Let’s be honest. More prayers are unanswered than answered. The amount of evil in the world suggests God doesn’t intervene most of the time. Many answered prayers could simply be humans taking action. God didn’t make your partner stop drinking; they finally hit bottom and got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Supposed miracle workers don’t go into hospitals. I bet hospital folks have as much faith as those healed at their rallies. Many are rightly disheartened about God when claims about prayers don’t match up with reality.
Wouldn’t a truly loving God be doing all they can before we ask?
Do we really think God is waiting to help others until we ask God to do something? Prayer must be more than manipulating God to act. God may wait for our invitation for personal help to be more the person we deep down desire to be, but God is tireless in doing all they can for others and desperately seeks our help to change the world.
Love can’t be controlling or arbitrary.
Your view of God determines your perspective and how you pray. I experienced as a child and learned as a parent controlling love is an oxymoron. It isn’t that God has the power to do something and doesn’t. God can’t change people or circumstances without them freely cooperating. Miracles don’t happen because some people are less sinful or beg better at the feet of an arbitrary God. Miracles happen when God’s uncontrolling love aligns with countless seen and unseen factors including human and organic agents.
But the Bible says….
The truth is for almost every passage on prayer, there are opposing interpretations. Mathew 7:7 is used to support the false prosperity gospel: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Isn’t this passage in context simply saying that if we parents give good gifts despite our imperfections, will not God as our perfect Parent always want to give good gifts? First-century readers didn’t assume this was a blank check for requests. The Apostle Paul expected persecution for beliefs (2 Tim. 3:12), thus God obviously is not a genie!
Prayer reminds us to offer help.
God is an omnipresent Spirit. God already knows needs before spoken. It is easier sometimes to pray for someone than take cooperative actions with God. This is the most common way that God answers prayers. Rather than praying your friend’s partner stop drinking, which is harming their family, see if your friend would rather you say something to their partner. When you know two friends are in conflict, speak to the one wrongly denying any wrongdoing. God always desire our permission to use our lives to help others.
Praying keeps us connected to God.
We could replace the word “praying” in the Bible with “talking.” We can talk to God for many reasons including pursuing a closer relationship with our Creator to be more like God, for self-examination, for sharing our concerns, and not feeling alone in a chaotic world. We tell our children associating with the right people leads to making wiser choices. Talking to God can influence us to be more loving like God toward others.
Freedom and evil!
Pretending God can simply wave a magic wand, without accounting for freedom, can make one’s suffering worse. Did I not beg enough? Did I not behave enough or have the right attitude? It seems God creating freedom necessitates one being able to do as much harm as they can do good. Authenticity, the highest good in relationships, is impossible without freedom. While God always loves to the greatest extent possible, God is not in control of everything and everybody. It isn’t that God had the power to do something about it, but chose not to, it is that God could not. Divine love limits divine power. Simply put, God’s love is uncontrolling.
So, why pray?
God is always listening. God has endless mercy and forgiveness so we don’t give up no matter how demoralized we may feel. God is always available in times of loneliness. Friends can’t always be available in the middle of the night, or we may feel that we are overburdening our friends by constantly going to them. God speaks to us mostly through self-reflection as God wants us to feel free to make decisions based on our gifts and aspirations. God only has moral biases for our best interests. We know God is speaking to when we hear: I love you; I forgive you; I won’t abandon you; I always have your and others’ best interests in mind.
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