Sanders on Prayer

From John Sander’s paper Be Wary of Ware:

Ware castigates our view of petitionary prayer as “arrogant” and “presumptuous” to think we could advise God, helping God achieve a “better plan.” The view of petitionary prayer we have put forward is not unique to openness, since it is likely the dominant view of evangelicals. Hence, Ware’s vituperate attack is really denigrating the prayer life of mainstream evangelicalism! Unfortunately, Ware shows no understanding whatsoever of this deep-seated piety. In Ware’s view of prayer, we are saying to God what God has ordained we should say. Our prayers of petition are not genuine dialogue with God, but simply the means by which God brings about what he has ordained. How different this is from biblical characters such as Abraham, Moses, and Hezekiah who dialogued and even argued with God. God is the one who invites us to speak with him in this way—it is no presumption on our part. God is the one who invites us to collaborate with him. We clearly say in our writings that God does not need our advice, but God asks for our input anyway because of the genuine personal relationship he wants to develop. God is the one who has chosen to make prayer a dialogue instead of a monologue. Moreover, we have never said that, for instance, when Moses intercedes for the people (Exodus 32) and God accepts Moses’ input, this results in a “better” plan. What we have said is that God has sovereignly decided that part of the plan-making process will be to include what Moses desires. God has decided that his “best” plan will involve taking our concerns into account, not because God must, but because God lovingly wants this kind of relationship. This represents the overarching Arminian view of petitionary prayer.


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