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.”
Sometimes God is saying to you, “yeah I’m going to give it you but not yet.” And his timing is always different than ours.
But the reason a miracle is called a miracle is because it’s so rare. The truth is that the vast majority of our prayers, we don’t see those kinds of miracles. I see lots of people pray for people to be healed and they were not healed. But I’ve also seen it where they pray and they were, and I don’t know why.
So what’s your advice to people about how they should pray?
I definitely say, pray for healing because twenty times in the New Testament alone, not counting the Old Testament, we are commanded to ask. It says “ask and it shall be given,” “seek and you’ll find.” We’re commanded to ask. In fact, in the Psalms, it says “delight yourself in the Lord and he’ll give you the desires of your heart.” So what I do a lot of times when I’m praying for people, I say, “Lord this person’s dying, I don’t know if it’s your will that they live or go on to be with you. But you’ve said to pray our desires. My desire is that they get well.”
The most effective prayer is often one word – help. Help!
Without a doubt. Absolutely. Without a doubt. The reason why we’re in the economic crisis we’re in right now is that we’ve walked away from the Biblical world view of economics. The Biblical worldview of economics is taught all through the Old Testament, particularly in the Book of Proverbs, which teaches thriftiness, teaches not living beyond your means, teaches the value of saving and investing.
Americans used to save about 18 percent of their income. By the ‘80s it had dropped to 4 percent. This last year the average American spent more than they made. We were actually in the negative. They saved nothing.
We cannot live beyond our means year after year after year without eventually paying the piper. So this concept of, “I’m going to live within my means, even if I have to charge it” – which means I’m going to live beyond my means, the chickens have come home to roost.
And that’s true not just on a global economic area. I’m dealing with members and families…I just finished a series for four weeks this last month on how to help a friend through tough times -- how to help a friend going through a divorce, how to help a friend who’s dying, how to help a friend who’s depressed. And we did a message on how to help a friend who’s in debt and near bankruptcy. And then we did follow up with a number of workshops -- budget workshops, financial planning, when your mortgage is upside down. We had over 4,000 people show up for the workshops during the week, so this is a real need there.