How can prayer change God's will for the good?
Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, Chabad Jewish Center, 1203 W. 19th St.:
One of the fundamentals of our belief in God is that God is not subject to change. This leads one to wonder what is the meaning of our requests and prayers, which seems to imply that God can change his mind? To state the question slightly differently: How can prayer change God's will for the good if God previously not willed it so?
The answer lies in our understanding of "potential" and "actual."
It is stated in Ecclesiastes, "There is nothing new under the sun. If there be anything whereof it is said, 'see this, it is new' - it has already been in the ages before us." (1:9-10). The inference of this verse is, that that which for us seems to be "new" has in fact already been conceived and primed at the beginning of time. A "new" event is in point of fact merely the actualization of something which up till now already existed, albeit strictly in potential.
So, too, regarding prayer:
From the very outset God desired that when a person causes a change within himself through prayer, this will elicit a divine "change" above. For from the divine perspective any number of possible outcomes exist in potential, and God desires that man's choices, actions or prayers have an effect on the "actual," i.e., the final outcome.
Think of this in terms of parents who desire their child make the wise decision of taking the time to phone them and say, "Hi, mom and dad," even when they don't need money.
Moreover, God desires that the world advance and improve as a result of our actions - we should be involved in understanding what is good for us and transforming our understanding into reality.
This is what prayer is all about: A child communicating and communing with his father in heaven - uniting to such a great extent that the supplicant can have a tremendous impact on the final reality.
Feel free to ask God for everything you truly need. But always try to keep in mind who it is that you are asking this from, and ask yourself, "What good am I doing in return? What kind of a partner am I with God in transforming his infinite potential into the one true and good reality?"
- Send e-mail to Zalman Tiechtel at Rabbi@jewishKU.com
God gives us purpose and directs our paths
The Rev. Darrel Proffitt, lead pastor, St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 5700 W. Sixth St.:
One of the most difficult concepts to grasp as a believer in Jesus Christ is that God has given us purpose and directs our paths, and yet we have free will.
There are terrible tragedies that happen in life, whether we are a believer or not. These tragedies are not caused by God, for God is incapable of evil. We know, though, that God is able to prevent some things from happening, but at times allows them to happen. Why?
This is a question pondered by theologians for centuries, and I am not wise enough to solve it in this short response. But I can help us see what the Bible says, and through these words how we might be able to see the power of prayer.
When asked, Jesus taught the disciples how to pray. He told them in part to pray, "Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." Why would he tell us to pray those words? The truth of the matter is that God's will is not always done on earth. God has called his followers to be workers in the harvest field. Part of that work is to pray. Prayer does not change God's mind, but it often changes our minds and hearts.
God says in the Bible: "You will find me when you seek me with all your heart." Finding God is the biggest blessing that he gives us. Tragedies happen. Praying does not make everything work out the way we want. But it does give us a peace that passes all understanding.
We go forward in faith in this life, praying for those things that sometimes result in an answer we want and sometimes with an answer we don't. It's not a matter of changing God's mind. It is a matter of seeking a relationship with him that is based in faith.
The Bible tells us what that kind of faith looks like: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." It is that kind of faith, rooted in prayer, that empowers us to face whatever challenges this life brings.
- Send e-mail to Darrel Proffitt at firstname.lastname@example.org