About prayer

(Ethan Thomas) #1

Hey guys and gals! I haven’t been around much lately, but hopefully that will change.

I serve online at Life.Church as an experience host. What that means for those who may not know is that I volunteer as a chat moderator during Life.Church’s online services where I help spur relevant discussion and answer questions people may have who are curious about the Faith. A while back one of the guests asked a question that really floored me, as I had never thought of it in those terms before. The question simply was this; if everything that happens in our lives is following the supreme Will of God, then why is it that we so often pray for change? Why would we proclaim the greatness and flawlessness of God’s Will, yet want to change that exact same Will through prayer if everything is happening just as God intended it?

I apologize if this doesn’t make much sense. I’m going off of memory in my wording of the question, which is a bit fuzzy, but it’s been on my mind for so long and I thought it would be perfect to spark discussion here.

I can’t wait to see what the community has to say!

(Jamie Hobbs) #2

A great question. I struggled with this one for a time as well. But then I came to realize that prayer doesn’t change God. Prayer is the method by which we commune with God and conform our will to His, not the other way around. There’s a concept in some Christian thought that if you pray and don’t see the results you want, you aren’t praying hard enough. I liken this to a 3 year old demanding candy. If he doesn’t get it, he asks again, and again, and gets mad, even refuses to move and pouts. That isn’t what God designed prayer for, the so-called “name it and claim it”. Prayer shapes our will, and gets us prepared to act in accordance with God’s will.

Sometimes we struggle against the immutability of God. We want God to change His mind about certain things, but God can’t change. He knows how all events play out and knows ultimately what we’re going to pray for before we do. When I came to that realization, I saw that prayer doesn’t change what can’t be changed, but changes me in a profound way. Even Jesus prayed “if possible let this cup pass from me, YET Your will be done.” If anyone could have changed God’s mind, it was Jesus. But God doesn’t change.

Hopefully you find this helpful. It really changed my prayer life, and I’ve still got room to grow to be sure. I try to remember that saying Amen after every prayer, which we do just out of habit and tradition, is really saying “so be it”. In essence, “Thy will be done.”

(SeanO) #3

@eot1990 That is a great question. I think my initial response would be that prayer is always an act of worship - if we recall the acrostic ACTS - prayer consists of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Even if God has predetermined everything we should still adore Him through worship, give thanks and confess our sins. The only one that would be confusing would be supplication. If God has not predetermined everything, there is still a struggle with supplication because God should still know what we need. Below I will try to address situations where God has and has not predetermined everything - there is overlap between the two, so I will only include to unique bits in each.

If God Has Not Predetermined Everything

If God has not predetermined everything, He should still no what we need and therefore supplication may seem odd. However, I think it is important to remember that from Abraham to Daniel to the apostle Paul, supplication is a critical part of how we relate to God. It is part of showing our dependence on Him.

There is a scene in The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis where Polly and Diggory need food and are hungry, while the talking horse accompanying them is munching on grass. They as the horse why Aslan did not provide food for the journey, and the horse says they ought to have asked. Here is a short excerpt from the conversation that follows.

“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?’ said Polly.

‘I’ve no doubt he would,’ said the Horse (still with his mouth full). 'But I’ve a sort of an idea he likes to be asked.”
― C. S. Lewis

If God Has Predetermined Everything

So, if we believe God has predetermined everything, there is still great reason to pray. Here are excerpts from a few articles that I found helpful.

“The event [in question] has already been decided—in a sense it was decided “before all worlds.” But one of the things taken into account in deciding it, and therefore one of the things that really cause it to happen, may be this very prayer that we are now offering. . . . My free act [of prayer] contributes to the cosmic shape. That contribution is made in eternity or “before all worlds”; but my consciousness of contributing reaches me at a particular point in the time-series.” C. S. Lewis

“Prayer, like everything else in the Christian life, is for God’s glory and for our benefit, in that order.”

  • we pray to conform our heart to God’s heart
  • we pray to demonstrate dependency on God
  • we pray that we might overflow with thanksgiving to God

Hope those thoughts are helpful as a starting place. What further questions do they spark? May the Lord grant you wisdom as you interact with those who attend Life Church.

CS Lewis - A Problem with Petitionary Prayer
(Tim Behan) #4

Awesome question @eot1990. The responses too were excellent so thanks for those. It’s definitely the question to ask, isn’t it, and I think both responses have nailed what I think to be the key answer on the head… that prayer is for our benefit and edification, because it’s not like we’re bringing anything to God that he doesn’t already know. In fact, scripture tells us explicitly that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and so you could add more murkiness to the water of that question if you wanted to. :slight_smile:

But on the flip side of prayer being for our benefit I think it’s also clear, as @SeanO pointed out via C.S. Lewis, that the Lord uses our prayers as part of his work. So when Abraham asks for mercy in destroying the wicked cities, God relents and spares Lot and his daughters. Similarly Amos prays for mercy and God again relents and shows mercy. So God uses our prayers for his purposes. I don’t think God changed his mind… more likely is that he was waiting for that prayer, knowing it was coming, before acting.

So maybe the question I would be inclined to ask back (respectfully, of course) is:

“How do we know if our prayer isn’t what God is waiting for before he acts?” (there may be a better way of phrasing that question, but hopefully it makes sense)

(C Rhodes) #5

@eot1990 I’m loving this question. I was faced with the prospect of heart surgery to replace a leaking valve, after having a stroke. There was a peace and confidence that GOD would take me through the experience. But, I was not sure what that would look like. But, the Word says I can ask and He will answer. I agree with others, we don’t always like the answer. So, I prayed. “Lord you are GOD. None of this is a problem for you. You spoke the Universe into existence. My heart surgery will not be an issue. But, if I am allowed to ask, I would like to be spared from the surgery.” I concluded, “Whatever you do, I know it will be the best for me!” Two weeks later I received a phone call from the Surgeon’s nurse. After looking at all the scans and test results, they saw no need for the surgery. There was nothing to repair.

For me, prayer is the lifeline that connects me every day to my best friend, confidant, partner, Savior, and Lord. I agree my prayers do not change the mind of GOD. But, like any sound and productive union, communication is mandatory for the health of the relationship. It is my way of showing appreciation and honor. It is conversation of the highest order. Often it is so wonderful it exceeds the need for words. It is how I order my steps before GOD and before each of you.

(Ethan Thomas) #6

Thank you so much everyone for your thoughtful responses! I am in agreement with @SeanO about prayer being first and foremost an act of worship unto God. It’s an opportunity to be thankful and reflect on the goodness of God in our lives. Also kudos to @Jamie_Hobbs for the comparison to the 3 year old throwing a tantrum and making demands, because that’s exactly what I liken it to as well! Unfortunately so many evangelists of today have popularized the whole “prosperity gospel” as it’s called in the west; or the “name it and claim it” type of Symbiotic relationship with God as mentioned once again by @Jamie_Hobbs. I think that really takes the focus off of what prayer is actually all about, and again that’s communication with God in an act of obedience and worship.

Great thoughts all around! Thanks again everyone!

(Ethan Thomas) #7

Praise to God for your healing! It’s always so amazing to me to hear these kinds of testimonies!

Also I just LOVE how you describe prayer; a “lifeline” to my very best friend and confidant. Just wow…

(Ethan Thomas) #8

I love that thought; prayer to God doesn’t change His Will necessarily, but rather simply works in tandem with his plans. Like the parent who already bought their dear child the toy they wanted, but only waited until the child asked for it before giving it to them.