Monday, February 07, 2005

Omnipotent Benevolence

John 14:14 "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."

14:15 "If ye love me, keep my commandments."

When our prayers are not answered we generally have one of two recourses: God won't, or God can't. Of course we fail to consider that we often face God with conflicting demands: among people or within a person.

In the Civil War just as many prayers went up to God from the Rebs as from the Union. Who was God to answer? Every nation at war has prayed for victory. So according to primitive thinking the present war will show whether Jehovah or Allah will be most powerful.

Or take the internal case: some prayers raised would destroy the pray-er. I prayed one prayer long ago, and very soon I began 'unpraying' it as hard as possible.

For effectual prayer, as James said, it helps to be a righteous person. The two verses from John make it obvious that the efficacy of prayer depends upon the intention of the supplicant. If I'm in God's will at that moment, my prayer will take wings. Otherwise, I'm wasting my time.

Finally, God has time. For 40 years American Christians prayed fervently for the end of the communist treat. Then it happened. God's time frame is very different from ours.

Some Quakers say they don't pray for people, which only means that they prefer their own tribalistic jargon, which in this case is to "hold you in the light". That seems awkward some times. I've never experienced any annoyance at my prayers in meeting. Quakers are liberal and tolerant, but they do have their own jargon....

Praise the Lord.


david said...

Its a matter of metaphors and one of the troubles with metaphors is our bodies can take them literally.

I was noticing myslef becoming ill at a Yearly Meeting. I realized what wa shappening was I was holding the entire meeting in the light -- and there were a lot of weighty Friends!

The metaphor of prayer is asking not lifting up. Though that is not always easy either. To ask is to demand an answer. It requires less strength but more courage than a passive lifting up does.

And then there is the concept of prayer warriors to muddly the waters ...

kiznath said...

"God can't" answer a prayer? I don't know if that's a possible recourse, at least not for me. Moreover, what seems conflicting to us is completely clear to God. Not only is God's timeframe very different from ours, but his perspective also. To understand that he is all just and all loving (and all-knowing) at the same time is a leap, but it helps to give some peace about prayer and its outcomes.

On another note, one of my favorite authors says she has two basic prayers: "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you." Sometimes just two words can convey more than a beautiful litany.

Larry said...

Thank you, thank you, friends.
Re asking/lifting up: I was asking for several decades before I became a Quaker, and saw no reason to change. Also, I've never felt the weight of "weighty friends"; they usually make me feel light.

Kiznath: "can't" isn't an option for me either, but it seems to be for some people I know.

Re your two prayers: I think most of my prayers are just expressions of gratitude. I (we) have so much; I just can't get over how much God has given me-- every breath in fact.

Meredith said...

Years ago, in a time of great sorrow for me, I learned about prayer. I learned that it was not what I asked for that was given, it was the grace to get through the sorrow that was given. From then on, I have never uttered another request in prayer. Now I only listen and observe. I open my heart to hear God's voice. I hear so much more now, from all sorts of sources. Observing, truly opening my eyes, I recognize grace all around me now. By listening and observing, I become aware of the holy and wonderful, the exquisite unfolding of existence, pure and perfect, right before my eyes. I am filled with gratitude.

isaiah said...

I like the Unity way of looking at prayer which says, "God can do no more for you than he can do through you."

Larry said...

Isaiah, that certainly contains truth; it reminds me of the characteristic perspective of the Libertarian perspective that "nobody ever did anything for me". I was moderating a Great Books group once when I heard that. I lost it, and asked the man if he had accepted his mother's milk.