God's actions in our lives

God repeatedly acts in people's lives, usually gently and unobtrusively, sometimes powerfully, but always surprisingly and often in response to trusting requests.

But why are there so many people who never, ever experience God's actions and who therefore don‘t believe in his presence? If we look at the Gospels, we can find answers.

Jesus often promised that God would act. If we read such passages in the Gospels in isolation, they sound implausible and seem to contradict the general experience of humanity. What is often overlooked, however, is the fact that Jesus always attached conditions to the fulfilment of his promises.

One of Jesus central messages concerns the fact that God has given us complete freedom. This is a freedom which he consistently respects. God will therefore not intervene in our lives without being asked. Figuratively speaking: if we have closed the door of our heart to God, he will not enter into our lives because he respects our decisions. He waits for us to open up to him and if necessary he will wait our whole lives. He respects our choice even if we chose to never let him into our lives.

Christ became man for us and died on the cross just to show us the paths that lead to God, our Father. Put simply, these are the paths of peace, mercy and justice. Because he wants to save all people, God has an interest in showing us his ways and in helping us to follow them in our everyday lives. However, he does not impose his help on us, as this would not be compatible with our freedom. That is why he has tied his actions to conditions that we can fulfil within the scope of our freedom, but we can also ignore them. This means that God's actions are largely dependent on our behaviour.

So if we have the impression that we have never experienced anything of God's actions, this is not due to God's lack of desire to do so, but probably because we have not been willing to take him and his conditions seriously.

What are the conditions for God's actions?

God is beyond our understanding. Nevertheless, God has an interest in us being able to recognise his actions and work in our lives, otherwise all of God's revelation would be in vain. The testimonies of God's actions on this website and also in the lives of the many saints, give us an idea of when God seems to be ready to respond to our requests and prayers. If we compare these testimonies with the statements of Jesus, we can see that there is a correspondence between our human experience, the promises of Jesus and the actions of God. In addition to the fundamental condition that we must believe in the reality of God and in his ability to act beyond the laws of nature, there are three essential statements that we must take seriously before we can experience God's actions. We find them in the prayer of the "Our Father", which Jesus taught us.

1) In this prayer we ask God that: Thy kingdom come!

This is the kingdom of peace, mercy and justice. Jesus travelled up and down the country proclaiming that this kingdom had begun to exist, but that it needed to be completed. However, our request must not be for God to complete this kingdom. No, Jesus has made it clear to us beyond doubt that it is we who must complete this kingdom. However, God will help us to do so if we ask him to. After all, we are the ones who have the freedom to make peace or create discord. It is up to us whether we are merciful or merciless and ultimately we are responsible for whether the world is a just place or whether we create structures of injustice. We must not fold our arms and expect God to do the work that is required. No, we must roll up our sleeves ourselves.

Jesus made this very clear to us with the parable of the lilies of the field and the sparrows (Mt 6:28-33). He pointed out that we should learn from them not to worry about the things of everyday life either. - Worrying is quite different from taking care of things! Of course we should be concerned about the problems of everyday life, about having enough to eat or to wear. But if we worry, it means that we don't trust God to be able and willing to help us in our everyday endeavours. And then comes a clear statement from Jesus with an unmistakable condition regarding when God is ready to help us. He said: "The Gentiles are anxious (they do not trust in God and his help), but for you it must first be about his kingdom and his righteousness, then everything else will be given to you“.

In plain language, this means that before God supports us with his help, we must be prepared to make our contribution to the growth of his kingdom of peace and mercy here on earth on the basis of his justice. We should therefore not promote our own ideas of "justice", which are often based on the rights of the strongest and ignore the needs of the weak. We should also make every effort to work for peace, reconciliation, mercy and justice in our social environment, in our families, our neighbourhoods and at work, even if this involves personal difficulties. If we do this within the framework of our freedom, God will not abandon us and in return will help us to achieve what we need for our lives. This is indeed not an empty promise; there are an incredible number of testimonies that confirm this.

2) In the "Our Father" we should also ask God that: Thy will be done!

This is actually an absurd request. God is the Almighty. He can enforce his will whenever he wants, wherever he wants and in whatever way he wants. So why does he need this request from us?

From this prayer we can recognise how much God respects our freedom. He waits for our willingness not to impose our own human will, which has already caused so much harm in the world, before acting in our lives. Using the freedom that God has given us, we must be willing to place, not our own imperfect will at the centre of our lives, but the will of God. If we do this, God will help us in a concrete way, because our actions will then be in accordance with his will and his interests, and therefore his providence. This petition is a concretisation and deepening of the first petition, that his kingdom may come, and refers to our willingness to submit our own will to God's will.

3) The next petition in this prayer is also closely related to the petition for the realisation of his kingdom, whereby this petition is linked to a clear condition: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Our willingness to forgive is the prerequisite for the realisation of God's kingdom.  Without a willingness to forgive, there can be no real peace. This is so important to God that he has made our personal fate after our death dependent on our willingness to forgive. On an empirical level, we can see again and again that God‘s actions towards us, and indeed his actions through us for other people, are dependent on our willingness to forgive in a very central way. There are many testimonies to this. In the download area you will find a report on the genocide in Rwanda, in which moving testimony is given of the special way in which God responded to the willingness of people who had forgiven the most serious offences against life and limb.

Additional conditions can also be recognised, the fulfilment of which seems to trigger God's response:

A central condition is our trust that God can and will act in our lives.  God will not respond to mistrust with action.

