Why Do We Pray?

Miracles puts forward many questions about the life of faith. Among them is the subject of prayer.  Why do we pray? Do we pray because God is likely to change his will? Do we pray because if we don’t, we think that God won’t have the opportunity to change his will? Or, do we pray because it’s somehow a solvent for events and realities well outside of our control?

These are questions worth thinking about because they link themselves to a certain outlook on faith and God himself. If, for example, we pray for someone with cancer, are we praying into events that are yet to be defined, or are we praying into events that are decided well before we have prayed and well before the cancer has even settled inside the person?

In other words, can prayer move history and does it have a certain otherness about it?

Lewis wraps the point of prayer outside of time, where God resides. As we know, he is the maker of days and days do not hold him. Lewis holds that our prayers can contribute to the “cosmic shape” of events. Whether the prayer is prayed before or after the event, it is known to be prayed before the first human breath. Unlike a film where scenes can be edited in, Lewis suggests that the our prayers are seen inside the movement of events unfolding.

It’s a leap for most of us because it suggests that prayers are somehow heard by God because he knew we’d pray them, or maybe not pray them. The ultimate point, whether prayers are answered or ignored, is that God wants our, “ultimate good and the good of the whole universe,” says Lewis.

As mentioned, it is widely debated as to where the lines of God’s sovereignty and his vulnerability cross, or if they cross at all. Scripture showcases a plan that includes prayer. For example, Abraham’s plea for Sodom and Gomorrah to be spared from the fires of heaven. His prayer seems to indicate an openness on God’s part to receive an anguished-laden petition as he counts down how many righteous men Abraham need to find to spare the cities. But in the end, Sodom and Gomorrah are struck down, with Lot and his family escaping (save the pillar of salt). There are other examples: Jacob wrestling the angel, Moses asking God for help to manage Israel’s complaining, and Jesus himself in the Garden asking for the cup of suffering to be removed.

We see Jesus teaching is disciples to pray and often wandering off to pray in solitude. Paul says to pray without stopping. James declares that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Lewis puts on his time-traveler’s hat and says, “My free act [of prayer] contributes to the cosmic shape. That contribution is made in eternity or ‘before all world’; but my consciousness of contributing reaches me at a particular point in the time-series.”

In the end, time will be no more, killed by eternity, it dies a mortal’s death.

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