Sunday, 28 October 2012

What about petitionary prayer?

I have heard clergymen and theologians state that God is unchangeable and immovable and He cannot be persuaded to do anything. But that idea seems to contradict the whole efficacy of persistent petitionary prayer. As you well know, there are passages in the Bible that suggest that persistent prayer will be answered. Therefore what is the point in persisting in prayer to a God who is immovable. To me, the two ideas are totally contradictory. Can you shed some light on this please?

Response: The nature of God does not change. But because God’s nature is Love then of course love responds to the beloved.

The “immovability” of God is to do with the argument about the Prime Mover – we would now say that God has no particular physical location and as the source of all physics (and all location) it makes no sense to speak of God “moving” in a physical sense.

But of course petitionary prayer does not seek to move God physically.

Reply: Thankyou for your prompt reply. Therefore I will conclude from  what you have said that petitionary prayer is worth it and I will persevere in my prayers.

Response: Definitely. Jesus is a much higher authority on this than anyone else is!

One of the great things about petitionary prayer is that we are aligning our wills to God. I think John Polkinghorne (but possibly John Lucas) makes the analogy with laser light – and how coherence greatly adds to the power.  John/John also makes the point that praying to God forces us to articulate what we really want to happen, which isn’t as straightforward as it might appear.

Reply: I have read this before in one of John Polkinhorne's books but I have difficulties with this idea because surely what I pray for comes subjectively out of my mind. My desires are not necessarily the same as God's. A concrete example would be if I prayed to win a large amount of money (which I am sure a lot of us would like), this idea would not necessarily align itself with God's will. I very much doubt if I prayed for this, even with absolute sincerity and faith, that my prayer would be answered.

I think the problem of unanswered prayer is a major stumbling block for a lot of Christians because there are such firm promises in the bible that prayer will be answered but most Christians will have had an experience of praying for something fervently and yet it never happens.

The whole issue of unanswered prayer is a complete mystery to me and maybe that is how God wants it.

Response: Yes but isn’t that the point.  We might think “I want to win a lot of money” but faced with the awesome responsibility of formulating this as a serious request for God we might realise it was inappropriate.

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