Thursday, June 5, 2014

Prayer in Uncertainty

Every day, at 1:00 pm, my phone goes off, with the word "Prayer" emblazoned across the screen. It's a remnant from my church's "Reach One" challenge: Every day, you were supposed to pray for one minute for one person who you wanted to reach, and the set time was meant to make it easier.

The challenge only lasted one month, but it never occurred to me to turn it off. So every day, at 1:00, I'm reminded to pray for my friend, and (almost) every day I pray for that one person. And I pray largely the same prayer. The periphery varies, but the core is consistent:

I pray that God will work the circumstances of  my friend for His glory, and for my friend's salvation. And I pray that if I have a role in that, that I will play it well.  

I've written a lot about free will, and Providence, and the possible relationship between the two. Entire theologies and denominations have centered on this relationship, this paradox. And I don't know how it all works out (although i do have some thoughts).

But here's the important bit: When I'm praying, I'm not thinking about all that. It's not super helpful at that moment. Because for the purposes of this prayer, it really doesn't matter. What matters is that we're told to pray, and we're told that prayer matters, and we know that prayer can even change the future... and that's good enough for me. I think there is a time for hypotheticals, for abstract reasoning and theoretical models of cause and effect, but that time is not during the act of praying.

I do not need to know how God will work my friend's situation for His glory and my friend's salvation. I do not need to know how God can providentially call my friend to Him, without violating my friend's free will. I only know that God can do that, and that is enough.

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