Sunday 9 February 2020

How does prayer work? (When it works)

A post at Wm Jas Tychoneivich's blog discusses ways in which prayer may be effective. It stimulated me to add a comment about my own understanding of effective prayer - to answer that troubling question of how it is that my prayer might lead to good results that would not have happened without that prayer of mine. What is my contribution? Why is my contribution necessary?:

The way I think of this at present is that prayer is (or may be, for some people) a way of aligning ourselves with God's creative project, through love. 

Therefore the difference that is made by prayer (when there is a difference - when through love we are aligned with God's purposes) is by 'Final Participation'. 

That is we, as individuals, change God's creation our-selves, because (at that time, temporarily) we are fully in harmony with God's creative motivations: we personally add-to creation, from within-it.

In a nutshell; I see answered prayer as miraculous; and the miracle can be done by God alone (perhaps to confirm our faith - that worked for me!); but sometimes, by prayer, we participate in making the miracle.

Sometimes, indeed, the miracle could not have happened without our personal participation ("God could not have done it without me").

Such a view depends on my understanding that Men are destined to be (i.e God's hopes that we will become) full sub-creators, creating originally - generating from our true selves - within God's primary creation.  And that it is possible for people (including, perhaps, you and me) to become aligned with God (briefly and intermittently) during our mortal lives.

If or when this happens, then prayer could lead to effects origiating from our-selves. This would be a miracle that we personally had a hand in (in the same fashion that Jesus did miracles; and for the same basic reason and by the same basic mechanism - but Jesus was in the miracle producing state all of the time, for the years of his ministry, and potentially across the full range of creation).

One familiar example is genius. The truest and purest act of a genius is to perform a miracle that originated from himself, a miracle that could not have happened without that genius's specific contribution.

Genius I take to be a model for prayer that miraculously affects reality.


Ron Tomlinson said...

I got a shock when I learnt that prayer really does work. I was trying to get into a local science centre/museum about ten years ago. We had family membership but not visiting frequently it was often the case that instead of flashing the card and being whisked through we had to renew our membership with forms, photographs and other Ahrimanic rituals. I became irritated and even after gaining entrance I found myself fuming for some time instead of enjoying the exhibits. Feeling powerless spontaneously I prayed, "Please, I don't want to be angry any more", or words to that effect, and really meant it. It was a silent and heartfelt plea that was *not directed at myself*. Instantly and miraculously the sour mood was gone. I even smiled at the woman behind the desk on the way out.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Interesting ideas. I don't think Jesus generally worked miracles through prayer, though. He just *did* them himself rather than asking God to do them -- not "Father, please raise Lazarus" but "Lazarus, come forth!" I agree that we might sometimes be able to work miracles, too, as Jesus did, but I tend to think that this is something different from prayer.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - You neglect the prayer which came immediately beforehand!

Chapter 12 Verse 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth."

Just to clarify - my contention is that prayer aims at the alignment of our selves (our will/ motivation/ understanding etc) with that of God.

If this alignment is attained (usually it is not) then we are participating in creation; which can be (usually is) a passive state of understanding, knowing, being...

But participation can sometimes be an active ('final') and conscious and agent participation - where we contibute to creation; by adding something of our-selves we change creation from what it would have been, yet the change is wholly in harmony with God's motivations.

This is exactly what God wants from us; he wants us to become grown-up creative colleagues in the neverending work of creation.

As I've said before, this creative alignment is attained by love, and only by love.