Meaning in Prayer
Does this mean that prayers for protection or healing are meaningless?
Not at all. God can and does answer such prayers, but we should not rely on them for cures or for protection from every contingency. When “cure” does not happen or protection is not available, “healing” always is. That is, we can always depend on God’s loving and comforting presence to be with us, sometimes through loved ones and fellow believers, sometimes in the quiet moments we cherish during prayer and meditation. We can be healed from meaninglessness, self-pity, loneliness, and frustration as we face a new future. Adventists have never believed we have guarantees in this life that prevent us from suffering or dying. Our guarantees are in the future when all that terrifies us now will forever be banished. “How long shall I live” or “Will I have the optimal possible life now” are not the proper questions for Christians to ask; the proper question, as University of Virginia School of Medicine professor Margaret Mohrmann so aptly puts it, is: “How will I live the life that I have?”—that is, the life God will help us live to the fullest, regardless of the obstacles we face. When we believe that, we are “healed” in the most important ways possible.
Within God’s Plan
While God does not plan everything that happens, nothing that happens is outside God’s plan. No divine script is programming our days. Liberty (and to a great extent, contingency) defines human life. God’s “plan” can be summed up as His overarching desire that each of us make choices in harmony with love and truth, and that we exercise our freedom courageously so that we can enjoy even more freedom.
God does not need to send suffering to teach us a lesson, because He knows suffering will find us no matter what we do to avoid it. No matter what happens to us, God’s ultimate plan for us cannot be frustrated. Regardless of when we suffer or die, God’s plan is to restore us to life again. When the apostle Paul says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, NIV),† he is not saying that everything that happens to us is good because God sent it for our edification. He is saying that because we love and are loved by God, all things—even tragedies—have the potential to weave a web of ultimate meaning and blessing for our lives. God’s wisdom and power will transform the messes in our lives in ways that will restore our confidence that everything is in His hands.