Saturday, November 3
Ask Father: One Question/One Answer...
Question: How do prayer and the keeping of the commandments actually affect our daily lives? Don't we say that everything that happens to us is part of God's providence? If so, what's the point? We can't really change our destiny, can we?
Answer: Though the Lord works in mysterious ways, arranging all things according to His Providence, we do actually have a crucial part to play in choosing our own destiny, both in this life and the next.
As the Scriptures teach us, just because God is all-powerful and always desires what is best for us, this does not mean that He will force us to enter into His Kingdom. He respects our free will so much that He even allows us to choose hell, both in this life and the next. Though He desires to shower us with His goodness in an infinite measure, in order not to infringe on our free will, He limits His goodness to us to the measure that we are willing to receive it from Him by working with Him - keeping His commandments, praying to Him, etc..
That's why when we keep the commandments or pray "Lord have mercy" we should remind ourselves that we are not trying to convince the Lord to be merciful to us - how silly would it be to think that we sinners can convince the Lord of infinite goodness, love, and wisdom to be more merciful or more loving. Prayer and the keeping of the commandments have their power to change our destiny not because we convince God to do something better for us, but because through prayer and the keeping of the commandments we become humbler and more open to His action in our lives - we allow Him to work wonders on our behalf - the greatest wonder being the gift of salvation. In the spiritual life, the simple rule is: the measure in which we change (repent, turn to the Lord, keep the commandments, etc) is the same measure in which we will receive God's mercy. I think that this is really what St. Anthimos of Chois was getting at when he said that "the Goodness of God is so rich in graces, that it seeks a cause to have mercy on a person."
Anyway, it is a daily struggle (for all of us) to put Him first, but the great thing about it is that when we do we are guaranteed that everything will turn out for the best (even if we can't always see it from our human perspective). Hard work in the spiritual life always is worth it.