Why bother praying?

Monday Musings for December 24, 2018

Good morning, Musers… and Merry Christmas!

Why bother praying? That’s the essence of today’s question. It’s from a believer who understands that God’s will will be accomplished — no matter what. So he wants to know, if God’s will is going to happen anyway, is prayer a waste of time? That’s a fair question.

Well, we know that prayer can’t be a waste of time because the Bible commends it… yet, his point persists. If God has the last word, what use is our word?

I find not praying to be counter-intuitive. Even though I know that God’s will will be done, the felt truth of my life is that I am living it in real-time and that I am making a difference in the world. If I do evil, then evil prevails, and if I do good, then good prevails. So, how does this mesh with God’s will being accomplished?

Here’s where it’s helpful to think about God’s omniscience — but how that works with his relationship to time. God knows everything… but he knows everything at the same time. You and I may postulate about our futures, but we live them linearly — in real-time — and this is restrictive.

But God lives in the eternal now. As such, he can hear our prayers on the fly, and he can see our sins on the fly. But the thing he does not do is micromanage the process of our lives. That would destroy free will! So, sans miracles — and these are definitively rare — we are free to destroy ourselves… even while God looks on.

Now, God does not approve of our sins… yet we do them… and God desires that none should perish… yet many do. So, it’s apparent that he maintains our free will at great cost. But it’s not enough to say that he accomplishes his will in spite of our shortcomings; he accomplishes it through them! A trip back to ancient Israel is instructive here.

How did God forge the nation that would become his people? Through famine! (Jacob had to voluntarily engage with Egypt — or starve!) Through the treachery of brothers! (It was jealousy that sent Joseph to Egypt… not any high purpose. Yet God was preparing Joseph to protect his family.) Through centuries of slavery! (The Israelites grew in number, and when the time came, they were happy to leave).

So, what about prayer? Was Jacob praying that God would just feed them and spare them the travel to Egypt? Probably. Was Joseph praying that his brothers would repent and take him back to their father? Probably. Were the Jews praying that the Egyptians would just get off their backs… but leave them in Goshen where there was plenty of food? Probably.

God sees the whole mess. But somehow — and without messing with the mess — he says, it is good! So, why pray? Because God wants a relationship with you — and no… I can’t figure out why either.

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