Letter to Fr L – Understanding God’s permissive will

O Clarim News Desk (English)

Dear Father L.

My father was very dear to me as he was a very caring father, and I was very close to him. He spent all his life loving us, his family. Few years after he retired from work, he tried to find time to enjoy his life, but he got sick. He suffered in hospital from a painful disease. As an ardent Catholic, I stormed the heavens with my prayers for him to recover. But the more I prayed, the more I saw him slowly dying, and my prayers seemed useless and futile. I prayed and God did not listen to me. My father died a painful death. Did not God assure us: “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10)?

A Downhearted Lady

Dear Downhearted Lady,

I can sense that your father was indeed an extremely caring and kind man. I wish you peace and comfort as you grieve his passing.

Sometimes this Scripture passage can be misunderstood. Some may think it means that we should pray, pray more and pray harder and eventually God will answer our prayers. Some may think that this means that God does not answer prayer if we fail to pray hard enough. And some may think that whatever we pray for will be given to us if we just keep asking. We need some important clarifications on these points.

We certainly should pray hard and often.  But one key question to understand is this: what should I pray for? This is key because God will not give us what we pray for, no matter how long and hard we pray for it, if it is not part of His glorious and perfect will.

If someone is sick and dying, as in the case of your father, it is part of the permissive will of God to allow that person to die. Then all the prayer in the world will not change things. Instead, prayer in this case should be offered to invite God into this difficult situation to make it a beautiful and holy death. You did not mention the disease of your father, but I presume it was very serious and hence a very painful experience as well for your family.

In the midst of such a situation, we must pray for one thing and one thing only…we must pray for the will of God to be done. Prayer is not offered to change God’s mind, it is offered to transform us, strengthen us and enable us to embrace all that God calls us to do. The prayer you must seek to live is primarily a prayer of total trust and abandonment to God. You do not change God’s mind by begging Him. Rather, your prayer must be a prayer with humility that it opens you to the will of God and allows His grace to flow in accord with His perfect will.

May I invite you to reflect as you go back to the church to pray: do you seek only the will of God in all things and pray deeply for that?  Do you knock at the heart of Christ seeking His holy and perfect plan?  Do you ask for His grace to enable you and others to fully embrace all that He has in mind for you?  Pray hard and expect that prayer to change your life.


Father L.

Editor’s note: Dear Father L. will be published in the monthly issue of the English edition. Letters are welcome at OClarimEnglish@gmail.com edition. Source of content: mycatholic.life