God's Will vs Free Will: Epilogue

Part IV and Final Chapter of the Process of Prayer

I must say that I am a little relieved that this is the last in the series about God and Prayer.  I have learned that this has been more for me than anyone reading it.  It has gotten pretty personal and like the song from Anna Nalik called Breathe puts it:

 And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you'll use them, however you want to

I wouldn't write it for everyone to see if I didn't have some kind of hope that at least one person can get something out of it.  I may never know.

At the end of my last post, I was kind of at a spiritual crossroads.  To refresh your memory, or catch up, you can find it here:  Part III of the Series

No one wanted to walk away from God more than I did.  My position was that I put God and His existence to the test and He failed miserably.  If I can take that and write Him off in "Ostrich Paradigm" fashion, I can still make the best of this life.

No more would I have to yield my life to a myth's idea of morality.  There was a freedom there that I could sniff out even through the heavy stench of grief.  I was on my last legs before; now the God-myth just took my legs out from me.  Well, this was going to be the last time!

However, something funny happened on the way to the Evolution lecture. God was still there. I can't really explain it.  It wasn't this cool, "I'm with you even in your sorrow" kind of presence.  It was just this ubiquity that I couldn't escape but wanted to quite badly. So now, not only could I not break away from the God myth, I had to face the reasons why God, Himself, didn't care enough to honor my prayers. I wasn't angry with Him, just hurt and confused. The account of that struggle is for another time, if ever. 

It took me weeks to allow myself to think about it very much.  Sure, I vented to a few people I thought might understand . . . I think I was wrong about that, by the way.  I finally just had to concede that I don't know why things happened the way they did, I just have to accept that it did and that either way, God isn't going anywhere.

In the light of all this, what is prayer all about, then?  It is how we commune with God.  I think it is that simple. 

It isn't about petition or a list for Santa, although there isn't anything necessarily wrong with that.  It isn't about flowery speech.  It isn't about showing others that you are well versed in God-speak. It IS about connecting, venting, having fellowship, and even having conversations with the ONE that created the Universe but still has time enough for you.  If you ask God for specific things, it may not turn out the way you want. Things have to satisfy His overall will.  Yes, I recognize that this looks like a cop out, but it is what it is no matter the appearance.

I do now believe that God answered my prayer. No, He didn't answer it the way I wanted Him to, of course. If I am to be honest, in a practical sense I was praying for immortality for my mother.  That wasn't going to happen no matter how much favor I might have had with Him. What He did do was give me more time with her than perhaps I would have had under normal circumstances.  He gave me additional weeks of stroking her hair, kissing her cheeks and telling her how much I loved her.  He even gave me a few "I love you's" from her to me. It still hurts too much to be grateful, however.

It is tough to make sense of this "God's will" thing and the intersection of His love for us and His desire to give us what we pray for. To understand God's will, it might be easier to first look at the story of us backwards.

". . . and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4

At this point, we must allow ourselves to redefine the word "almighty".  God is not almighty in the sense most of us think He should be.  Blasphemy, yes?  That is okay; I also voted for Obama so I am used to being on the outs with my Christian brothers and sisters.  But to clarify, His essence is almighty but not necessarily His practice.  He is bound by His nature. God IS His nature (see: forms, Plato).  He is truth.  He is just.  He is righteous. He is love. In other words, to visit an old, well known logic puzzle: Can God make a stone so heavy that even He cannot lift it?  The answer is, of course, yes.  If God says that He can't lift it, then He can't.  He would be bound by His own word that he can't lift it.

One thing that God is bound by is his gift of free will to man.  You don't have to be a believer to see that the will of man has really messed things up on this planet.  So, you have man's free will vs God's will in our day to day lives but we know it all has to end up like the passage from Revelation that I listed above.

The best way I have ever been able to understand this concept is an example I heard from a teacher years ago.  He used the example of a chess master.  I can remember when Bobby Fisher or Boris Spassky would put on these chess exhibitions by playing hundreds of people at the same time.  Each contender would make a move and the master would make a counter move and then step to the next table, make that move, and then to then next one, the next one, etc., until he made it all the way around and was ready to make his second move against player number one and so on.  At the end of the day, the master always won every game.  Each player had the free will to move wherever he wanted each time.  However, at the end of it all the master satisfied his own will by incorporating the wills of all he played in the process.

God allows us to exercise our free will, but in the end, Revelation 21:4 will be satisfied. Like any good father, he does what he can to please us, but not to the point where He defeats what must be.  This process can be very painful for us as it has been for me and that has to be okay.

And after all that I've been through
Now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley
To stand upon the mountain of God

--Mac Powell, Third Day - Mountain of God

Of course, this is how I understand this concept right now.  I can't pretend to understand God's true nature and how He really operates as a matter of undisputed fact.  I am just a frail human being that longs to understand things that are always going to be above my pay level.  For any definite wisdom that I have in understanding these things, I must borrow from another Greek philosopher, Socrates.  My wisdom rests on knowing that I really don't know anything.  However, most never make it that far.


