Answers to your questions: Fatalism—To pray or not to pray?
Question: Things haven’t been going well for me lately. I’ve been looking for a new job and have submitted a number of applications, but I still haven’t found a new position. Now I’m wondering if maybe it’s not God’s will for me to find a new and better job. Got any advice?
Answer: Many people have the attitude that whatever happens is God’s will, so they should just resign themselves to fate. “There’s really nothing I can do, so I should just try to accept things the way they are.” Such an attitude is called fatalism.
When fatalists fail in some project or task, instead of getting up and trying again—or better yet, praying for God to help them to succeed, and then trying again—they just lie there in the spot where they have fallen down and accept defeat. “Oh, well,” they say, “it must have been God’s will that I failed.” But when we get to Heaven, we’re going to find out that a lot of bad things that happened were not God’s fault, but they were our fault because we didn’t pray—or didn’t keep praying. When we pray, things will happen and things will be different. They may not always happen immediately or just the way we would like or expect, but God will answer prayer! As the prophet Isaiah said, bad things were happening to Israel because people weren’t praying: “There is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You” (Isaiah 64:7). If our prayers can have an effect and change things, then if things aren’t changed, it’s often our fault for not praying.
There are times, it’s true, that God’s will is set about certain things. At times like that, we have to trust that He knows best. But this is not always the case. Many times, when situations don’t change for the better it’s not because our prayers couldn’t change things, but rather because we lack the faith and conviction and determination to persevere in prayer, to really fight in the spirit for whatever it is we desire or need.
Jesus once taught this principle through the following parable: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You would shout up to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit and I’ve nothing to give him to eat.’ He would call down from his bedroom, ‘Please don’t ask me to get up. The door is locked for the night and we are all in bed. I just can’t help you this time.’ But I’ll tell you this—though he won’t do it as a friend, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you everything you want—just because of your persistence. And so it is with prayer—keep on asking and you will keep on getting; keep on looking and you will keep on finding; knock and the door will be opened. Everyone who asks, receives; all who seek, find; and the door is opened to everyone who knocks” (Luke 11:5-10 TLB).
If you truly need something and you are doing your best to obey God and are convinced that whatever you need or desire is within His will, then pray for it! “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15). Be persistent! Keep praying for God to help you or give you what you need, and He will! “Seek and you shall find.”—And if the Lord doesn’t answer your prayers right away, don’t give up. Just keep knocking on Heaven’s door with your prayers and “the door will be opened”!
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