Is God really open to hear about our needs? Wouldn’t that be trivial to God? Doesn’t he know anyway? After all, God is . . . omniscient—all knowing. And maybe . . . God is angry; and it’s difficult to speak to someone who is angry. Of course, these days we often think that anger is too . . . anthropomorphic—too human-like —to think of God that way. But if not angry, then maybe God is too . . . stern, too distant, too . . . transcendent. So much beyond us. How can he care about what we are doing? Often, our image of God, our feeling and sense about what God must be, impedes our prayer, renders us . . . speechless.
From the comments of Q&A with Brueggemann #1: Why Pray?
We pray because it is in conversation with God that we learn to find our place in the God’s story. We pray because we are not alone and we are not lost. In prayer, we locate God, ourselves and our neighbors–we learn that we are all part of the narrative.
From the Uncontrolling Love of God project. Prayer to the Uncontrolling God:
The idea that we are collaborative partners with God has a significant impact on our prayer lives. In essence, we go to God not only trying to discern his will, but also suggesting solutions ourselves. We are wise, of course, to leave the ultimate decision up to the Almighty. Where, after all, were we when he laid the foundations of the world? Still we are free to argue, debate, and recommend. By joining in this kind of interaction we are better able to understand God’s reasoning and participate more fully and intentionally in God’s vision.
One of the key differences between “magic” and biblical faith is that magic is about engaging in behaviors that ultimately benefit the practitioner, while biblical faith is about cultivating a covenantal relationship with God that is built on mutual trust. And while the God-human relationship, like all trusting human-to-human relationships, benefits both God and the person of faith, it is not entered into as a means to some other end. We might say that magical faith is utilitarian while biblical faith is simply faithful.
With all sincerity, people often try to believe the right things to pray the right way. They try to attain a sufficient level of certainty about particular doctrines so that they can be sure that they are saved. Or they work to avoid the “deal-breaker” sins in order to get God to “save” them. But how is this significantly different from those who engage in magic by performing certain behaviors to get the spiritual realm to benefit them?
From How Can God Answer Prayer?
…but that if a man had any sort of assurance that such approach of the soul to God as communion involves was being made to a Supreme Being whose ear was deaf and whose heart indifferent to our cries of distress and our petitions for help or hearing could not help us because of the inevitable course of things over which He has no control, the probability is that that man would soon begin to incline toward a state of dumb resignation to the inevitable, which in turn would rapidly tend toward the neglect of prayer altogether. We pray too little as it is. If with Frederick W. Robertson we see in prayer only such contemplation of the character of God as ends with the resignation of ourselves to His will, most men, we fear, would not put themselves even to such effort to obtain it. They would be more likely to accept the inevitable and devote the time otherwise required for such contemplation to making the best out of a condition of affairs for which there is no help, at least from above.
Biederwolf, William Edward (2013-07-22). How Can God Answer Prayer? Being an exhaustive treatise on the Nature, Conditions, and Difficulties of Prayer (Kindle Locations 298-305). . Kindle Edition.
In this video, Tom Wagner claims that “prayer changes us, not God.” This is echoed by a host of Christian pastors and teachings, even by the likes of CS Lewis:
I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.
But this sentiment is foreign to the Bible. It has no bases in Biblical theology. Contrasted to this, the entire Bible is filled with God genuinely responding to prayer and often times doing otherwise than He would have done. Exodus 32 is a prime example.
Exo 32:9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
Exo 32:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
Exo 32:11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Exo 32:12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
Exo 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
The Bible is filled with countless accounts of prayer working. The general idea of prayer is that it is a way to reach God and compel His action:
Psa 34:6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
Psa 18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
Psa 28:6 Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
Luk 11:11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;
1Jn 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
1Jn 5:15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
Joh 14:14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Joh 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
The idea that “prayer is for us” is not found in the Bible, but in extrapolations based on Platonic theology.
” The true value of prayer is that it stops people from wanting what they can’t get,” Dr. Patton goes on to apply this theory to some of the Master’s teaching about prayer. We are told to ask, to seek, and to knock.
“Imagine,” he says, “a child asking for some favor, or for the relief of some want, and standing hour after hour, repeating his requests, and being told by the father: ‘Go on asking, my child; it does you much good to ask. The longer you ask the more good it will do you. Do not expect to receive anything, however, as the principal benefit of asking is that, by and by, you will not want anything, and will cease to make any request.’ Imagine a mother seeking a lost child. She looks through the house and along the streets, then searches the fields and woods and examines the river banks. A wise neigh bor meets her and says: ‘seek on; look everywhere; search every accessible place. You will not find, indeed, but then seeking is a good thing. It puts the mind on the stretch; it fixes the attention; it aids observation; it makes the idea of the child very real. And then, after a while, you will cease to want your child.’
Sermon Audio by an Open Theist:
3. Suppose we accept the third explanation: the explanation which affirms that God’s foreknowledge and foreordination are not necessarily all-comprehending.
You shrink from an attitude of thought like that toward the Supreme Being. It appears, does it not, to reflect discredit upon His perfection? Yet, let us not be too hasty in our judgment. Many earnest and noted scholars defend the position and strenuously maintain that not only does it not dishonor God, but that it is the only scheme of thought which does not divest Him of the essential attributes of His divinity.
Hence prayer is usually divided into the following component parts: Adoration, Thanksgiving, Confession and Petition. This suggest a splendid order for the express of what is doubtless in the mind of every one as he comes to God, though there can be nothing stereotyped in so vital a matter. Some of the most effective prayers in the Bible are simple, earnest cries for mercy; but the Bible abounds with prayers in which something of the order noted is observed.