Michelle said...

It's not easy to find God in times of suffering. And yet people do. When my great uncle was murdered my great aunt went to church and prayed for the young men who destroyed everything in her life.

It's a huge topic really. And not an easy one! I doubt many people will be brave enough to reply to thse posts Jeff. Not because they aren't interesting, but because the provoke more thoughts and questions than answers.

Jeff said...

True, Michelle. I am not sure that I am even looking for any more answers. You are right about people perhaps not responding. I think this is why I have had a long lay off from blogging. This is the stuff that I think about. Maybe I have outlived my usefulness in the blogging world.

Amel said...

When I was in my darkest moments, I also read C.S. Lewis's A Grief Observed. He was really honest and raw there and it helped me a lot.

Then a friend also kept reminding me of this: "When you can't see His hand, trust His heart". I held on to those words with all my might.

I think sometimes God says "no" to our prayers and that is painful, especially if you feel that you've done "all the right things" so to speak. Sometimes He says yes, sometimes He says not yet, sometimes He says no. Other times we feel He's totally silent for some reason.

Anyway, when it comes to our loved ones who've gone before us, this song is really soothing for me:

Hello After Goodbye

Jeff, don't think you're not useful in the blogging world. Your voice is important. I think many people are in FB/Twitter and stuff like that these days, so their priorities have changed. Blogging is a more "serious" platform where people write longer texts compared to FB/Twitter. Back in the old days I also used to get many more comments, but funnily enough there's still a steady stream of people reading my posts (even though they're mostly silent lurkers). I also think some of the bloggers in the old days have stopped blogging completely. So keep on writing! :-)

@M: WOW, I'm always amazed at people who have experienced tragedy like that, but can still pray for those who have destroyed their loved ones.

Agree that this is a heavy topic laden with questions.

Jeff said...

Amel: "I think sometimes God says "no" to our prayers and that is painful, especially if you feel that you've done "all the right things" so to speak. Sometimes He says yes, sometimes He says not yet, sometimes He says no. Other times we feel He's totally silent for some reason."

Yes, and that is the cop out that skeptics like to talk about. If I tell you that I can take a tennis ball and throw it around the world, you will want to put it to the test. So, we go outside and before I wind up to throw it, I say to you. This might go all the way around the world, or it could just go about 100 meters, or I could just drop it and walk away. We will just have to see. You might think, yes, but that does nothing to make me believe that you can throw it around the world EVER.

What I am writing about is trying to make sense of that without rolling my eyes and giving into the Ostrich Paradigm.

I love CS Lewis. I will have to check out your suggestion.

Amel said...

Hmmmm...never thought of it this way. I guess I'm too used to listening to "cliches" concerning Christianity that they're embedded in my mind so deeply already? And I just realized that I've never really talked to skeptics, either. Thanks for making that point.

I'd love to know your thoughts on that particular C.S. Lewis book (it's not a thick book).

Michelle said...

I don't think you've outlived your usefuilness. Just this week I had four new subscribers. I suspect that way more people read than comment. In fact... I'd bet real readers are not reply-ers. Think about it. The people who reply are debaters, people who want you to read them, or people with very strong views/ideas. (like us? LOL LOL ) But most readers don't think about replying. How many people read magazines withot ever sending in a comment to the editor page? ;-)

Jeff said...

Amel: First let me apologize. I hope you didn't mean that I think that YOU are authoring a cop out. Let me explain. When I introduced this blog post on Facebook, I wrote this:

Cop out or enigma? You make the call.

So, I responded to your comment as if you had seen that. I'm sorry.

Yes, I am putting that C.S. Lewis Book on my reading list. Maybe I will blog about it. Thanks~

Jeff said...

Michelle: You may be right about the readers/commenters. Unfortunately, other than the comments and subscribers, we really don't know if our stuff is being read, do we? I mean page hits could mean that they happened along or they did a Google search and decided it wasn't what they were really looking for.

Blogging, unless you are doing fluff pieces, can be pretty grueling. You really want to know that it is worth it or if you should you just keep a journal instead.

Whether it is worth it stems on this: is anyone getting anything out of it? If not, it is just a practice of narcissism.

Michelle said...


Listen to the lyrics. :-)

Amel said...

No, no worries. I didn't feel anything of that sort. Instead, you make me think of all the platitudes I've heard all my life that I may have adopted without thinking of them as cop-outs. And no, I didn't see your blog post on FB. We should be friends first ha ha...

FYI, when it comes to blogging, I think even if only a few people read it, it's still worth it because it's also my way of documenting my thoughts or even processing my thoughts/feelings. Of course naturally I do want to have some readers to have a conversation with, but I know I can't handle too many commentators he he he he...