Friday, April 20, 2012

An Arminian View of Prayer...

... is basically the view with which most people operate.  It is the belief that prayer changes things.

I don't personally believe that prayer can lead someone to become a Christian. That must ultimately be a matter of each individual. Can prayer make it more likely that someone will believe? I have serious questions about the goodness of such a possibility.

And to be sure, there are some bizarre features of prayer.  God already knows what we need before we ask it (Matt. 6:8).  In fact, we don't know exactly what we should pray for (Rom. 8:26).  Why should we even pray?

The Calvinist view of prayer is that God has already determined the outcome of events before the foundation of the world.  Prayer is simply one move in a chess game God is playing with himself. He causes us to pray as part of his predetermined plan to do something.

But an Arminian will probably see the "laws of prayer" as an opportunity God has given us to impact the flow of human events.  It occurred to me this week that an Arminian might view prayer a little like I view God's relationship to the laws of physics.  Sometimes two bits of metal are on certain trajectories at certain velocities and they crash into each other... and maybe I go to the hospital.

I don't see God always directing such events, although I believe he allows them. In the same way, perhaps God allows prayers or lack of prayers to affect the course of human events.

So perhaps sometimes God will do some things whether we pray or not.  Perhaps sometimes God "quickens" some people to pray because he wants to give them an opportunity to catalyze the changing of things. And finally, God gives us the privilege to pray for our yearnings and requests in prayer. Perhaps sometimes he chooses to do such things, where otherwise he would not have.


John Mark said...

My views of prayer are shaped in large part by my revivalist roots. There is no question that mystery remains where all things spiritual are concerned, but I would submit the following.
God has told us to pray. God has told us to pray for others. God prays, and even Jesus told Peter once "I have prayed for you." To be sure intercessory prayer is not something automatic, where punching the button of prayer results in salvation. Yet there have been times when intercessory prayer has seemed to be connected with revival or the salvation of other people. Some are called or 'gifted' where intercessory prayer is concerned, none of us is excused from praying for others. I know in my own ministry, prayer seems as important as study, and the effectiveness of my preaching or other work is tied in, I believe, to my prayer life. So if you want to leave some wiggle room for the sovereignty of God and the mystery of his ways, I would concur. It seems possible that we don't see more answers to prayer simply because we don't pray as much, or as fervently as we should; I have been guilty here.

John Mark said...

I have had a tendency to believe that praying for someone's salvation has an effect. Is it possible that it is not so much that our prayers result in someones conversion, as it does result in spiritual awareness (conviction, spiritual hunger, etc.) on their part, or a boldness and sensitivity on our part that equips us to minister to them more effectively or winsomely?

Ken Schenck said...

JM, I don't have a fully solid sense. I want to believe that God gives everyone an adequate chance. Can prayer give someone and even more than adequate chance? I haven't figured out what I think about that firmly, even though I have doubts.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Armianism would value choice, as Armianians do not believe that God ordains in the Calvinistic sense. Chance is as much a part of the universe, as "God's plan" because we are "free moral agents". And choice is about contingency, variablity and alternative realities, not a finely tuned "narrow way" of finding "God's will" (a permissive and perfect will).

Choice is about personal responsibility, which one takes seriously. One's choices do have an impact on oneself and others (society). Therefore, Armianism would not be in their "prayer closets" as much as affirming political activism in their chosen fields. Isn't this where religious pietism and political activism intersect? (or the sacred/secular coalesce?)

Whether one chooses to believe there is a "supernatural interventioal God", a Deistic Creator (ordered universe), or only evolutionary chance, humans do know some things and other things humans pursue to know. These known truths are not about supernatural 'gods", but different aspects of reality that humans understand. These are different interests that make for the human pursuit of a vocation. And one's vocation betters the world.

If one chooses to believe in "God", then one can understand prayer as "way of life", and not some sacred disconnect from reality or living one's life in the real world.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"political activism" should read "political action"....we are not to be in the business of throwing over government but co-operating with government, as long as the government is transparent and doesn't circumvent the required 'due process' granted to citizens....Sorry to use the radical, or zealot term, "activism"....or change.