Theology matters. What we believe about God to be true matters. It’s not just about lofty thoughts, but can impact our lives in important ways.
I remember reading an internet post on a Christian forum one time when the discussion topic was about God being outside of time, and not bound by it as we are. Given the source, I have no way of knowing if the story is true. The question I have always asked myself is could it be true?
A man posted a story about his father-in-law, who was born with Spina Bifida. That should have caused him numerous health issues but never did, until he was sixty. At that time he became very ill from the disease. His daughter prayed and believed God told her to go to her father and pray for his healing, so she did. But her father ultimately died without being healed. His daughter was confused, because she had felt so certain God had asked her to pray for his healing. So in prayer she turned to God to ask if she had misunderstood Him. The answer she received in prayer was that her prayer for healing had been answered. It was the prayer God had used to provide the healing that allowed him to live a normal life for sixty years.
I believe without a doubt this story could be true. Because to God, in eternity all moments of time are present as one moment. So when the man was an infant, the heartfelt prayer of a daughter not yet born to heal her father was as present to Him as when she offered that prayer as an adult. To believe that this story is not possible would be to restrain God by time, to place him within the box of time and subordinate to it.
But we can often place God inside that box with our thinking without realizing it. For example, I have had multiple conversations with different people who have been concerned about the eternal salvation of someone they love. They have prayed diligently for the grace of conversion. And they have then felt quite hopeless if that person died without a visible conversion experience. I have heard the words, more than once, “it’s too late for him now.”
Most Christians, including Catholics believe that at the moment of death, our eternal fate is sealed and we are judged for heaven or hell. But if we truly believe that God is outside of time, why would we ever think it’s too late to pray for someone’s conversion? If we believe our prayers for conversion before a person’s death could be efficacious, why would we assume God is somehow constrained and limited by the time He created? When we utter “it’s too late now” we deny this truth about God and assign to him limitations that are ours, not His.
I think the concern people feel for the eternal state of someone who has died is a “nudge” from God for prayer. I have experienced it myself as a type of “heaviness” when I think of that person. My favorite prayer at this time is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, but that is just my preference. Even after a person has died in our sequential experience of time, can we not pray that during their last moments of life they receive the grace to seek God’s mercy and to desire Him most of all? Will God not hear that prayer as they are stepping from time into eternity? How can we believe that a prayer prior to the person’s death is somehow of value but one after is not unless we truly believe that time controls God?
Theology matters. What we believe about God to be true matters. And we should test our thinking to make sure it hasn’t created a limitation for God that does not exist.