Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Calvinistic View of Prayer?

Have you ever heard someone say: "Why pray? God doesn't change, so we can't change His mind, so why pray for things? God already knows what He's going to do."

Bummer. Wonder why people don't pray more?

But it seems to me this is kind of a "calvinistic" way of looking at prayer in that it is quite like the doctrine of double predestination: God elected some to salvation and some to damnation. There's nothing you can do about it.

The problem with both of these things is that they begin with God in eternity. They start with the hidden God that we do not know and can only speculate about. And that's always going to lead us down the wrong path and into wrong and destructive teaching, as shown above.

The Lutheran way of things is to start with God as He has revealed Himself to us. We do not start by trying to figure out God in eternity, but with God in His Word, God as He has given Himself to us, God in Christ Jesus. And with that starting point, we find quite a different picture of God! For example, Moses prays for the people of Israel. A LOT. They're constantly grumbling and complaining against Moses and against God. But Moses prays for them and we read: "And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people" (Exodus 32:14).

How do we understand this? If we start with the calvinistic precondition, we will say: Well, God knew He wouldn't do it - He just wanted Moses to pray. Really? How about instead: Moses' prayer made a difference! But, how can an unchangeable God change His mind? I don't know. He hasn't told us that. But how He has revealed Himself to us is as a God who listens to and answers our prayers, and that our prayers make a difference. So I will pray!

Jesus prays, too. If it is pointless to pray, why does Jesus do so? Or how about the story in Mark 9 when Jesus comes down from His transfiguration and there is a demon the disciples could not drive out. What does Jesus say? When the disciples ask Him afterward: "Why could we not cast it out?" He said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer" (Mark 9:28-29). Or how about the passage in James (5:16-18) which reads:
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
So let's stop the "crypto-calvinistic" view of prayer that has crept in among us, and stick to the Lutheran view. This is how God has revealed Himself to us. I will not try to figure out how it can be so, but will trust and believe . . . and pray.


Anonymous said...

You state "The Lutheran way ...

Why not simply state "The Bible teaches ... ??

Pastor Peasant said...

Spurious alternative, as one of my professors used to say! The Lutheran way is what the Bible teaches. I used that phrase because so many say "The Bible teaches." The Lutheran way here referred is also called the Theology of the Cross.