“Devote yourselves to prayer, with an alert mind and thankful heart.” Col. 4:2.
I have been praying for 60 years. I am told that the Lord already knows what I will pray for, and He already knows what He will do about it. This “knowledge” of God’s knowledge HINDERS my prayer life. Worship and praise and thanksgiving still make sense, but prayer requests? I honestly cannot get my head around asking an all-knowing Being for something that he already knows I will ask for, and has already decided what he will do in response.
In any other situation, I would call this a “farce!”
I DON’T GET IT! I HONESTLY DON’T GET IT!
I am writing this essay today [Dec. 4,5,6,7,8,9, 2020] in an honest attempt to figure “it” out.
I am sorting through my theological brain. Sorting through the Scriptures that have led my pursuits for decades. The slogans I have come up with. The preaching and writing I have presented to others. I am shaking it all up like a penny jar and ready [I hope] to dump it out for the whole world to see.
Laugh if you will. Argue if you want. But at least give it some thought and get back to me.
First, lets take note of three things:
1. Human beings severely overestimate our ability to comprehend things beyond our reach. The eternal, infinite, holy BEING exists and behaves 1000 levels above our paygrade. Let’s get this into our thick skulls.
- “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isa. 55:9. (All quotations from NLT).
- “God … is able … to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Eph. 3:20.
2. From cover to cover, the Bible portrays the eternal, infinite, holy BEING as genuinely interacting with his human creatures and responding to them. Never lose sight of this!
- Gen. 18:17-33 – Abraham barters with God.
- Exo. 33:12-23 – Moses bargains with God.
- Lev. 26:3-46 – God lets his people determine much of their future.
- Jer. 26:1-19 – God allows people to determine His response.
- Mat. 7:6-11 – God’s children told to ask.
- Acts 10:30-33 – An army officer told how to obtain the Lord’s blessing.
- Acts 28:7-9; Jam. 5:14-15 – Prayers bring about healing.
Therefore, as a professor of mine stressed, the Bible shows that “God chooses to move through time with us.” (David Needham). If God sets this parameter, us creature-lings should act accordingly. Don’t bring the doctrines of God’s omniscience and predestination into our prayer lives!
3. The eternal, infinite, holy BEING admits that he keeps secrets from us.
- “The Lord has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them.” Deut. 29:29.
- “Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, you work in mysterious ways.” Isa. 45:15.
So then, where does this lead us?
Let’s stop pretending to be a colony of ants able to debate the merits of astrophysics! God’s eternal nature, God’s omniscience, is totally beyond our comprehension!
Here are 5 suggestions.
1. Learn to stay in our lane and Let God alone be God – the eternal, infinite, holy BEING!
- He is eternal in nature and orientation, who chooses to invade our time-based life and world.
- Life for us is sequential and spatial. One event follows after others, which will then be followed by more and more.
- Therefore, pray in the “now” for changes and developments we desire to see in the future.
2. Let God have the right to reveal what He chooses to reveal when He chooses to reveal it.
- Dive into, and hang on to, a relationship of trust, over just a knowledge-based trust. John 13:7.
- We are alerted to spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-18; 1 Thes. 5:8), but note that the armor is defensive, protective. We are told to “stand firm”, not to “march and attack.”
- “But we worship at your throne – eternal, high and glorious!” Jer. 17:12.
3. Live forever in the ever-developing “now”, not in some yet to be experienced future.
- What did Jesus do at the funeral of a corpse he was about to resurrect? “Then Jesus wept.” John 11:35.
- “That is why the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today when you hear his voice…’” Heb. 3:7.
- “You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that…” Heb. 3:13.
4. Pray for others 20 times more than you pray for yourself.
- “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Eph. 6:18.
- “I pray for you constantly.” Eph. 1:16. “We always pray for you.” Col. 1:3. “So we keep on praying for you.” 2 Thes. 1:11.
- The love God has for you, he has equally towards everyone in your life. Rom. 5:8.
5. Let God embrace you. Let Him reassure you. He wants you to know, wants you to FEEL His solid heart-love for you.
- David was caught in an absolutely horrible situation when he prayed and wrote Psalm 52. But, within that horror he could honestly say, “But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.” Psa. 52:8. This is genuine relationship. It exceeds, overcomes, and outlasts any and all circumstances.
- Live and breathe Psalm 23.
This article is incomplete. Input from you and others is most welcome. I myself have only begun this journey of learning to pray with integrity. May God bless us.