For those of you who know me, you know that I love theology. And for those of you who were here a few days ago for youth Sunday, you know that prayer has been on my heart and mind for the past month or so. “Well then, Rocky,” I said to myself, “Why don’t you bring those two ideas together into a thought-provoking blog post?” “You know what?” I replied. “I think I’ll do just that!” So here are some of my theological ponderings on prayer…
First of all (and I said this about a bajillion times on Sunday), prayer is about relationship. It’s not an “open sesame” sort of magic formula to get what you want out of God. It is simply communication. And as any Oprah or Dr. Phil fan will tell you, communication is the key to relationships. Take a moment to think about the sheer magnitude of that notion. We can communicate with God directly! God, who formed the mountains, who created the mighty oceans, who blasted the cosmos into existence, and who designed the atom long before we ever thought to split it – this God wants to communicate with each and every one of us. WHAT?!? That’s wild, huh? I can’t even get Rob Bell to respond to my twitter posts.
Secondly, our prayers are not always answered how we would like them to be (and sometimes not at all), not because God ignores them or doesn’t care for our pleas and requests, but because we are communicating with Him amidst a cosmic-scale war that is being waged throughout this battlefield called Earth. When we consider the titanic forces conflicting against one another, it makes sense. Consider our enemy, a force that is evil beyond our imagination. Now I have a pretty vivid imagination. I can think up some pretty sick crimes. But even I have a limit to where I will allow my mind to go. There are evils so dark and twisted that I don’t even want to think about them. And yet Satan has the ability and desire to make evils far more sinister than I could ever imagine into reality. Now consider that he is a force so powerful that the first time war broke out among the celestial beings, it left creation itself in chaos and ruins (cf. Gen 1:2). There is a genuine war with genuine consequences happening all around us. And, like any war, there are going to be casualties, our prayers notwithstanding.
My third and (for the sake of space) final consideration is this. Unless the future is genuinely open to change, how could our prayers actually affect anything? At one point in my life, I believed that prayer only changed the person praying and had no effect on the Person being prayed to. The thought was that God already knows for certain every detail of what will happen in the future, so my prayers have no ability to change the future. What’s going to happen is going to happen regardless of whether or not I pray. Thankfully, my attitude and thoughts on this issue have changed considerably. I now believe that the future is genuinely open to change, even in God’s mind. All throughout the Bible people pray to God and He changes his actions in response to prayer. Now, we could be all like “well, those dumb ancient people didn’t really know that God was going to that all along. They only thought God was changing His mind about an action He was about to take. But thanks to the enlightenment, and modern science, and Einstein’s theory of relativity, and blah blah blah we now know how God really is – totally unaffected by our prayers.” I don’t think this is the case. If righteous prayer is really powerful and effective (Jas 5:16), then that means that we aren’t just waiting for God to reveal history to us, but we are legitimately partnering with God through prayer in changing the course of history.
So those are just some of my thoughts. Let me know what you think, even if you disagree… no, especially if you disagree :-)