Does a Creator actually act in the world of creation? If so, when you pray sincerely for something to happen, why doesn’t it always occur? What happens to our unanswered prayers?
For those who believe in the Bible, the answer might seem obvious: of course God acts in the world of creation.
How else could you explain the parting of the Red Sea in the Old Testament or the healing miracles of Jesus in the New Testament? These comprise the fundamental elements of Biblical narrative and Judeo-Christian belief. It is difficult to imagine a theology based on Biblical events that does not embrace God as actively involved in the world of His creation, answering prayers and performing miracles.
Yet, this belief in the fundamental reality of a Creator who answers prayers and performs miracles seems to be systematically fading away and steadily eroding.
I, for one, have almost become numb to the devastation from earthquakes, civil wars and natural disasters which claim thousands of lives daily around the world. Thank you, CNN for bringing the horrific details directly into my living room—24 hours a day, non-stop. Due to the sheer magnitude and frequency of those disasters, many people ask the question “How could God do that to those people?” or “How could He just let that happen?” or “Why doesn’t God answer their prayers?”
Marcus Borg, a well-known Christian theologian, wrote:
The reality of unanswered prayers is a huge problem. Think of all the people who prayed for deliverance from the Holocaust, all the people who prayed for peace and safety in the midst of war, all the people who prayed for healing—and whose prayers were not answered. And thus many modern mainline Christians have problems with … prayer. – The Heart of Christianity, p. 196.
One common conclusion by otherwise God-fearing religious people is that God has given us free will and does not interfere with the day-to-day stuff here on Earth. This concept, sometimes called “process theology,” posits that once He had finished the heavy lifting of creation, God rested on the seventh day and never bothered to show up for work again. Now, the explanation goes, creation just kind of runs itself through the laws of nature—and God, hands off, becomes an absentee landlord, a disinterested spectator or an aloof, uncaring deity.
The Baha’i view differs drastically. The Baha’i Faith teaches that God does indeed actively participate in the world of creation—that God’s will moves everything, but not everything that happens is God’s will.
The Baha’i teachings say that God not only answers the sincere prayers of those who believe in Him, but that He answers the prayers of all His creatures:
God will answer the prayer of every servant if that prayer is urgent. His mercy is vast, illimitable. He answers the prayers of all His servants … God is merciful. In His mercy He answers the prayers of all His servants when according to His supreme wisdom it is necessary. – Abdu’l‑Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 247.
How can it be possible for God to answer the prayers of “every servant”? Surely, countless prayers seemingly go unanswered—if we judge from the death and destruction caused by wars and natural disasters. So maybe God answers some prayers, but clearly doesn’t answer others.
Which raises a very important question: Why would a just, loving God answer some prayers and seemingly ignore others?
Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:
… the decrees of the Sovereign Ordainer, as related to fate and predestination, are of two kinds. Both are to be obeyed and accepted. The one is irrevocable, the other is, as termed by men, impending. To the former all must unreservedly submit, inasmuch as it is fixed and settled. God, however, is able to alter or repeal it. As the harm that must result from such a change will be greater than if the decree had remained unaltered, all, therefore, should willingly acquiesce in what God hath willed and confidently abide by the same.
The decree that is impending, however, is such that prayer and entreaty can succeed in averting it. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 133.
The Baha’i teachings say that God can and does alter events within His creation. Some events, however, must just be accepted. Like the law of gravity, they should be considered irrevocable, as the harm that would result from changing them would be greater than to let them unfold as the Creator intends. For these irrevocable events and immutable laws, the Baha’i teachings—and the teachings of all Faiths—instruct us to willingly acquiesce and trust in God’s wisdom:
Never lose thy trust in God. Be thou ever hopeful, for the bounties of God never cease to flow upon man. If viewed from one perspective they seem to decrease, but from another they are full and complete. Man is under all conditions immersed in a sea of God’s blessings. Therefore, be thou not hopeless under any circumstances, but rather be firm in thy hope. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 205.