more consideration of a world in which my prayers always worked as I wanted… starting with the scariest one…
The effect of my responsibility
I cannot imagine the level of responsibility I would feel if my prayers automatically moved God to my desires like He were my butler. Can you see it? Every kid who faced abuse would be MY FAULT since I was unaware or forgetful to pray.
Plus, I would have to ask for precisely the right thing in precisely the right way. What if I were to use the wrong words? A Tsunami could be directly or indirectly attributed to me!
Already, many in the Christian world teach a version of this when they say that the only reason we don’t get what we want from God is because we don’t have enough faith. Granted, that could play into it, since we are encourage to not doubt when we pray (look back to Part 2)… but does my faith cast the final and majority vote? Absolutely not… thank God, for the reasons mentioned above… and
Further, what counts as a prayer? When I grumble “get me out of here” under my breath or “get them out of here”, is that a prayer? What if God responded to my emotional outburst prayers too? Life would be like a mine field of self-control with cosmic consequences for losing it!
Ever prayed for God to help you sin, or not get caught? Ever prayed about a war or even a football game? What if the other people are praying to the same God for an opposite goal?
The effect of Mystery
There are times when, as much as I like to understand things, I glory in NOT understanding things too. I am glad that God continues to be transcendent. I am glad there are topics (and they usually revolve around the questions of human suffering) that I can’t wrap my brain around.
I would hate to have a God who was cheap or easy or a dog who I bossed around. If He weren’t bigger than me, I wouldn’t feel secure in NOT being in charge. If He were not transcendent and beyond me (or just a bigger more powerful version of me like the Greek and Roman gods were), it would create a crazy sense of insecurity.
I appreciate the poetic and inspiring way that God is mysterious and I think one of the great disservices we do to faith is when we shrink God down to merely the patriarch of a religion.
I admit that I should be thankful and humbled that He can be impacted by me at all, rather than demanding or even wanting Him to be compelled by me in all.
I know there should be more headings, but I am tapped out for the moment…
Important Final Word on prayer… for now.
I certainly want to make it clear that I am aware that prayer is not primarily really about being “effective” any more than a conversation with my wife or friend is meant to be “effective.” Communication is about communion and fellowship… and I think the same is true for prayer! If I were teaching on prayer, rather than wrestling with the difficulties connected to it, this would be the theme.
When I teach on prayer, I teach on the intimacy, the connection, and the conversation of it all, and do not focus so much on the efficacy of it.
Maybe I should write another addition to this that takes that tack, but this article has been about honestly, unapologetically, and openly wrestling with the issues that surround prayer to an almighty God. In the end, what I believe is that God is a loving Father who loves to give good gifts, and I look forward to spending eternity with Him showing me His kindness (Ephesians 2) forever.
However, since part of prayer is petition and is directed to an all-powerful God, and because the question most people have with prayer IS about its effectiveness – does it change anything – I think it is fair to focus attention there… so we have been.
So long as we remember what I said… the primary purpose of prayer is communion… fellowship… intimacy… whatever word you like best, with our Eternal Creator/Father.
By faith in the revelation found in the Holy Bible and maybe a little in the intuitive eternity in the hearts of man, and the reasonable character of God, I believe that prayer can change things, maybe even by having impacted God at the time of His Creation.
I don’t understand the mechanics of how. I am not done trying to understand, and I look forward to what people put here, but I don’t need a neat package or simplistic shallow answer; I believe that any answer to a question like this MUST by definition be grander than us and most likely ineffable for us in this life.
I am not arrogant enough to demand a satisfying answer, but I love that God gives us the freedom to ask and the intellect to search, and the community to slog through it with.
Thanks be to this God who loves me enough to let me ramble on like a aboriginal child trying to discuss particle physics. I know He will continue to be patient with me and be faithful to finish what He has started in me (Phil 1:6).