Analogies For Understanding Prayer
God is all-powerful, which means he owns all the “say-so” there is. But when he decided to populate the creation with free agents, he gave each human various units of “say-so.” [Click here for yesterday’s post on “say-so.”] We each have a certain amount of power to affect what comes to pass by our choices.
Now, because God’s central goal in creation was to invite agents to enter into and cultivate a relationship with him, and because relationships are all about communication, God also set aside a vast reservoir of “say-so” that is accessed only by communicating with him. Because of how central this objective is for God, he covenanted with himself to release this “say-so” only if his people pray. There is thus a vast array of possible things that God would like to do but which he will not do— indeed, given his covenant with himself, that he cannot do— unless his people align their hearts with his in prayer. Of course he has the sheer power to do whatever he wants. But given the kind of world he created, there are things he cannot do unless his people align their hearts with him in prayer.
This is an analogy that helps me understand all the “if – then” statements attached to prayer in the Bible. It explains the incredible urgency Jesus and the rest of the Bible attaches to prayer. [For more on this biblical point of view, click here.]
Another analogy that might help us understand the power of prayer comes from physics. Light is transmitted in electromagnetic waves of varying frequencies. Most light sources (e.g. the sun, a light bulb) emit a wide spectrum of frequencies, meaning the frequencies are not in sync with each other. This creates “white light.”
In the early 1960’s scientist discovered a way to get these frequencies in sync with each other. They discovered that when they did this, the power of the light was greatly amplified. It creates a laser beam.
While white light bounces off solid objects, light waves of a certain high frequency that are in sync with each other – laser beams – can burn through diamonds!
Now, we can think of God’s will and human will as light waves. To the extent that our will is out of sync with God’s will, our “say-so” is out of sync with God’s “say-so,” so the power available to affect Gods’ will “one earth as it is in heaven” is compromised. Again, this isn’t because God himself lacks power, but because God has chosen to create a world where the exercise of his power is conditioned by how humans freely use their “say-so.” So when we’re out of sync with God, there are many things that God would like to do that do not get done.
When humans get their will in sync with God’s will, it’s like light waves coming into sync with each other, and a divine laser beam is created. There is now a power to burn through all that resists God’s will, and God’s will is to this extent done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
By God’s own design, communicating with God is the act of aligning our will with God’s will. In prayer, we are creating laser beams from heaven. God’s power is being unleashed in the world in ways it would otherwise not be unleashed.
These are simply analogies, of course. But the point is that prayer affects what God can and cannot do in the world. And this is why things genuinely hang on prayer. God is an omnipotent, yet prayer-dependent God!
You’ve argued that since God is all-good, he’s always doing the most he can do in every situation to bring about good. But you have also argued that prayer can change God’s mind. How are these two beliefs compatible?
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