Christianity 201

May 14, 2016

Is There a Conflict Between Predestination and Prayer?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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NIV Luke 11:5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

This is Chapter 15 of a 1982 book Why Pray: An Exposition of Luke 11:5-13 and Related Verses by Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, best known as the originator of the Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible available in several translations.

God has made everything; He knows how everything works; He knows what everybody will do.  Why, then, does He tell us to pray, when He already knows what the end result will be?  What difference does it make whether we ask, seek and knock?

There are two things that are clearly indicated throughout the Word of God, and especially by Jesus Christ in the Gospels, and we might as well accept them because they come from Him.  One is God’s sovereignty.  He sends rain whenever He wants it to rain.  He sends snow whenever He wants it to snow.  Whatever He wants to do, He does and we cannot hinder Him or influence Him in the doing of it.  He is sovereign.  We can’t change that.

But the fact also remains that He wants us to pray, and that is just as much a part of His sovereignty as everything else.  He says, “Pray, ask, seek, knock.”  The fact that He wants us to pray is a recognition of the sovereign freedom of our will.  He has given us freedom of will to come to Him, the omnipotent, all-sovereign God, as a Father and talk to Him about our needs.

If God entered a heart against its will, He would be violating the freedom of will with which He created us.  Only when our will voluntarily comes into harmony with His will can we ask and expect to receive.

Now, there is something we must understand about the Lord’s prefacing the words, “Ask, seek, knock” with the declaration, “And I, myself, say unto you,” and that is He has the authority to say so.  He is the Creator, and “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).  Here He is declaring that He is God Himself.  he is the Creator, and the Sustainer, also, of all things.  As the Sustainer of all things He is able to hear us and to do what we ask if it is in accordance with His eternal will – or even to give us something better than what we, in our limited wisdom, ask for.  John 1:3 says, “By him were all things made, and there isn’t a thing that was made that wasn’t made by him.

Colossians 1:17 is a mind-boggling verse, which I’ll translate directly from the Greek: “And he it is who is before all things, and all things in him consist.”  In other words, in Him everything holds together.  He is the cohesive force of everything.

Have you ever thought what happens when you ask something from God and then another child of God asks exactly the opposite? Take a farmer who needs rain and another believer who needs sunshine. Now since God cannot please both, what will He do?  In His eternal wisdom and providence, He will answer in a way that will best further his plans. If the believer needs the sunshine more than the farmer needs the rain, then God may bring the sunshine. Otherwise, He might bring rain – unless, of course, in His larger view of the needs of all, or His plans for all, He sends what is best for all. Our prayers are often so competing that when the Lord looks from above He must decide what is best from His own point of view. Unlike a human parent, He is not perplexed as to whom to please.  Have you ever had this happen:  one child in your family wants to do one thing and another child wants to do the opposite, and you as a parent don’t know what to do? I sometimes think it is not easy for God to be God. He created, He sustains everything, and I’m glad that He sees all of humanity from above and answers accordingly.

2 Comments »

  1. “Why, then, does He tell us to pray, when He already knows what the end result will be? What difference does it make whether we ask, seek and knock?”

    It seems to me that there is a clear conflict between a certain understanding of predestination and a certain understanding of prayer. If God has predetermined something to happen, and it is going to happen exactly as he has determined it to happen, then my prayer to change that, however fervent, is meaningless. It makes no difference and it changes nothing about God’s planned action or inaction.

    On the other hand, if one looks at prayer as a means of changing themselves, altering their character, and helping them to become more like Christ, rather than changing someone or something else, it doesn’t really matter what God has planned. My prayer is not trying to change His unchangeable plans.

    Jesus calls us to pray not to change God’s plans. Rather, prayer has the ability to change us as people and that, by and large, is the overarching purpose of prayer. Prayer alters me, not God.

    Comment by Jim — May 15, 2016 @ 10:16 am | Reply

  2. Teachings about “predestination” have distorted many concepts of God’s Word. To understand its place in relation to prayer, some thought must be given to its understanding. God has a plan that was best revealed through His creation and before the fall of man. He declared His handiwork to be “very good.” The state that existed at that time fulfilled His good pleasure/purposes. Before the fall and the disruption of the state of His Creation He enjoyed fellowship with Adam and Eve. He walked and talked with them in the garden of Eden.
    An attribute that He wanted man to enjoy in the relationship is the exercise of free-will which provided man with the ability to choose to love God with all of his mind, heart, body, and soul. Love cannot be scripted or predestined; it must be chosen in order to be real. God is also holy in nature and holiness must be an attribute of those with whom He can enjoy fellowship. He is also sovereign and He has demanded that all recognize this truth. His plan, even though disrupted, is being completed. The fulfilment of His plan has been “predestined” and will be accomplished. The issue is the creation and selection of a people who will choose and develop the relationship that He desires. The relationship, like all relationships, must be personally developed. It is in the individuality of the relationship that prayer has its place. Although the plan of God will be accomplished, when it comes to the individual the personal relationship must be worked out.
    What is prayer? Basically it is communion with God. As believers we are called to develop a personal relationship with Him and prayer is a major method of relating. One of the scariest passages in the Scriptures records the Lord’s comments to some. “I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers!”(Matthew 7:23, NIV) He wants to know us. We are called to confess sins when they are known to us. Doing so is recognition that our behaviour has offended Him. The more attentive we are to our walk and the more we seek His help to overcome sin through confession and supplication, the closer our relationship to Him becomes…the better He “knows” us.
    James has recorded that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) It is true that our prayers are to be in conformity with the will of God, but the righteous man is walking according in the will of God. Christ is living His life through that one. The confessor has to develop his own relationship with God and if He is prepared to honour his Creator through an obedient and righteous walk God’s plan will be accomplished and his place in it. By following God’s predestined plan, the confessor will be made acceptable for His Kingdom. (Romans 15:16) One’s “following” is a personal choice, the exercise of free-will. The confessor is called to persevere “to the end” (Matthew 10:22) and concerning prayer the writer of Hebrews has said, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he was without sin. Let us the approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV)
    Prayer should not be frivolous but is essential if the relationship that God requires is to be established. Paul wrote that one is to work out his own salvation with fear (terror) and trembling. (Philippians 2:12). Righteousness is essential for the one seeking God’s Kingdom and this must be carefully worked out. The Lord is also prepared to bless those who are walking close to Him by meeting their needs so that they might be protected from Satan’s evil schemes as presented through temptations and weakness of the flesh.
    God loves those who love (obey) Him. Christ said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.” (John 15:10) This utterance might be startling for those who rest their hope in God’s “unconditional love.” His commands result in a holy walk.
    There is NO conflict between predestination or God’s sovereignty and prayer. Prayer is necessary to enable one to submit to His sovereignty and to accomplish His predestined plan.

    Comment by Russell Young — May 17, 2016 @ 9:38 am | Reply


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