Effective Prayers

While I was saying my morning prayers last Wednesday, God suddenly whispered, “Do you believe these are doing anything?”

Cause and effect. I’ve “believed in it” since I was scrawling my homework in elementary school. I vaguely remember a fifth-grade lesson on it. And, in one way, it seeped into my life: when there were immediate effects, I completely understood the consequences of causes. However, I’ve always had a hard time with delayed effects. I took them as mystical matters. And, at the heart of it, I didn’t believe in them.

In the depths of my consciousness, I never thought that exercise would slenderize. That aspirin would stop pain. That Vitamin C would prevent illness. I did these things anyway, and the cause often came. But, somehow, all my life, I’ve failed to learn my lesson. There was this dark chasm between cause and delayed effect. When we read Hume in college, everyone else asked “How could someone live like this? Think like this?” as I silently wondered, “How could someone not?”

To my astonishment, the chasm is finally beginning to grow light. After a quarter century of acting as though actions produced equal and opposite reactions, I’m starting to actually believe it. Suddenly, the chaos is growing ordered.

It started with therapy. Therapy – in my struggle to understand delayed effects – was really just my admission that I was in trouble. It didn’t occur to me that it would actually make me feel better. To my astonishment, my utter surprise, I actually began to improve after three or four sessions.

It dawned, then. The future wasn’t some chaotic, uncontrollable series of events. I had agency. I could be proactive. I could use these delayed effects to actually be who I wanted to be in the future. Obviously, there would always be things outside of my control. But, I started to believe there were things in the future inside my control.

While I was saying my morning prayers last Wednesday, God suddenly whispered, “Do you believe these are doing anything?” My Calvinist high school Bible teacher had said effective prayer reconciled us to the will of God, but requests weren’t answered beyond that. I had cognitively rejected the notion, but it remained in my heart. Just like I used to exercise or take pain medicine without really believing it would impact the future, I was still praying without believing it would impact the future.

In my mind, praying for others was a way of modeling to those around me that God and I loved them. I would pray for them so that I could tell them I was praying for them and they would know they were loved. But do those prayers mean anything besides helping me be a loving person and helping them know they were loved?

Yes. They do. Cognitively, I can’t understand how my prayers have any effect on God’s actions. The idea that it changes my heart but not God’s mind is completely within my understanding. But, these failings of my imagination don’t necessitate ineffective prayers for two reasons: (1) it is reasonable to suppose that there are things about an infinite God that are incomprehensible to the finite mind, and (2) the Bible suggests we should think of prayers as effective. That’s enough for me.

So, I put a post-it on the front of my Prayer Book: “Think cause and effect thoughts.” I put a post-it on my door: “Do you believe prayers are effective?”

When I got home yesterday, I was still smiling at an interaction I’d just had with a friend. I had sent her an encouraging message, and she replied that she had just been praying very hard for encouragement. She said I’d been an answer to prayer. As I closed the door, I saw the “effective” note and realized. It went both ways.

  • http://imperfectfornow.blogspot.com/ Mackman

    Love it! “Cause and effect.” Exactly. I’ve thought about this a lot as well, and you’re right: If the Bible tells us anything about prayer, it’s that it makes things happen that would not otherwise happen. Any view of petitionary prayer that does away with that is going to be an utterly incomplete picture of what prayer really is.

    I’ve written about this fairly extensively, working through the possible “mechanics” of how it works and interacts with God’s omnipotence and foreknowledge and all that jaz… you might find it interesting. http://imperfectfornow.blogspot.com/2012/05/changing-future.html



    In any case, I love your post! Thank you for writing it.

  • Sarah Winkler

    Love this! Hope you like the below prayer as well :)
    Thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, with all thy heart…

    To die before dying, to be born again, this is why we were created.
    Do you love God? Do you also love those beloved saints of God who are in endless remembrance of God and have reached God?

    Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, – Colossians 1:4

    Have you ever wished to be like those beloved saints of God? Have you ever wanted to experience the love of God in its highest dimensions?
    Have you ever wanted your heart to burn with the love of God?
    Did you ever ask for God from God?
    Have you ever wanted to be God’s saint from the depths of your heart?
    Did you ever say “O Almighty God, I have come to You, please forgive Your helpless servant”?

    I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes.
    I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies. – Psalms 119: 145-146

    I am thine, save me; for I have sought thy precepts. – Psalms 119:94

    Well, are you living the Bible that God has placed into the heart of our saviour Jesus Christ?
    The only thing that the Lord of all worlds wants from you is to be happy, only for you to be happy…
    Well, are you happy? Did you ever want to open the window and shout “I am happy”?

    Know that God says;

    Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; – Colossians 1:11

    So, dear brothers and sisters! For your happiness, to be the beloveds of God and burn with the love of God, to be a friend of God, there is only one thing you need to do:

    And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. – Luke 10:27

    “Wish to seek God!”

    But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. – Deuteronomy 4:29

    Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth: think of the Lord with a good (heart,) and in simplicity of heart seek him. – Wisdom of Solomon 1:1

    Wish, so God can make you amongst the beloveds of God. Wish, so you can taste that endless happiness and peace.
    If you make this wish from the bottom of your heart, you will be one of those who embrace God. God says those that wish to reach God are the ones who embrace God…

    Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. – Psalms 16:11

    Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. -Psalms 119:35

    But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. – Proverbs 4:18

    Dear friends, friends of my life, friends of my heart… God gives good news to those who wish to reach God!

    And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. – Luke 2:10
    The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; – Isaiah 61:1
    But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. – Romans 6:17

    So one wish provided that it is from the heart…

    Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. – Matthew 7:7

    Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts. – Proverbs 21:2

    Come on, now, my dear brothers and sisters! Let’s make this wish now from the depths of our hearts. Let’s wish to be in love with God. If you are ready to reach God then open your hands and cry (crying is the medicine for the heart) and say:

    “O Almighty God! I love you so much… I am in love with you… I adore you… Millions of saints have wished to seek You and You have delivered them to Yourself. Make me reach You. I want to reach You and burn with your love. I have come to your door, please forgive me. This helpless servant of yours is repenting and wants and seeks ONLY You, to reach You, to be one of Your beloveds. Please God, please!”

    If you have done this wish from the depths of your heart, according to the Bible, you have taken the first steps to becoming a friend of God…

    And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. – Deuteronomy 30:6

    Now, instead of an unhappy, desperate and troubled life, you will have a happy, peaceful and best of all a life with God, a life with love.

    For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6

    Just like the lives of those saints…

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