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"...whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith." Mt 21.22


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#1 Algernon

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Posted 19 October 2014 - 12:40 PM

My brother now rejects the Faith and the Bible because he prayed with faith that our mother would not die of cancer. She did. He says now that this verse--a quote from Christ Himself--is a lie, therefore the whole Bible and every word or teaching from Christ and His Church are suspect. I had no answer for him. He is right, the verse clearly says "whatever you ask." Does "whatever" mean something other than "whatever" here. Does it really mean "some things," or "a few things"? How are we to understand this?

 

Thanks

A



#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 19 October 2014 - 02:03 PM

Algernon, it would be helpful to know how long ago this happened - is it a reaction to an immediate loss? The passage mentioned is from St John's Gospel, notably at 14:14 but is mentioned elsewhere as well. First, we must acknowledge that the passage is difficult and is central to the problem of apparently unanswered prayer. It is a trite observation that we have to ask in Christ's Name and for things which are for the benefit of our soul and its salvation. But there are times when we ask for something which from any point of view seems right and we pray to Christ with our whole being but what we ask for does not happen. This is especially hard when the matter concerns bereavement, and I well recall grappling with this when my wife died from cancer thirteen years ago.

 

When a loved one has a terminal illness, what ought we to pray for? A miracle of healing? This is not wrong but what if healing is not God's will? What we should pray for is that God will grant the dying person the grace to bear the illness and make ready for an entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. After all, the greatest miracle is our salvation in Christ, and it is the healing of the soul which matters, not the healing of the body. We should also pray for grace that we left behind will bear our loss. But it is not all loss: our loved one enters Christ's Kingdom - can we not be glad for them that they are where we all aim to go? And what if our loved one goes there before us - can we rail against God and prefer that out loved one should not be with Him but still with us? I don't know what you mother's age was but it must be admitted that it is natural for parents to pass away before their children; consider how hard it is for parents who bury a child as my late wife's mother had to. But we have to face bereavement in Christ. If we pray in His Name for consolation, will He not give it? But we have to pray in humility: if we are bitter at heart, we cannot pray in His Name, and that bitterness will block our prayer.

 

For everyone, there is a time to depart this life and go to God, and we could wish for nothing better for anyone than being closer to God than is possible in this life. Writing a letter of consolation to parents whose only son had died, St Basil the Great said, 'earth has not covered our beloved but heaven has received him'.



#3 Algernon

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 12:31 PM

Thank you, Reader Andreas. But I think you're missing the point. It is not so much the passing of our mother, but that Christ is quoted as saying something that is clearly not true: "Whatever you ask in prayer you will receive if you have faith." My brother prayed fervently for a miracle and was convinced that God would work a miracle. He prayed, he had faith. Now he feels that God reneged on his promise. Now my brother has lost his faith. And I have nothing to say to convince him that he's reacting inappropriately because he is right: Christ clearly says "Whatever you ask in prayer you will receive." He did not say, Whatever you ask in prayer you will receive...as long as it conforms to my will," or "...as long as it is what you ought to pray for," or "...as long as it is for the betterment of your soul." The only condition on this promise is "...if you have faith." Well, my brother had faith. Now he does not.

 

btw, she passed away four years ago.



#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 01:52 PM

I tried to indicate that the words of Christ, in the various Gospels, cannot be taken on their own as a blanket promise to do anything we ask, even if we do ask in prayer. The word 'anything' cannot be taken to be absolute. To take one saying at its apparent face value is not, I think, the way to approach scripture. We pray, 'Thy will be done', but what would that mean if God's will could be overturned by prayer? See 1 John 5:14. No doubt very many Christians pray for a loved one to recover from a terminal illness - if these words were absolute, all those so prayed for would recover which would be extraordinary. And if we pray for a loved one to recover and stay here instead having their entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, for whom really then are we praying? So, I don't think we can isolate Christ's saying from His whole message otherwise we end up not believing anything. After all, we pray to take Holy Communion 'for the healing of soul and body'; by no means all who take Holy Communion are healed of their sicknesses - does that mean that Holy Communion is of no effect? Sick people are given Holy Unction but remain sick or die - does that mean that sacrament is useless?


Edited by Reader Andreas, 20 October 2014 - 01:53 PM.


#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 02:31 PM

I would add this for anyone for whom some tragedy in life shakes their faith. We are dealing here with a 'hard saying'. In another context, Jesus gave a hard saying, about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. His followers could not hear this and left Him. Christ turned to His disciples and asked if they would leave too. Let the person suffering tragedy and thinking of leaving Christ make his own Peter's words: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'


Edited by Reader Andreas, 20 October 2014 - 02:32 PM.


