An original Post from one of our online forums
We’ve been dealing with the issue of prayer the last couple of months in our Lead Team meetings. While prayer is a part of everything we do (more prayer at worship than announcements), one of my leaders in particular is really wrestling with the issue of prayer.
Here are some of his questions. I’d like to pass them on to you and ask for your responses. Frankly, these questions are good ones and they have challenged me.
1. How does prayer make a difference in human affairs? For example, does persistant prayer about a friend’s salvation cause God to move in their life in ways that would lead them to Christ? If so, why would God wait for our prayers? Wouldn’t God already be working to lead them to Christ? If that’s true, why do we need to pray about it, if God’s already on the task?
2. Do we pray to move God? Or do we pray so that we would be changed? Or both?
3. If God doesn’t move but in response to prayer (I think that’s a Wesley quote), why? Why would God limit Himself to our faithfulness?
4. Do prayers really make a difference in human affairs? I believe they do. But it does scare me that God would only move in response to prayer, mostly because I know how inconsistent I am.
Can any of you offer some help?
Response from Bill Easum
I’ve never believed that God does something simply because someone prayed hard enough. If that were the case, God would be capricious. However, I’ve always believed that prayer is not as much something that we do as who we are and how we live. Paul said “pray without ceasing.” That also means that I’ve always believed the real power of prayer is what it does to the person praying.
However, studies have shown that hospital patients who have been prayed for do better than those who aren’t, even if they don’t even know about the prayers.
I think you need to tell your friend that to know the answers to the questions he is asking would to be like God and that we all know is a NO No in scripture. There are some questions best left unanswered. We can not know what is in the mind of God other than what God has revealed to us in Jesus Christ (sound Barthian, I did my thesis on Barth). Jesus did not choose to explain all of these questions to us. Theologians have tried to answer them, but when all is said and done, it is shaft blowing in the wind, like most all theology. Just quote your friend scripture and tell him to leave the rest to God.
The more important question is “What is prayer?” how can one “pray without ceasing and still get the mission accomplished? Or is praying three hours a day like Wesley “praying without ceasing?’ We all know it isn’t, but he could do anything without the prayer time early each morning.
Is prayer always with eyes closed or can one pray while driving the car? I never go through the day without praying many many times, but I seldom, if ever, close my eyes and knell by my bed. Obvious to me, prayer is more to keep me obedient and in remembrance of who I serve and where my power, if any, lies. That’s my take on it without becoming a hair splitting theologian. Of course, I know many spiritual giants who believe that praying causes God to do things God would not otherwise do if they hadn’t prayed. Bill