Prayer - much more than words

232 is more than just a prayerI assume that you have also experienced times of despair in which you have implored God to intervene. Maybe you prayed for a miracle, but obviously in vain; the miracle did not happen. Likewise, I assume that you were very pleased to learn that the prayers for healing a person were answered. I know a lady who has grown a rib after praying for her healing. The doctor had advised her, "Whatever you do, carry on!" Many of us, I am sure, are comforted and encouraged because we know that others pray for us. I am always encouraged when people tell me that they are praying for me. In response, I usually say, "Thank you, I really need all your prayers!"

A misguided way of thinking

Our prayer experiences may have been positive or negative (probably both). Therefore we should not forget what Karl Barth has observed: "The crucial element of our prayers is not our prayers, but God's answer" (Prayer, p. 66). One can easily misunderstand God's reaction if he does not respond in the expected way. Quickly one is ready to believe that prayer is a mechanical process - one can use God as a cosmic vending machine, in which one throws in his wishes and the desired "product" can be taken. This misguided way of thinking, which already comes close to a form of bribery, often sneaks into prayers that are about gaining control over a situation that we are powerless to face.

The purpose of the prayer

Prayer does not serve to make God do things he does not want to do, but to join in his actions. It also does not serve to control God, but to acknowledge that he controls everything. Barth explains it this way: "As we fold our hands to prayer, our rebellion against injustice begins in this world." By saying so, he confessed that we, who are not of this world, pray to God's mission to the world contribute. Rather than leaving the world (with all its injustice), prayer unites us with God and His mission to save the world. Because God loves the world, He sent His Son into the world. When we open our hearts and minds in prayer to the will of God, we cast our trust in the one who loves the world and us. He is the one who has known the end since the beginning and who can help us to recognize that this present, finite life is the beginning and not the end. This kind of prayer helps us to see that this world is not what God wants it to be, and it changes us so that here and now we can be the bearers of hope in God's present expanding Kingdom. When the opposite of what they have asked for, some people plunge into the deistic view of the distant and uninvolved God. Others do not want to have anything to do with believing in God. This is how Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptic's Society (German: Verein der Skeptiker), experienced it. He lost his faith when his college friend was seriously injured in a car accident. Her spine was broken, and due to paralysis down her waist, she has to rely on a wheelchair. Michael had believed that God had to hear the prayers for her healing because she was a really good person.

God is sovereign

Prayer is not a means to direct God, but the humble acknowledgment that everything is under his authority, but not us. In his book, God in the Dock, CS Lewis explains as follows: Most of the events taking place in the universe can not be influenced, but some are. It is similar to a play in which the scene and the general plot of the story are dictated by the author; however, there remains a certain scope in which the actors have to improvise. It may seem strange why he even allows us to trigger real events, and it seems even more amazing that he gave us the prayer instead of any other method. The Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal said that God "introduced prayer to grant his creatures the dignity to make changes".

It would perhaps be more factual in saying that for this purpose God considered both prayer and physical actions. He gave us small creatures the dignity of being able to participate in the events of events in two ways. He created the matter of the universe so that we can use it within certain limits; so we can wash our hands and use them to nourish or kill our fellow human beings. Similarly, God included in his plan or course of history that it allows for some latitude and can still be modified in response to our prayers. It is stupid and indecent to ask for victory in a war (if one expects that he knows what is best); that would be just as stupid and unseemly, to ask for nice weather and to put on a raincoat - does not God know best whether we should get dry or wet?

Why pray?

Lewis points out that God wants us to communicate with him through prayer and explains in his book Miracles that God has already prepared the answers to our prayers. This raises the question: why pray? Lewis replies:

When we bring the result in prayer, say a dispute or a medical consultation, it often springs to mind (if only we knew it) that an event has already been decided one way or the other. I do not think that's a good argument to stop praying. The event is certainly decided - in the sense that it has already been decided "before all the time and the world". However, one thing that is taken into account in the decision and really makes the thing a particular event may just be the prayer we are making now.

Did you understand that? God may have considered in his response to your prayer that you will pray. The implications of this are thought-provoking and exciting. It shows all the more that our prayers are important; they have meaning.

Lewis continues:
As shocking as it sounds, I conclude that in the afternoon we may become involved in a cause chain of events that already took place at 10.00 o'clock (some scientists find it easier to describe it as more generally understood). To imagine this, no doubt, will now seem to us as if we were being tricked. I ask, "So, when I finish the prayer, can God go back and change what has already happened?" The event has already happened and one of the reasons for this is the fact that you ask such questions instead of praying. So it depends on my choice. My free activity contributes to the form of the cosmos. This involvement was created in eternity, or "before all times and worlds," but my consciousness of it reaches me only at a certain point in time.

Prayer does something

What Lewis wants to say is that prayer does something; It always has and always will. Why? Because prayers give us the opportunity to engage in God's actions, doing and doing what we did now. We can not understand how it all works together and works together: science, God, prayer, physics, time and space, things like quantum entanglement and quantum mechanics, but we know that God has determined everything. We also know that he invites us to participate in what he does. Prayer is a lot.

When I pray, I think it is best to put my prayers in God's hands, because I know that he judges them correctly and inserts them into his good intentions in an appropriate way. I believe that God uses all things for His glorious purposes for good (that includes our prayers). I am also aware that our prayers are supported by Jesus, our high priest and advocate. He receives our prayers, sanctifies them and exchanges with the Father and the Holy Spirit. For this reason, I assume that unanswered prayers do not exist. Our prayers are connected with the will, purpose and mission of the triune God - much of which was established before the foundation of the world.

If I can not explain exactly why prayer is so important, then I trust God that it is so. Therefore, I am encouraged when I learn that my fellow human beings pray for me, and I hope you are encouraged because you know that I pray for you. I do not do it to try to direct God, but to praise the One who directs everything.

I thank and praise God that he is the Lord of all and our prayers are important to him.

Joseph Tkach


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