Brothers and sisters, have there been any recent events which have got you down? Perhaps a beloved family member is ill, or you've been depressed. Maybe even a disaster has struck your home, or the home of someone you love. If you've had a fairly positive few weeks, you surely must have noticed in the news the tragic and heartbreaking stories of what others have had to endure.
All these things show my prayers were answered. I prayed to God for children to be abducted, for famine to starve people to death and for men around the world to get testicular cancer.
Why would I do such a thing? Why would I not? Those things aren't bad. As we all know, when God allows those things to happen, it's part of his unknown, perfectly good plan. Does anybody stop to consider if their requests for seemingly positive things goes against this plan? How many times have you heard someone say 'Dear Lord, please keep my family safe'? What if he doesn't want to? What if he wants some of them to die in agony in a road accident? Your requests for good health from God would be much more misplaced than my prayers for families to suffer on Earth. What arrogance, to assume I would be in the wrong for requesting parts of his mysterious and never cruel plan to come to fruition as you seek in earnest to spoil that! Which of us is truly more faithful?
If God wants to protect someone from physical harm, and I'm praying for them to have some pain, God's plan will override that - just like if you pray for good health, but God allows you to fall ill instead.
It does no good to say Satan causes harm, and God has his reasons for why he allows it, if at the same time you pray for him to keep you safe. That's like saying he can act to protect you from Satan if he chooses. If he can, then he always can, and there's no need for Satan to have any influence over us. Remember how Satan had to ask God's permission to harm Job and his family? Yes, praying for him to let us suffer is just as acceptable as praying for his ability to prevent suffering.
There's no evil in my requests to God for you to receive the opposite of what you ask for. Thinking that would be to assume God allows evil because he is evil. There's a larger, all encompassing plan in mind for us which includes having to go through difficult, life destroying events, and I'm a full supporter of that. Now, brothers, sisters, perhaps you could let me know what you have been praying for recently.
- I just found out my mother has cancer, and I'm praying the treatment works.
The treatment works to kill her off quicker?
- No! That the treatment cures her!
Sorry, I didn't know what you meant. Either way, God would be showing his love, wouldn't he? If you think God is deciding her fate, there's little point in having her receive medical attention. God is not only as powerful as current medical knowledge, is he? There'd be little point praying to him if that was the case! We'd be better off devoting our time and money to medical research rather than praying in church.
Well, I shall be praying that the cancer spreads, to help counter all the requests God's going to receive for her Earthly body to recover. It may be enough to calm his anger knowing so many humans are trying to get him to go against his better plan which involves her suffering and dying. Anyone else?
- I've been praying for God to give me the strength to deal with the loss of my unborn child.
Okay. I'm going to pray that you spiral down into a deep, dark chasm of despair instead.
- That's not very nice!
Excuse me, have you not been paying attention? If God lets you get depressed, that's part of his amazing plan for humanity. In fact it's more likely he wanted that. Did you pray for God to give you a safe pregnancy with a healthy child?
Right, and God decided it had to die instead. For the greater good. He also designed our brains to feel depression when things like this happen. If you want to believe Satan introduced that feeling into our brains, there would have been little point God making things so perfect for Adam and Eve. The odd disease and stubbed toe, the threat of animals poisoning them - no point disallowing that if they weren't going to be bothered anyway because they didn't have the ability to feel down about it. Negative emotions would have been built into the brain by God.
We can't know what good is unless we experience the bad. Do you really want us to be denied the ability to recognise positive experiences? That's why I'm praying for your torment to increase. Who else?
- We're not worried about what you're doing, you know.
Why be worried? If my prayers are answered, that's nothing to be worried about. It'll be what God wants to happen. Why be worried about what our Heavenly Father wants? He has our best interests at heart.
- I don't think your prayers will be answered. Pray for my leg to become infected so it needs to be cut off, pray for me to lose my job, pray for a hurricane to strike my house. I won't be lying awake thinking about it.
You won't? That's like thinking God doesn't answer prayers. Don't you pray for good health, and job security, and in fact, don't you keep telling people the story of how God kept you safe when the hurricane swerved away from your house last year to kill people a few miles away?
- God does keep me safe. He does answer my prayers!
Well then, you should believe he can answer my prayers too. Unless you think deep down prayers are just silly attempts for humans to feel as if they have someone looking out for them in troubling times. One glance at the news shows we're just as likely to die in a tsunami or earthquake or explosion as those who don't pray. You think those who die in hurricanes hadn't prayed? The ones killed a few miles away from you probably prayed more often and with more passion than you on the day of the hurricane!
Remember, because this often gets forgotten, that suffering is what God wants to happen, for reasons unknown. Accepting that is the only way to carry on believing he isn't an evil God, and that he does protect us from Earthly woes on occasion.
Thank you all for coming. I hope you've died by next weeks sermon - because that would mean God loved you, and wanted you to go to the perfect heavenly realm to be with him, problems here becoming a fading memory.
I hope at the very least the earthquakes continue to happen with increasing frequency until God's return, along with war and famine and persecution for God's people. After all, he did say those things would happen in the final days, so if you don't want that, you obviously can't want God's day of judgment to come.
Can I get an amen?