It is also quite obvious that God is waiting for us to be willing to bear witness to him and his actions. This is entirely in line with his will, as he wants all people to know about him. However, this is only possible if we are prepared to tell others about him and his actions. God will then show Himself in a  recognisable way. This is evident from many testimonies.

God‘s preference to work in and through the lives of people who strive for a "pure heart," can also be seen in many accounts of the lives of the saints. This is the case when people sincerely strive for reconciliation and forgiveness and are prepared to fulfil God's will in their everyday lives. Indeed it is also apparent that God often responds when people have implored him for help out of deep trust.

How can we recognise God's will in our everyday life?

When we pray in the Our Father,“Thy will be done!", the question naturally arises as to how we can experience the will of God. There are surprisingly clear answers to this. As mentioned, God has a direct interest in us being able to recognise his will and he will not hide it from us if we ask him to.

1)  The general will of God for our own lives and for the collective destiny of mankind was proclaimed to us by Jesus; this can be read in the Gospels. As long as Jesus was on earth, people were able to ask him directly how his statements were to be understood. This is no longer possible. Jesus therefore promised us the assistance of the Holy Spirit before his ascension. He will teach us everything and remind us of everything that he, Jesus, has told us. (John 14:26).

There is a condition hidden in this statement: We can only be reminded of something that we have previously acquired. If we have no idea of the contents of the Gospels, what can the Holy Spirit remind us of?  We must therefore be willing to engage with the Word of God, because only then will the Holy Spirit have points of reference for his guidance. At the same time, he is dependent on our willingness to be led by him. If we only ever want to impose our own will, he will never impose himself on us.

If, on the other hand, we are open to his guidance, then he can share with us his desire for mercy and an understanding of how to achieve it in situations in which, for example, action out of mercy is required. We have the complete freedom to ignore these impulses or to fulfil them.

An important point is added here: obedience to God. We can ignore his prompts for our actions again and again. After a while, God will then no longer do so because he respects our corresponding rejection. He does not force himself on us. However, one day he will ask us why we have not endeavoured to be merciful, despite our knowledge. If we are willing to obey him, he will always support our actions.

His impulses concern all aspects of our lives in which he wants to make us more like him. A major obstacle to this, however, is our pride, which often does not want to allow us to follow where the Holy Spirit wishes to lead us.

2) Knowledge of the Gospels can help us on a general level to get to know the will of God. However, this cannot always help us in everyday decisions. But God is also ready to guide us in this respect and Jesus has given us important clues.

After all, God is pure love, and love can only be experienced through relational action. Our only way to enter into a relationship with God is through prayer.

However, our prayers are often only one-sided communication. Prayer" is often limited to the recitation of memorised phrases. But God does not want a recited prayer, he wants our heart.

Let's look at ourselves: we pray for a certain amount of time, then the "Amen" comes and the prayer is finished. It's like a one-sided phone call in which only we speak. Before the other person gets the chance to say anything, the phone call is ended. The main reason for this behaviour is that we can hardly imagine that God actually gives an answer. He wants to help and guide us, but how can he do this if we never listen to him?

Change in our relationship with God is possible if we succeed in stepping away from our usual praying behaviour to "listening prayer". Jesus also repeatedly withdrew into prayer in order to experience the will of the Father by listening. How can this be possible for us?

Jesus put it like this: My sheep know my voice and they follow me (John 10:27). This statement  contains two notable indirect conditions: The first condition is the willingness to get to know the voice of Jesus and to listen to it. This involves a learning process.

We often experience God's impulses through our subconscious. Thoughts often arise during and after prayer. These are very similar to our own thoughts, especially in the beginning. The question is, to what extent we can distinguish whether they are our own thoughts or whether they may be impulses that come from God. We can ask God to help us recognise his will; he will not ignore this request.

For example, we are used to pushing aside thoughts that arise when we pray so that we can continue praying "undisturbed". However, we should not do this automatically, but rather briefly examine the thoughts that arise: if they are trivial things, we should let them go with an inner peace and continue praying. But often - especially at the beginning of our walk with God - we will suddenly think for example of people we haven't thought about for a long time or people we have been angry with or who have offended and hurt us.  In the Our Father we see that God has a fundamental concern in leading us to reconciliation. In such cases, we should therefore interrupt our prayer and consider whether we have forgiven the people who have just come to mind. We may also think about situations in which we have behaved badly or in which we ourselves have been guilty. Of course, we can easily push such thoughts aside. But we should never ignore thoughts of peace and reconciliation that arise during prayer. They usually do not come from us, because we actually want to be left in peace and avoid such challenges, while God wants to lead us to reconciliation.

Most of the time, his impulses don‘t generally focus on our own needs because we tend to achieve what we want on our own anyway, so God doesn't need to nudge us to do it. In a first step, however, he wants to remind us mainly of those things that we like to suppress, but which stand in the way of real peace, reconciliation and God's justice.

The second condition is linked to the statement: My sheep follow me. Of course, we can always choose to get our own way and to go our own way. However, Jesus can only lead us if we have the inner willingness to be obedient. That's something we don't really like to do, to obey someone. We would rather make our own decisions than bend to someone else's will. But that is a necessary condition for getting to know and follow God.

Once we have mastered this first task of honest reconciliation with God (are we reconciled with our destiny or do we struggle with God for not allowing us a different destiny?) and with our fellow human beings, then God can lead us further into the depths in listening prayer. This is an incredibly exciting path, because we can then recognise his actions working in and through us more and more clearly.

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