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Scorpions, Eggs and Prayer, Part 2

• Greg Boyd

Why does it seem like some prayers work while others don’t give us the results we want? If our prayers don’t seem to work, who is to blame? God? Ourselves? Others? To begin to understand prayer, we must break free from a simplistic and commonly held “magical view” of prayer. There are many variables that affect prayer and faith and how they work together.

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A magical view of prayer will lead people to blame God, themselves or others for prayers that look like they have failed. In order to deconstruct this common way of praying, one needs to see some of the variables that affect prayer.

  1. God’s Will. First of all, God wants us to pray according to His will. God is not a cosmic Santa Claus to whom we send up our lists of wants.
  2. The Laws of Nature. God created the universe to operate according to predictable laws. God’s goal in creation is for people to learn how to love and make morally responsible choices. If we lived in a magical world where God adjust laws every time we wanted him to, nothing would be predictable and relating would be impossible. We could never learn how to love or become morally responsible.
  3. Faith of the Person Praying. According to Heb. 11:1-2, “Faith is the substance (hupostasis) of things hoped for, the conviction (elegkos) of things unseen. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Faith is embracing a mental picture of something you hope for, like a substantial reality (hupostasis) and therefore having a conviction (elegkos) that it will be so. We concretely envisioning something about the future we believe is God’s will and moving towards it. But it’s NOT psychological certainty.
  4. People are Free Agents. You can pray with faith (vision and conviction) about something, but that doesn’t take away the free will of others that are related to the prayer.
  5. The Strength and Number of the Opposition. Since we live in a spiritual war zone, we’re up against forces of evil when we pray. The strength and number of those forces affects the outcome.
  6. The Strength and Number of Support. There is power in numbers.

This is the situation we find ourselves in. We don’t know how strong or how many we’re up against. We don’t know how strong or how many angels are fighting on our side. We don’t know how the irrevocable effects of angelic and human decisions made throughout history are impacting this situation. We usually don’t know how many people are praying or how persistent they’ve been or how much faith they have. We don’t know the level of faith of people we’re praying for. We don’t know how the necessary stability of the world plays into our prayer. We can know God’s ideal will for a situation, but can’t see the big picture that God sees and how this affects what is and is not possible in our particular situation.

And this is why we can’t ordinarily know why in response to prayer Suzie gets an egg and Johnny seems to get a scorpion, which is why we can’t say the scorpion was God’s fault or Johnny’s fault.

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Topics: Faith, Free Will, God's Will, Prayer, Spiritual Warfare

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 11:5-13

    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 nothing to set before 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. For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.

    “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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!”

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