I don't understand...


Hello everybody.

I’m asking the following question because I couldn’t explain
the issue to anyone if asked:

-Jesus told us to pray
-God is good and merciful, is Goodness and Mercy

Is God “waiting” for me to pray for another person to
save that person from, say, poverty? If God is
merciful, how is it mercy to put that person’s fate
in the hands of my prayers? or your prayers?

To put the question in a more stark frame:

If a person in a burn unit is suffering dreadfully,
God will relieve his/her pain at my request?
Why doesn’t He just relieve it? And, if He chooses
not to, then what’s the point of my prayer? Why only relieve the
individuals pain if I ask Him.I just don’t get it. I’ve thought about this for years, and still don’t understand the Divine economy in
this regard.
Thank you for your charity in responding,


Jesus said, “that the poor would always be with us.” We know that there is suffering, and we know that we ourselves suffer. Yes, God loves us, and is He is truly merciful. He has seen fit, however, to give us opportunities to participate and to be merciful. The rich have an abundance of opportunities to help the poor. A person in a burn unit could be miraculously cured, but God gives us the opportunity to pray for the sick person, to pray for his surgeons, and to offer our love and support. We are the body of Christ on earth. We are members of His body. We are His hands, feet, eyes, ears, and loving voice. God let’s us participate because these opportunities help us as much as they help the person in need.


There is One Mediator between man and God, that is Jesus Christ. When we pray, our prayers only have power because Jesus prays with us, Jesus allows us to participate in His work. We SHARE in the work of Chrsit, we are all part of the Body of Jesus Christ. So we cooperate with Him to bring healing and help and love etc to others, and one way is through prayer, BUT the prayer, yours, mine, the Saints in Heaven, all these prayers have power becasue when we pray Jesus prays with us to the Father. When we pray Jesus prays. So there is tremendous power in prayer…But again, we are all called to participate with Christ, in assisting one another through prayer and charity.

I hope this makes sense.


[quote=Buckeyejoe] When we pray, our prayers only have power because Jesus prays with us, Jesus allows us to participate in His work. … we are all called to participate with Christ, in assisting one another through prayer and charity.

Yes, this is very well expressed. We participate in the work of Jesus through our prayers. And also through our sufferings.

I think it was St.Therese of Lisieux who after a time of much trouble and suffering once prayed in these words to God: “Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder that you have so few of them!”



I understand this problem… I have thought myself into a corner on this one more than once. :o

What I have finally come to understand is that while God is eternal, and while there does not seem to be any reason for our prayers to be effective means of “making something happen/asking for some result”, there is something else to consider - our free will.

God created us in His image - throughout the ages, man has understood this to mean that God created us with free will; with reason and a capability of making decisions using our own intellect. This is what separates us from the animals. (The whole angels/demons/humans thing is a whole 'nother topic… maybe next time :))

As someone else said here, by our prayers we are participating in the Body of Christ, with Jesus as our head. Our prayers are effectual because we freely choose to give them, and because of the merits of Christ.

It doesn’t really matter, for our purposes, that God is eternal (as you acknowledge) and therefore that all times and choices are known to Him – just because He knows them doesn’t mean that He has in some way denied us the freedom to make them. Apples and oranges.

Now, my next point is - don’t fall into the trap of the philosophical “either/or”. (ie, “either I have to pray for this person or he will be condemned to hell”) Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, has very few “either/or” components – this, like so many other things, should be thought of as a “both/and” proposition.

Think of it this way - while God has promised that our prayers (in this case, prayer defined as our decision out of our own free will to ask Him for something) will be heard and have some kind of effect (even if the answer is “no” or silence… it is still heard and is effectual in some way, whether or not we can perceive it), God Himself is not limited by prayer! Thus, while our prayers are helpful, because our free will allows us to participate and cooperate with God’s grace, God can still “save” someone without our prayers if He so chooses.

So - what we learn from this is that God’s ways are not our ways. :slight_smile: We know that prayer is effective, God has told us so, and there is even empirical evidence that this is true. We also hold that God knows everything, including what decisions we will make. It seems to me that what can be extrapolated from this, is that God knows when prayers will not be made – and Himself wills whether or not to do something without a prayer for it (again, don’t get bogged down into the earthly “help” either, eternal salvation is what’s really at stake here).

Bottom line - prayer is important, but do not become overly anxious over “I can’t pray for everyone” (you can though, just say, “Lord, I pray for everyone who needs prayers” :)) because, as you said, God is Mercy and Goodness (God is also Justice, never forget that), and we will have to trust that if we do our best to fulfill our vocation on Earth, He will take care of the rest. God’s mind and reality are so far beyond ours that there can never be any comparison, and there is (in the end) no way for us to truly grasp what is happening on Earth. I pray :wink: that someday in heaven (praying that I get there of course!) I will be able to understand this more clearly! :smiley:

Hope this helps at least a little… it’s really late and I’m really tired :slight_smile:



Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church: :bible1: Col 1:24

Our Lord wants us to share in His work. God desires to work through His creatures. This is why indulgences given to the holy souls in purgatory are important: by helping to redeem those souls, we add to the glory in heaven. It is mercy for God to put the task of prayer into our hands because it allows our will to participate in redemption.


Thank you to each who posted a reply.
Yes, veritas, I guess it boils down to "God’s
ways are not our ways."
I studied the square of opposition 35 years ago
and never recovered!
P.S. I’ve taken to praying: “Sacred Heart of
Jesus, have mercy on us.” “Us” meaning all of us.
God richly bless those who share their understanding
and faith,
Would you please say a prayer for my mother who
is heading for the latter stages of Altzheimer’s?


The prior posts have exhausted anything I could say about about prayer. So a thought or more on another aspect of your question. What might God be waiting for? Are you (all of us, for that matter) doing God will? So what is God will? - In whatever role you are in, are you doing it to the best of your ability, or are you holding something back? Are you envious or jealous of someone elses skills or ability? Today’s Gospel reading at Mass was the story of Martha and Mary. Our pastor, in the homily, focused on what Jesus was concerned about Martha. It wasn’t that she wasn’t at his feet listening (that was Mary’s gift), but it was her anxiousness and worry. She had the gift of service, but should have carried it out joyfully without worrying about what someone else was doing, or not doing.


God is not in time. We are in time and also in a WAR! Don’t question God and His divine providence. Man got us in the fix we are in. Adam and Eve went to the tree of knowledge so they would understand. You are hitting on a mystery you will never totally understand.



You are right when you say that God is not in time. Everthing is before God, through all the ages. He can plug in a prayer that was offered years ago for you and can plug in your prayer years from now.

My thoughts are not your thoughts and my words are not your words says the Lord.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.