Prayer And Providence
We are taught, since we were children, to pray for the things we desire: from health for us and our beloved to a job, a wife, a house, and obviously salvation. We pray for other reasons too, of course, but today I will focus on this one.
However, we are also told that nothing happened that has not been preordained. Non si muove foglia che Dio non voglia, “not one leave moves, but God wants it so”.
How do we reconcile these two apparently antithetical positions? With the most difficult phrase of the first of all prayers: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Prayer is not a magic ritual with which I can, in a way, move God to change His mind. God is – whatever idiots and perverts like Francis and Father Jeanine Martin tell you – unchangeable. Perfection can only be omnipotence and immutability of will and being.
God does not change his mind. You do.
Prayer is the process by which I allow myself to wish for a desired outcome that seems good to me, whilst accepting not only that God's will will be done, but that God's will is exactly what is best for me in the end.
My prayer is, at the same time, my submission and my acceptance of whatever outcome God has already established. My prayer is, in fact, the willed embrace of whatever outcome God has already decreed. I am not trying to make God behave the way I want. I am trying to become what God wants me to become. In my prayer, and in my acceptance of what the Lord has providentially decreed, I strive to conform myself to His wish, rather than trying to conform Him to mine.
The Lord has, as we have said, providentially decreed, already now, whether my prayer will be answered. Whatever happens it is good that it be so (in which way exactly I will see after death).
Why, then, pray?
Because it is part of God's providential plan that we pray. Because if God wants to give a certain desired good – say: a job, a wife, a house, and most of all salvation – He is very likely to want me to pray for it, uniting my collaboration to His already made, immutable will and unchangeable decision; so that, once again, I may be changed as I receive what I asked for. And if he does not want to answer my prayer, it is because it is better for me that He doesn't (which can happen in a varieties of ways, some of which very clear to me: to teach me submission, obedience and abandonment to His will are the easiest to understand).
God wants that we ask Him for both what he gives us and what he does not give us. And he wants us to ask for it with stubborn determination. The wife who sees, after 50 years of prayers, her husband abandoning his atheism has not decided, after 17.5 years, that she has prayed for long enough. She does not stop asking, she does not stop hoping. She accepts the final outcome all the time. But what joy, to know that God has allowed one to collaborate with Him in the salvation of her husband's soul, with 50 years of prayer!
In this way, prayer and Providence are intertwined; our prayers are the threads of our life, and God is the one who, after giving us the threads in the first place, weaves with them the canvas He has decreed.
In this understanding of prayer is the key to a much happier life, because it teaches us to grow in humility and to submit to God's providential work, knowing that what he sends us is, without exception, what we need to grow in faith and get nearer to Him.