Q&R with Brad: “What role do my prayers play?”
Considering this newfound discovery that in Christ, there is “no separation,” what do our prayers accomplish?
I mean, in the best way…if my friend is in pain, I genuinely care, and I talk to Jesus… But if He is always present, never withdraws, and always knowing, I find myself lost not knowing my role or effect. I pray still, and I suppose groaning makes sense in this instance — not in a dramatic way, but feeling deeply, empathizing, caring deeply… But when a friend comes with dire need or urgency, I fail to feel, know or understand how my words (or ‘groans’ )have any effect or power to change anything when my Lord is ever-present and attentive.
I believe the best answers would be straight out of the New Testament and especially from Jesus, James, and Paul: that when we turn to God in trust and offer up prayers, we have a good heavenly Father who responds in his mercy. That’s the claim they’re making. The question you’re really asking seems to be about the way and how of prayer if there’s no separation? While there’s a lot of mystery involved in prayer, it boils down to this: because of Jesus Christ, there is no separation, so you have access to the Father and can bring your requests to him. If there were separation, you wouldn’t be able to do that.
And it is because he is always present, never withdraws, always knowing that we can know that he hears our prayers…
Why would we think our prayers have any effect when my Lord is ever-present and attentive? Because he has promised us this very thing. How do our words “have any effect” on Someone who loves us? Isn’t that intrinsic to a love relationship? Listening, responding, helping in time of need?
For whatever reason (related to being created in the image of God), God seems only to act in this world without a willing human partner who welcomes and therefore mediates his presence and grace (citing Bishop Desmond Tutu). To do otherwise would seem to be an intrusion, or coercion, or an invasion of his will in a way that would be controlling rather than loving.
So, in A More Christlike God, I describe God’s activity in this world and through our prayers and lives as LOVE = consent + participation. God is ever-present but seems to await our consent and participation, through which he then participates in our lives … in ways that require our partnership.
The model that Tutu (and I) use to illustrate this dynamic is the feeding of the 5000, where Jesus partners with a little boy, whose contributions are a sack lunch and a willingness to help. Not only does Jesus find a willing human partner… but the boy also discovers that he has a divine partner. It’s not all up to him. He doesn’t need to save the day … he just needs to sidle up to the Saviour who will.
Now, I don’t know why ‘answers’ to prayer can appear so random, but I can say with confidence that God is always good (not arbitrary) and every prayer opens the door to his mercy, whether that looks like what we had hoped for or not.