Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Prayer, What's it all about?

Jesus said "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:22) and it is repeated in the Gospel of Mark "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (Mark 11:24)

This kind of prayer is obviously intercessionary prayer, praying on behalf of other people, praying for a change of events, praying for an outcome of some sort.

the difficulty is, as we all know, believers and heathen alike, prayers do not always get answered. Christians will often explain that God answers prayers in one of three ways: Yes, No, and Later.

Well, the "No" option is a direct contradiction of Jesus' promise. So Christians who are not getting their prayers answered will have to assume that either "Later" is in play, or, they did not have enough faith.

Others will explain that prayers will be answered, providing what is being asked for is in God's will. Well, if it is in His will, His plan, then it will come about anyway. It's His will. So there's no need to bother asking. And if it's not in His will, well again, no need to bother asking. Either way, no need to bother God.

Any ideas on how to resolve the many Biblical contradictions about prayer? Jesus tells us tio pray in private and secret so as not to be like the hypocrites, and yet in Paul's letter to Timothy, Chapter 2 entitled "Instructions on Worship" we are instructed: "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer"

Paul also wants us to bother God in 1 Timothy 2:1 "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior" Wouldn't have done anyone any good in the Holocaust would it? Or perhaps not a single person in the world prayed during 1939-1945 with enough belief.


Anonymous said...

This actually puts me in mind of Rhonda Byrne, Joe Vitale and other self-help sham gurus plugging the "ask, believe, receive" philosophy of the "Law of Attraction". Rather than asking God, though, the point is that the universe will give it if you somehow attract the right vibes.

Isn't it thought that Paul's interpretation of Christ might have little in common with what earlier followers believed and what Christ supposedly intended? That Paul's epiphany gave him what he thought was justification to re-think what Christianity meant while he took stock of his own life and compared his purpose to Christ's.

It's been a while since I read anything about that, though, so I might not have the right memory of it.

pecheur said...

I am a little behind here.

Prayer. What to do with Jesus' words about asking and receiving and the reality of asking and not receiving. I am not sure one can really sufficiently answer that question.

But what does one say when someone believes his prayers were answered? Was it a fluke of nature? It was going to happen anyway? The last option is basically the Calvinist understanding of God. God answered because it was his will (according to this belief system). OK. Then, as you asked, "Why bother?" Their response is 1) God wants us ask 2) Prayer does not change things but the person praying. But however all that works out, are all claims of prayer having been heard and God "intervening,"explained by natural causes and effects?

Possibly. But I am not convinced of ALL prayer. And even if it is how can I be certain?

But God is not Aladin stuck in a bottle and if we rub the bottle, he grants our every wish. Prayer is not about having enough faith to get what we want, nor is it about ourselves. If what you said is true about the Jesus' teaching on prayer, that it's intercessory, then it can't be about me. It is about others.

Good question though