Prayer is an interesting phenomena. There is both something ritualistic about it and something very personal about it. No two people pray alike, unless of course, they are praying the Lord’s Prayer. But even then there are variations.
When you watch a prayer session at church – yes, I can pray with my eyes open – you’ll see that prayer is often a transition time. It’s not a time of bonding as we talk to God, it’s a time of movement. Not the movement of the Holy Spirit, bu the movement of people and things. Chorus members take their places or leave them; orchestra and choir members come down or go up to their stations; pastors flip through their notes, adjust their tie or make sure their mic is on; etc, etc. Only at the current church we are attending have I seen someone actually stop on their way to their seat during a prayer, then resume when it was completed.
My wife and I have different styles of praying especially in our morning devotionals. She reads her Bible and then writes out her prayer. I pray short prayers as I read and then perhaps a sentence or two when I am done. I’m not a kneeler, although perhaps I should be. I’m not a long-winded prayer, although perhaps I should be. I don’t use a lot of fancy words, although perhaps I should. I just pray.
This past Sunday our Pastor was talking about Daniel 9 and using Daniel’s prayer as a launching point for prayer. The synthesis of his message was basically this – Daniel prayed so we should pray. His springboard was first the sovereignty of God and then how prayer stands as a complement to his sovereignty. Our pastor is a very intelligent man, unfortunately this was one of those 10 minute sermons that took 45 minutes to deliver. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the sovereignty of God. I agree that prayer, in some way, relates to God’s sovereignty. How, I’m not quite certain, for I suspect that we often pray for things that may be outside the sovereignty of God and I’m not certain we’ll change his sovereign plan – nevertheless we pray.
Do we pray so that we’ll be in accord with God’s sovereignty or somehow cause a change in his plans?
Jesus prayed. Often, I might add. So was he praying to come into accord with God’s sovereign will or somehow cause a change in the Father’s plans? When he prayed in the garden he asked the disciples to “watch and pray” that they might not enter into temptation. Does that mean that a certain temptation was part of God’s sovereignty and that they might avoid that through prayer?
Jesus said “…all things for which you pray and ask believe that you have received them and they will be granted unto you (Matt 11:24).” Does that mean we can ask for something that may be contrary to God’s sovereign will and it will be granted? Christ makes no qualifier. Perhaps when he originally spoke those words he did qualify them and Matthew chose to leave that part out. But what Jesus said is not something that stood alone as though it were a passing thought with no follow-up. Matthew 21:22 is another example.
What about the importunate woman, who through her persistence has her request granted? Why is persistence even mentioned in the same breath as prayer? Will God break down and give in because of our persistence?
When Jesus says if two people agree about anything they ask it will be done for them (Matt 18:18-20) does that mean anything as long as it is not immoral or evil? Or is it simply related to binding and loosing. And, if what they agree on is two bubbles off level from God’s sovereign will, will it still be granted?
We cannot know God’s sovereign will for all things. Heck, most of us don’t know God’s sovereign will for our own lives. That means that praying or even living within that sphere is difficult at best, challenging in the least. Or might it be that God’s sovereign will is related to his people Israel and the church, not to individuals? Consequently, we can pray and somehow influence the mind of the Almighty without influencing his sovereign plan for the community.
Yes, prayer is an interesting phenomenon.