Lately I’ve been having some sort of inner crisis about prayer. Why do you do it? Does it really change anything? Is it worth my time? All reasonable questions but I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years now so it seems I would have these answers nailed down. But recently I’ve been questioning. I mean, how can God know the future and yet my prayers mean anything? It all really comes down to how you view predestination and immutability of God I think.
And then, isn’t it funny how God works…the lesson for my Sunday School class today (which we ended up not having) was on prayer. And I just felt SO incompetent to teach. The lesson had this illustration in it:
Illustration: Many Christians can attest to the fact that, when they pray, God changes circumstances in their lives or in the lives of their families or friends. But, for skeptics, some independent studies on prayer have had interesting results. One study of heart patients conducted at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, concluded that intercessory prayer made a difference. The conclusion was that prayer was effective in supporting standard medical care, according to cardiac researcher Dr. William Harris, who
headed this study.
Dr. Harris studied the health of almost 1,000 new heart patients at St. Luke’s Hospital. The patients, all of whom had serious heart problems, were unknowingly randomly assigned to one of two groups. Half the patients received a month of daily prayer from five volunteers. The other half received no prayer from volunteers. The cardiac patients did not know they were in a study, and the pray-ers only knew the first names of the patients and never went to the hospital. Their only instructions were to pray daily “for a speedy recovery with no complications” for the patients.
Checking a long list of outcomes that could have befallen the patients—including chest pains, pneumonia, infection, and even death—Dr. Harris concluded that the group receiving prayers fared 11 percent better than the group that did not. Scientists consider this number statistically significant given the situation.
If prayer can change the heart of a sick person, just think what prayer can do to change the heart of a sinful person.
(Rauch, Catherine. “Probing the Power of Prayer.” CNN. January 18, 2000. http://archives.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/alternative/
01/18/prayer.power.wmd/. Accessed February 28, 2007.)
And I was stumped…do I really believe that? Do I believe that their prayer made a difference? I had been thinking about this exact question for weeks.
After reading this article last night, I was heartbroken. Like, literally heartbroken. If that was true, that means that when prayers were “answered”, that simply meant I happened to pray what God had planned in any case meaning if I had not even prayed, it still would have happened. Their explanation of when Hannah prayed for a son, God had already planned to give her Samuel whether she had prayed or not. But in my thoughts even through the past weeks, I remember Sodom and Gomorrah and God changing his mind about how many righteous people there would have to be in order to save the city. Was God just teasing Abraham, treating him as an infantile or was God really changing His mind? I just cried out to God literally, I don’t understand! And in an ironic twist of sorts, I prayed to God to help me understand. I had already searched Scriptures the past few weeks. And it’s very clear we are to pray. And as I mentioned, I remember reading about Sodom and Gomorrah. I went back online for another explanation, hoping something would point me to scriptures that seemed to lined up to what happened with Abraham. And I came across this site, and although I was reading about Moses and not Abraham, he does cover Abraham with Sodom in another article on there and to me, his explanation is what I’ve been looking for. I love the mental image of a rocket needing to get to the moon as its destination and there’s more than one path to get there. I’m not talking about more than one way to get saved, I’m talking more about things like praying for healing of someone or even the death of someone like mentioned here or maybe even a blessing of some sort. We can pray for things according to his character, best interests, reputation and I truly believe God can change His mind and do things out of the requests of His children. The Scripture I cling to when I doubt this is:
“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)
and also from the story of Moses
“Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” (Exodus 32:14)
and from Sodom and Gomorrah
“Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (Genesis 19:21-22)
The point of these I take from it is that there has to be the request and then, the obvious fact that God “will give” or “relented” or “granted the request” after it was asked of Him. The article can probably explain it much better than I but what I take from this is how important prayer is. That I can have an affect on my life and other people’s life. So all that being said, I hope that my prayer life improves from here on out.
Update: I just checked that first article I read, and it is from the Reformed Christianity belief (they seem to hold different beliefs toward free will so it makes sense now) whereas the second I would say is more akin to Baptist beliefs. Interesting that I go to a Baptist church and leaned toward believing that even before I knew what either were.