#6 Mark Harris

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 05:07 PM

I am not saying that this applies in this case but I often remind myself of this "all who ask and do not obtain their requests from God, are denied for one of the following reasons; because they ask at the wrong time, or because they ask unworthily and vaingloriously, or because if they received they would become conceited,... or finally because they would become negligent after obtaining their request" St John Climacus Ladder of Divine Ascent

#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 06:04 PM

I do think that comes across as harsh in these particular circumstances. The issue is losing faith because an apparent promise was not kept. But, as I have tried to indicate, things are deeper than that, and we have to understand Christ's words in context and not as an unequivocal promise, notwithstanding the apparently plain words He used. We must accept that all things happen according to God's will, and if He wills that it is time for a person to depart hence to the Kingdom of Heaven, then that is that. Perhaps we should keep in mind Christ's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Can we tell God when it is time for a person's departure for the true life?



#8 Mark Harris

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 06:17 PM

I do think that comes across as harsh in these particular circumstances. The issue is losing faith because an apparent promise was not kept. But, as I have tried to indicate, things are deeper than that, and we have to understand Christ's words in context and not as an unequivocal promise, notwithstanding the apparently plain words He used. We must accept that all things happen according to God's will, and if He wills that it is time for a person to depart hence to the Kingdom of Heaven, then that is that. Perhaps we should keep in mind Christ's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Can we tell God when it is time for a person's departure for the true life?


my quote would be harsh if I was suggesting it applied to this situation but I indicated that I am not applying it in this case - it is however a good way to understand why other Prayers may feel unanswered,

#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 06:35 PM

That is so, but we need to have regard to the situation Algernon has mentioned.



#10 Lakis Papas

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Posted 20 October 2014 - 10:56 PM

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.



#11 Ben Johnson

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Posted 21 October 2014 - 06:11 AM

We need to remember to ask according to His will:  "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandment  s  ." -- John 14:13-15.  NASB



#12 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 October 2014 - 07:04 AM

There is something strange about losing a faith once had. One who did would have to accept that his former faith was in fact always false. I can see the difficulty in feeling bruised by God's apparently ignoring our entreaties made in faith and hope, and searching for meaning in what happened, especially when we hear of others apparently having their requests granted. But if a man decides God doesn't exist after all, then he must accept that He never did and so no promise was ever made.



#13 Rdr Thomas

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Posted 21 October 2014 - 12:49 PM

Andreas, the pathos evident in your comment reminded me of my own struggles.  I was raised in a devout Southern (US) Baptist household.  One of the first things I did when I left home to go to the military was "grow up" and jettison my faith.  For over 15 years, I considered myself an atheist, and a fairly in-your-face one at that.  It took me years to come into my right mind (to borrow the phrase) and realize I was just angry at God.  My anger didn't stem from anything like what Algernon relates, but it was real to me, nonetheless.

 

Having come full circle (and thankfully into the fullness of the Orthodox faith), I think my approach would be that when we pray for people, what we're praying for is for God's mercy and salvation for that person.  And it could be that the most merciful and salvific act for them is to allow their earthly life to end.  It may seem like cold comfort to us who are left grieving, but I know that in my case, it's comforting to know that God loves and grieves over that person more than we do.  Knowing this, I'm able to trust in His Love and find peace.  May God grant such peace to this poor man.



#14 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 October 2014 - 12:58 PM

Thomas, what you say of your own journey reminds me of the man who said he became a Christian 'because I began to doubt my doubt'.



#15 Ben Johnson

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Posted 22 October 2014 - 04:06 AM

My brother now rejects the Faith and the Bible because he prayed with faith that our mother would not die of cancer. She did. He says now that this verse--a quote from Christ Himself--is a lie, therefore the whole Bible and every word or teaching from Christ and His Church are suspect. I had no answer for him. He is right, the verse clearly says "whatever you ask." Does "whatever" mean something other than "whatever" here. Does it really mean "some things," or "a few things"? How are we to understand this?

 

Thanks

A

THe best thing to do now is to pray for your brother and be there when he needs you.  A seed was planted ih him and may yet again sprout.



#16 Algernon

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Posted 28 October 2014 - 02:09 AM

There is something strange about losing a faith once had. One who did would have to accept that his former faith was in fact always false. 

 

No. His faith was sincere. But now be believes that what he had faith in--the Church, the Bible, etc--are false and

 

 


 

But if a man decides God doesn't exist after all, then he must accept that He never did and so no promise was ever made.

 

He doesn't believe God doesn't exist. He just no longer believes in His church or the Bible.



#17 Rick H.

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Posted 28 October 2014 - 10:41 PM

My brother now rejects the Faith . . .

 

What does this mean?   What is 'the Faith' that he has turned from?



#18 Sacha

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Posted 01 November 2014 - 05:21 PM



Lakis Pappas,

Look into Frank Viola's article on his website re the identity of Paul's thorn in the flesh.

The messenger in 'messenger of satan' is the greek aggelos, and could have been translated as angel.

Does it make sense to equate 'angel of satan' to a disease?



#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 01 November 2014 - 06:31 PM

Rather than Frank Viola (whoever he may be), I would turn to St John Chrysostom who makes clear St Paul's adversary to be Alexander the coppersmith.



#20 Sacha

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Posted 01 November 2014 - 08:21 PM

Reader Andreas,

So you would agree that Paul's thorn in the flesh was a man, and not a disease?






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