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"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Mark 11:23-24

It's the first day of 2011 and a good time for me to experience new hope in prayer. For quite a while I've been struggling with my faith in prayer. My dilemma is this: How do I pray in believing faith as Jesus told us to do, when the answer depends on someone else's free will? All power is God's, and for some divine purpose, He has given humans, His creation, the power to choose their direction in life. For some reason known only to God, He has chosen to "limit" His power when it comes to our free will. Perhaps it matters so much because He wants our obedience to His perfection to be freely given from a true heart. Often the choosing leads to disaster, exemplified in Eden when the world was new and countless times since by every human who has ever lived, though sometimes the choice brings about glorious results for each and all.

So how do I take Jesus at His word and pray believing that what I pray for will happen, when the one I may be praying for is of a different mind entirely?

Though I've often witnessed the refusal of people (myself included) to submit to His good purpose and suffer for it, I've just this week been allowed the priviledge of watching God move in some way I may never know, to bring about the yielding of someone else's free will to His. How does He do that? Why doesn't He do that all the time? How can He accomplish anything of His plan in eternity by depending on such stubborn, short-sighted, and selfish creatures as we? Is that why He is God?

So some of my conclusions to this seeming enigma are these: The action of my praying changes things. My prayer may not be answered according to my will or even God's will if the free-willed person resists God's influence, but the ultimate outcome will be changed because I have prayed. God will bring good in some way for some one. And, as a side note, God's activity in this situation for which I'm praying may not necessariy bring me relief and comfort - that may depend on me and what peace I choose to find through faith. The focus of God's activity is on the person I've prayed for, which may remain unseen for a long time. That's also the part that faith must play.

I've been praying, thinking about, and learning about prayer very intentionally for the past 25 years and have recently been stalled with doubt about how much it really matters. I'm hopeful that 2011 will mark new horizons of faith in prayer, knowing that there is always something beyond the horizon that I may yet be unable to see.

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