It seems like I keep bumping into this issue from different angles everywhere...free will, God's sovereignty, the problem of evil, the goodness of God. Here's another take on it.
What does prayer do? We had this talk at my Bible study group last week, and I've been turning it over in my brain ever since. If, for example, I pray for my child to be cured from cancer, and my child is healed, well, PRAISE GOD! What an amazing answer to prayer, yes? And I will tell this story for as long as I live. What if, however, my child dies? It happens. It happens to faith-filled people who believe that God has the power to heal. What then? Is this an answer to prayer? And will I tell that story as long as I live?
Here's what happened to me. I was telling about the beautiful answer to prayer that Vespera & Mango were interviewed by a compassionate Christian woman at the Embassy when we went to Mexico for Vespera's visa approval. I told this story in response to a question about how we each personally have seen God in our own lives, how we know God is there. My beautiful Bible study ladies responded with something like, "But what if that hadn't happened?" Would I still believe God? My answer is a resounding yes, and, yet, I felt squashed.
Squashed feelings aside, I have to say that I know I'd still be believing God if Vespera had not been approved at the Embassy. I know I'd be seeing God work through other things in other ways bringing about other miracles. And, perhaps, the greatest miracles would be in me...in us...in our hearts and in who we are and who we would become.
So, um, back to the question. What does prayer do? If it's the case that one outcome or the other will happen, and it won't always be what we ask for or what we want, does God really answer prayer? Or do things simply happen the way they're going to happen and God helps us pick up the pieces when it isn't a positive outcome?
I don't have any answers. And I'm tired of this post sitting in my drafts. So, I'm just going to get it out there. I think God answers prayer. I think it doesn't always happen the way we want it to, and I think God is there anyway. That's what I know.
...and, for some reason, I feel the need to say that I started drafting this post at exactly the same time Heather was posting this. I didn't cheat & read her thoughts first, either. ;)