So much of what we are called to do in spiritual warfare is intercessory prayers for others. If it seems like your prayers go unanswered, or perhaps more accurately, unfulfilled, there may be a good reason. You find yourself praying for others, praying for their conversion, and yet it seems as if there is no change in their behavior. They are still not attending Mass, they are still drinking, they are still involved in the New Age or the occult, they are still engaging in immoral sexual activity, etc. What could be wrong? Doesn’t God want them to change? Doesn’t He want them to grow closer to Him? Doesn’t He want them to live in His will? Of course He does; He is, after all, our Father.
So, then, what is the problem? The “problem” may just be in how you are praying. When you pray for someone to return to the Church or to repent of their sins or to turn from drugs or alcohol you may be praying against their free will. For while God desires the person’s conversion, He does not desire a coercive conversion; He desires a cooperative conversion.
If I choose on some level to engage in sinful behavior, God is not going to contravene my free will decision. He is going to allow me to choose to sin, all the while supplying me with sufficient grace and every opportunity to avoid making the wrong decision. What, then, can be done? Are we to stop praying for others? Are we to despair? No, we are to do neither. What we can do is pray differently.
- For those who have left the Church, stop praying for their conversion and start praying for them to have a desire to have a conversion.
- For those who are struggling with addictions, stop praying for them to be free from their addictions and start praying for them to have a desire to be free from their addictions.
- For those who are engaging in immoral sexual activity, stop praying for them to end their immoral lifestyle and start praying for them to have a desire to end their immoral lifestyle.
Adding that one word to your prayer opens up whole new avenues of grace for you and for those for whom you are praying. That one extra word can make all the difference. As Saint Teresa of Avila reminds us, “Christ does not force our will; He only takes what we give Him.” So help that person give their will to God by praying for them to have the desire to do so.