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God Always Answers Our Prayers

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroAugust 07, 2012

God always answers our prayers. Sometimes the answer is “no.” You’ve probably heard this said dozens if not hundreds of times. It’s God’s “Get Out of Jail Free” card. In other words, no matter what you get in response to what you pray for, you can say God answered your prayers, and your faith in God is maintained.
In his new book The Ultimate Conversation, Charles Stanley writes that while God always answers our prayers God may not do so in the way we expect. Case in point Stanley says is the Jews and the coming of Christ. Two thousand years ago the Jews prayed for a military redeemer who would overthrow the Romans and liberate the Jews. What they got was the Prince of Peace and almost 2000 years of Jewish persecution at the hands of his church. Talk about not getting what you want!
But why stop with the Jews? If God’s answer to prayer can be the exact opposite of the prayer itself, why can’t it be that when Christians prayed for the return of Jesus, God sent them Mohammed instead? If God can supplement the Hebrew Bible with the New Testament, why can’t God supplement the New Testament with the Qur’an? Or, to be more blunt, why is it that God can mess with the Jews but not the Christians?
It seems to me that prayer is simply an expression of egoic desire: we pray to get what we want and avoid what we don’t want. Because we don’t always get what we want and yet cannot give up on the idea that we could get what we want we invent the notion that God always answers our prayers but not necessarily by giving us what we want.
This reminds me of a guy I met at a gas station yesterday. He was buying lottery tickets. By the looks of him he had been hit hard by the economy. I asked him if he had ever won any lottery money. He said he hadn’t. I asked him why he continued to spend money on lottery tickets. He said he didn’t want to give up on the dream. Maybe he should pray a little as well.

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Author and teacher Rabbi Rami Shapiro will lead “Walking Without, Journeying Within”—a trip to the Holy Land with S&H in fall 2018.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is The World Wisdom Bible.

He has this to say about religion: "To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence."

To comment on this installment of One For the Road or submit a question, email the editors. Questions may be edited for length and clarity; all are published anonymously.

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