existence of evil and evil acts as proof that Satan does exist, not the absence of God. You see, good is all around us. When we embrace God and His path, we reject evil and live in peace and harmony. But Satan is always seeking to drive us from God so he can harvest souls of his own to grow the numbers in his realm – the realm apart from God, called Hell. Those who embrace these evil acts harm the good and innocent because of their own evil, not because their victims didn’t pray enough.
Now, for the atheists out there, you don’t have to believe in God, Satan, Heaven, Hell or prayer to understand any of this. The fact is that evil exists and people choose to act evilly for their own reasons. That doesn’t discount the fact that many (most) people are good and even though they walk a path of good, they too can be affected by evil acts. That is after all why God said “thou shall not murder” – because the innocent are affected by murder. If the unfaithful prefer, this law was just what the man Moses told the wandering Jews, not a divine edict. Further, for the unfaithful out there, you shouldn’t further claim, that having “disproved” the power of prayer and the existence of God, that is it time for you, the fallible human, to take over all of society to prevent evil acts. As it turns out, attempts to abolish evil are lengthy and the trail of history are fraught with failures or regimes that accomplished the opposite: see Hitler, Stalin, Red China and more. Each laid out a “golden path” for humanity that led to the slaughter of millions with Chinese policy inducing abortions under their limited child birth programs that continues to this day.
No, fallible man is incapable of creating a utopia on earth – there can be no such thing. Attempts to create utopia on earth involve one person or oligarchies depriving people of their freedom – and free will – to do things like own property, speak freely, practice their religion, and defend themselves with firearms. Proof of failure of a gun ban approach is evident in Chicago where guns are illegal and the innocent suffer horrible, violent deaths on a daily basis due to crime.
So the fact is that Free will is one way God works – without the power to choose between good and evil, we have no need for redemption and his help – we would always choose what was right since he would “force” us to do so. That is not the man that God created in His image. He wants individual to choose good and shun evil – so they may join him in His Heavenly Kingdom and not the Hell created for evil. The good news is that even those who have committed horrible sins, can still enter heaven if they repent, atone and stop the sinful acts (thanks to Jesus)!
A better approach for the unfaithful is to ask: “for what are people are actually praying”? Perhaps with a little good will toward their prayerful brothers and sisters they may realize they are praying for things like this.
Lord, help me avoid sin so I may be saved.
Lord, help my brothers and sisters walk your path so they too may be saved.
Lord, help me learn the best way to help people turn away from the evil they choose so they may be saved.
Lord, help my dear departed enter Your Kingdom by forgiving their sins and bringing them to everlasting life.
Lord, thank you for sending your Son to redeem me and all of us for our sins so we may be saved.
Lord, thank you for the many blessings you have bestowed on me so I may feed my children, place them in school and keep a roof over their heads.
Lord, help those who need your grace and mercy so they too can provide for themselves and their families.
Lord help more people act charitably toward other individuals and remove corruption from government that so often fails the poor.
Heavenly Father, please allow the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of men and Women who can’t hear Your call so they may be saved by the redemptive power of Jesus Christ!
I too was “too smart for God” after I went to college. After a good catholic upbringing, I thought that a little knowledge was all I needed to prove man’s supremacy on earth and that God was indeed dead. From there it was easy enough to decide on my own what was good and what was evil. That is how so many people are able to support things that are obvious evils on their face. Abortion – seems ok if I say so, forget about the baby being killed, let’s call that a “clump of cells”. Euthanasia – well those old people are costing society so much money, maybe we should just let them die peacefully – with an injection. High taxation – sure, let’s take from those who earned and give to the corrupt elite who can decide how to spend it. Remove the right to speak – surely people should be punished for causing “offense” to anyone who claims to be offended –as long as I can freely offend those I deem stupid Christians. It seemed obvious to me that all we needed was the “right people” in charge to decide what was best for all. How wrong I was. Then, thank you Lord, I returned to my faith and God’s path and am far better for it. Now I pray regularly, thank the Lord often for my many blessings and to help me walk His path. I think that makes me a better person – better than I used to be. It helps me to choose good and my conscience is more sensitive to when I sin and need to seek redemption which I do through the sacrament of confession (thank you Jesus for that!).
So pray my friends. Pray my brothers and sisters in God, my friends who have realized the truth of God and reject the evil works of Satan. Pray for those without faith, those who mock the prayerful, and those who cast vile insult at you in Jesus’s name. Pray that they too will find it within themselves to open their hearts to the boundless grace and mercy of God. Pray that they who belittle religion and faith in our society will instead stop fighting against prayer in school, moral behavior among their brethren, and life itself. Pray that all will realize that with prayer, faith, hope and charity, we are a better nation and a better people. In other words, pray that they too will pray to God. Then, and only then, will fewer people choose evil and more peace prevail for all.