Steven Waldman Interviews Rick Warren

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of "The Purpose of Christmas," spoke with Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman at the offices of our partner, The Wall Street Journal.

I think my first question would be the question of suffering. I think it’s the unanswerable question. I know why there’s evil in the world. I don’t understand why so much suffering happens to so many innocent people.

We know that evil exists because God gives us a free choice. In order for love to be love, it has to be volitional, it has to be voluntary. I can’t say “I love you” unless I have a choice to not love you. He could have made us all puppets. We would have been marionettes. He could have put us on strings and we’d pray five times a day and we’d have no choice.

But we’re not like that. The greatest gift God gave us is also our greatest curse, which is the free will. We are made in God’s image, the Bible says, which means we have the ability to love him or not love him, to reject him or not reject him.

The truth is, most of the time I’m doing my own thing. I hurt people intentionally and unintentionally, everybody does. And as a result of that, which is called sin, we live in a broken planet. I mean we’re sitting here next to the 9/11 site -- exhibit A that we live on a broken planet. Literally nothing works correctly. No relationship works correctly. No body works correctly – we all have problems with our bodies. The weather doesn’t work correctly – tornados and hurricanes and stuff like that. It’s the result of living on a broken planet. That’s why we’re to pray “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” ‘cause in heaven it’s done perfectly.


God’s will is not done most of the time on earth. When people go, “oh, that hurricane must have been God’s will” – baloney! That wasn’t God’s will. God’s will is not done most of the time. If I go out and get drunk and run over a pregnant mother and kill her and her baby, that’s not God’s will, that’s my will.

What does that say to you about people’s prayer lives? A lot of people -- and we see this on Beliefnet on our prayer circles and prayer requests -- a lot of the prayers are not for strength or wisdom, they’re for in these times getting a job or improving a relationship or healing an illness.

No doubt about it. That’s another question I have to ask [God] – about how does prayer work, because I don’t really know. The truth is I don’t really know how prayer works. I know that God answers three ways – “yes,” “no” and “wait.” And sometimes the hardest one is “wait.” Part of that is maturity. As kids, we don’t know the difference between no and not yet. Part of maturity is when I learn that “not yet” doesn’t mean “no.”

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