In a previous blog I showed that it is a misconception to believe that God’s omniscience relegates prayer impotent. Omniscience means God knows all things that could be known, and since he created time, he has no future or past. God exists in an eternal present. This means, although our future is known to him, God doesn’t know it before our present or our past is known. He simply knows us—our whole life is before him at once. Therefore, if we pray to God concerning an important matter in our present, God is able to answer our request in our favor in the present, and it becomes a part of our future—whether our immediate or distant future. Time may be affected from our perspective, but time has no bearing from God’s perspective.
Chris, whose YouTube video series: Why I am not a Christian, I am presently considering as a theme for this series of blogposts, rightly claims that his prayers as a Christian should have dealt with his finding out and executing God’s will for his life. He saw himself in the “driver’s seat” and perceived he should have been allowing God to call the shots for his life. His error, according to his own analysis, was that it was not for Chris to ask God for the tools he thought he needed in life so that they could be implemented according to Chris’ own will. Rather, since God had already given Chris all the necessary tools he needed, it was Chris’ responsibility to discover and implement those tools according to God’s will.
Partial truth can be a very difficult matter. It is true God has arranged beforehand that we would go through certain events in order to work out his will (Ephesians 2:10), and that God works within us to both to desire and to enable us to work out his will for our lives (Philippians 2:12-13). Nevertheless, we must pray for that to occur. Nothing that is spiritual occurs naturally. After all, we are physical creatures living in a physical world. If the spiritual exists at all, it exists somewhere outside the physical realm of things. Everything spiritual must be brought about by the power of God, and he has vested that power in us in hope that we would desire its presence in this world as much as he desires it to occur. God does have a will for us, and he will do whatever he desires to do, but he has also willed that his intervention will be brought about by the prayers of his people rather than forced upon us.
We could look to Jewish history for our example. It was never God will that the Jews be conquered and go into captivity to Assyria or Babylon. The problem was: God looked for prayer warriors to avert the otherwise inevitable. The enemies of God’s people were more powerful and greater in number than Israel or Judah. If one prayed to the gods—stone structures—all one could hope for was the inevitable result of the greater destroying the inferior. Yet, God looked for his people to turn to him and pray for his will to occur (Isaiah 50:1-2), but there were none to stand between him and the inevitable victory of their powerful enemies. God called to them to repent and return to him, but no one repented and prayed (2Chronicles 36:15-16). It was only after there was no remedy that God’s people went into captivity. It is the will of God for the Jews to possess the Promised Land, and they will posses it—all of it—when they seek God with their whole heart (cp. Jeremiah 29:12-14).
God has a will for mankind, and no one is able to keep God from doing his will. Nevertheless, God has determined to bring his will about through the persons of men (cp. Ephesians 1:11; 2:10 and Philippians 2:12-13). Therefore, if men are free to act according to their own will, then God’s will for mankind will come only after sufficient numbers of men have returned to God, praying that his will for mankind would be brought into existence. Some things are foreknown by God but not all things. Nevertheless, all things are worked out to bring what is foreknown into existence, and that is not done without men praying for God’s intervention.
I found the example of the jug of milk that Chris used in his video disappointing. It is disappointing, because no one, Christian or atheist, would ever believe the jug of milk had any power to answer prayer. It couldn’t make the blind see or the lame walk, yet God has answered such prayers. I know of a man who testifies of his 20:20 vision, when one eye was damaged in an accident when he was young. For awhile his vision was damaged, and he was losing sight in the one eye, but prayer corrected that. Two doctors told him he should be blind in that eye, and he gave his testimony to his personal physician and to the other who took that physician’s place when the first retired. I also had an accident years ago at work. I fell into an open ditch, and my elbows stopped my fall as they came crashing against the cement pavement—otherwise my head would have hit it—either killing me or knocking me unconscious. For years I had daily pain in my elbows and later in my shoulders, which I assume were jarred in the fall. About 15 years later I was helping a missionary friend load up a truck for the poor in Mexico. I was in pain for most of the day, but I said nothing until after the truck was loaded. Just before leaving for home, I asked if my friend would remember me in prayer for the pain in my elbows and shoulders. His wife, also a missionary, said let’s pray now. We did, about five of us, and that was the last day I had such pain. I used to brace myself as I turned the wheel of my car each morning as I went to work, because then the pain would begin—every day for about 15 years. I braced myself once more after that prayer, and I’ll never forget my surprise and my delight in my God as the awaited pain never occurred—not then, not ever again, and that was over 20 years ago.