Does God answer prayer?

Prayer may not come naturally for an addict in recovery. So what attitude can we take when approaching prayer? And does God answer prayer in the first place? We get guidance from a theologian here.

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Does God answer your prayers?

I’m not sure who was really the first to say it, but the classic answer to this question is, “Of course God answers prayers. Just sometimes, the answer is ‘no.'”

But that leads to another question (which I believe may have really been your question in the first place.) Why doesn’t God help me if He knows how much I am suffering? Now that’s a good question.

Why doesn’t God help me?

I don’t know why God does anything. If I could understand Him, then He wouldn’t be God. But what I can say is that in hindsight we can sometimes see that God was always helping us, just not always in the way we wanted Him to. When God gives us the help we need instead of the help we want, He makes room for us to grow stronger. That’s why it can be more helpful to pray to God for the strength to endure whatever it is we’re going through than to pray to Him to just change the things we don’t like. Of course, if God is all-powerful, we want Him to wield His power on our behalf and make everything be the way we want it to. But one of His greatest powers is the power of self-restraint to stand back and get out of the way while He lovingly allows us to work things out in space and time.

The 12 Steps and prayer

In 12-Steps recovery, one of the important things we learn is how to pray. The Steps tell us to pray “only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” Now, I have to ask myself the following. Is the reason that we stop praying for what we want because it is unreasonable or improper to do so? To this question I must answer a resounding, “No.” It is perfectly fine — indeed it is commendable — to turn to God in any time of need or want.

So why doesn’t it seem to be a part of recovery?

The spirituality of recovery is about learning to “let go and let God.” For addicts who have ruined their lives playing God for so long, making specific requests of God just borders too closely on making demands. If you can handle making requests and then not being distraught when God has other plans, then more power to you. But the path to recovery from addiction seems to emphasize more the idea of acceptance and living life on God’s terms.

About the author
Rabbi Shais Taub is one of today's most respected young scholars of Jewish spirituality and practice. National Public Radio called him "an expert in Jewish mysticism and the Twelve Steps." He is the author of God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction.
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