My friend and frequent commenter on 2 Maccabees, Dick Martin, put a premise before me earlier today. Now, those of you who track recent comments here know that Dick has been trying to convince me of something for a while. And I’m not biting. But he hasn’t gone away.
Here’s the premise, which lost me from the get-go:
Faith can’t be applied to your life or prayers if you don’t know the will of God. Only if you know the will of God can your prayers be effective.
Granted, this is not his main point, namely that praying for the dead is fruitless, or even bad. But I doubt that anyone knows the will of God. The Psalmist describes God’s intimate knowledge of the inmost self of the singer (Psalm 139:1-5), who concludes in verse 6:
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me. (Psalm 131:1b)
Is it not God’s will that we pray for other people? Even dead people? We know that when Lazarus died (Cf. John 11) Martha and Mary pleaded with the Lord. Of course, they were criticizing him for not rushing to their home when their brother was sick. Beyond all expectations, Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb. It would seem that God is not bound by the human understanding of expiration, even if it comes from Protestantism.
I don’t happen to believe that God is bound by time as we mortals understand it. If I pray to God today, why wouldn’t I presume an eternal God is hearing my prayer eighteen years ago as my father was dying of leukemia? I can light a candle today, inscribe my dad’s name in the book of the deceased, and even though I’m not uttering the prayer, “Save him,” God knows my mind without a word escaping my tongue.
If this is the case, why wouldn’t I consign God’s will to the categories of “too wonderful” or “too lofty?” I don’t need to know it. All I know is that God can do it. And if God can do it, maybe he will.