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Question 47

What is confusing is that we are told if we pray then 'God will (might) wave his magic wand' and help us. I read a story about Syrian Orthodox who were captured by Isis. they were good and pious people, they prayed and prayed yet their daughters were still raped and killed and they themselves suffered unimaginably. so I don't understand why we are instructed to pray when the results seem inconsistent and arbitrary at best.



Answer to Question 47


Christ said: “And whatever you ask in prayer, if you have faith, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22) and yet we see that this is not always the outcome, that according to how we see things, many prayers go unanswered. We do not know or understand God’s plan for each person and maybe we don’t understand what Christ meant when he said “if you have faith”. We may think we have faith, but faith does not mean believing in the existence of God for even the demons acknowledge that God exists: Faith means living a spiritual life according to the Gospels, it means living a holy life: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19-20) We see this in holy men who have dedicated their lives and every breath to God and we can see that they truly have faith and works because God answers their prayers. 


In your example of the Syrian family you missed out on one crucial fact, that the rape and killing of the daughters was allowed to happen by God, because through their suffering they were rewarded with martyr’s crowns and a blessed eternal life with the ranks of the saints. All the Orthodox Christians who suffered for their faith in Christ by Isis are martyrs. At this moment they may not officially be recognized as martyrs by the Church, but at some time in the future the Church will recognize them and probably assign a day for them to be celebrated together in one feast. This happened with the martyrs of Smyrna and the martyrs under communist Russia. 


I don’t know if you read the recent posts on Prayer? In the second post I wrote “Every prayer directed to God in faith is answered. This does not mean that what is asked is always given, for God knows better than the person who prays what is good for him.” God looks at what is best for our eternal salvation and not what seems best to us in this temporary life. 


Why he sometimes intervenes and at other times he doesn’t can seem inconsistent and arbitrary to us but to answer this one would have to be God. I cannot give a satisfactory answer but I have seen his intervention in my own life. Also as a priest I have seen many miracles to be reassured that God does hear our prayers and does intervene. Last year one of our members of the English Liturgy group was diagnosed with stage four cancer and was literally given only 2-3 months to live. In desperation she came to me and I performed the sacrament of Holy Unction for her (Agion Euhelaion). That same week the doctors did more tests on her and discovered that she didn’t have a trace of cancer, it had completely disappeared. Why she was cured and not others I don’t know, but such miracles which doctors cannot explain prove that God in his divine providence can and does intervene.