by Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide
For this next paragraph, find a place where you can read aloud to a friend with a good sense of humor. Let each sentence build a sense of increasing desperation and importance. Whoever bursts out laughing last wins.
God Designed His Will To Come About Through PRAYER
Do you pray for those who bear responsibility for your well-being? Your father will need wisdom to know how to deal with the young man who comes to ask for your hand in marriage.
Your pastor might know a young man who would be a good mate for you. Why would your pastor think to bring this young man to your father’s attention? Have you prayed for your pastor to have wisdom and peace? Do you seek God’s blessing on your pastor?
Maybe one of the men of the church has a young man who works for him that would be a great husband for you. Do you pray for the men of the church to grow in Christ? Does your future beloved languish because you don’t pray for him and those over him?
Maybe the owner of the feed store knows a cashier in the next county over who has an unmarried third cousin who would be an awesome husband for you when he gets out of jail. Do you pray for the soul of the feed store owner, all the males he interacts with and the male relatives of all the men the feed store owner knows? Is your beloved trapped in jail like Paul and Silas because you don’t pray for him? WHY AREN’T YOU PRAYING FOR HIM?
I think this could be a great party game. (Feel free to make up your own in the comments section!)
Debi has a whole chapter or two on courtship coming up, so I’ll save my comments on the weirdly passive role of women in finding a husband for later.
Will YOUR prayer make a difference in eternity? Will it change events? Will it enact God’s plans? What is happening in the heavenlies?
I have a question.
How would we know the answer to any of these questions? How would we know what events would happen if we didn’t pray compared to if we pray? Or is this a set of rhetorical questions set up to guilt-trip anyone who isn’t praying hard enough?
Next, Debi gives us her spin on Daniel 10 which I can safely say I had never read previously.
In the book of Daniel, chapter 10, there is a story of Daniel asking God for supernatural understanding of end times. For twenty-one tense days Daniel prayed and fasted, and yet his prayers were unanswered. Finally, Daniel discovered why it took so long for God to respond.
The Bible describes a Star-Wars events of good and bad angels fighting. It even tells that the evil spirit forces that hindered Daniel’s prayers were assigned oversight of Persia – the nation where Daniel lived and prayed. The Prince of Persia and his spirit minion were able to prevent the warrior of God from delivering God’s answer to Daniel. A heavenly battle raged for 21 days – the forces of darkness resisting the forces of light. Finally, God sent the warrior angle Michael and his host to break through enemy lines and deliver the answer to Daniel.
When the warrior arrived with the answer, Daniel was sitting by the river. Daniel took one look at this out-of-the-world being and fainted flat on his face. The warrior of God told him to stand up so he could give him the information he had requested. The angel indicated he couldn’t stay long because he had to get back to the battle and assist his comrades in the heavenly war.
That’s a pretty solid description of the literal reading of that section of Daniel. I suspect Debi doesn’t believe in scholarly studies, but I find them very important in interpreting the Bible, so here’s a quick overview. The Book of Daniel is an apocalyptic story focusing on a sensible explanation of why bad things were happening to the Jewish people starting in 164 BCE. Wikipedia has a sensible description of what was happening. First, during that time there was a division in the Jewish culture between Jews who were willing to take on Hellenistic customs and Jews who were not. The Book of Daniel was written by Jews who were against Hellenism and as such viewed Persia and Egypt as enemies subverting the Law. The High Priest Antiochus was in favor of Hellenization and allowed an altar to a Greek/Roman god set up in the Jewish temple. This lead to rebellion as described in the Books of Maccabees and lead to the destruction of the introduced altar in 167 BCE. These events are alluded to in the Book of Daniel with a high level of accuracy. The Book of Daniel then makes a series of predictions involving Persian and Egyptians leaders that, well, never panned out.
Let’s see how Debi decides to interpret it…
So how does God answer prayer? He uses our PRAYERS (requests) to send God’s forces to send the answer. Sometimes this means a major fight between the God’s forces and the spirits of darkness. Did you ever think what your prayers might be unleashing? What if Daniel had been irritated with the men who bothered him over the years and had allowed himself to pray for their destruction? Would Daniel have been praying amiss? The reasons are sobering.
This section is vague in how God actually works so I have read it two ways.
Option 1: (The Optimistic Version) If Daniel had prayed that God destroyed the “men who had bothered him over the years” – which minimizes the anger that Daniel could rightfully feel about being castrated – the ensuing heavenly war would never have happened and the Kingdom of God would be one step farther away from triumphing over evil. Daniel wastes some time, but no one on Earth gets hurt.
Option 2: (The Scary Version) God acts as a thoughtless, callous relay for people’s prayers to be fulfilled. Daniel prays that “the men who bothered him” would be destroyed. God hears Daniel’s prayers and causes all of the men to drop dead of lightning strikes right then and there. Daniel’s prayers can literally cause someone to die.
Eesh. I don’t like either option.
There is a whole world around us of unseen beings shaping our daily lives-many strange and wonderful things in the immediate heavenlies that we do not know or see. Yet they are more real than we are.
I like this idea. I don’t have a strong stand on angels and demons, but I study science to enjoy and appreciate all of the unseen forces around us each and every day.
I agree with this statement.
He trusts us to see the need and make a request. In other words, we direct affairs with our prayers. God may want to help, but he does not do so until we ask.
I disagree with every damned bit of this paragraph. This is one of the most toxic ideas in Christianity and I plan to spend my last breath fighting it.
Let me tell you a story from my life. I don’t remember this incident clearly, but my mom does and has spoken of it before.
When I was four or five, I went to Sunday School. A very sincere, well-meaning and kind woman was teaching that day. She explained that when we prayed for something, God listened and gave us what we needed. Knowing me, I probably had a question, but was too shy to ask it in class. I must have decided I would ask my mom when I got home.
When I got home, I asked my mom my question. “When David died, why didn’t you and Dad pray? If you prayed, would David still be alive?”
David was my infant brother who died unexpectedly of a previously asymptomatic birth defect when I was four. Since the teacher told me that God gives you what you pray for, I made the connection that David must have died because my parents didn’t pray.
My mom had to explain to me that she and Dad prayed as hard as they had ever prayed in their life when David was dying that God would save him. She explained that David died because of something that was wrong in his body, not because of anyone’s prayers or lack there of.
Debi, if you think that my brother died because my parents didn’t pray: GO TO HELL.
“Ye receive not because you ask not.”
This line didn’t have a Bible chapter or verse with it, but a quick Google search pulled up James 4:2as the probable quote. It’s a strangely abridged version because the entire line is clearly not about how prayer affects external events, but rather how prayer helps us control inner desires to do wrong. I’ve pulled up the surrounding verses since the context matters.
KJV James 4:1-3
NSRV James 4:1-3
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you coveta]” style=”font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;”>[a] something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.
Just as a military commander in the field must anticipate the need and request additional troops, so God set up a chain of command that leaves us in charge fo the battle. (…) The angels wait for orders. God waits for us to ask. Just think of all the times heaven waited on you and you never asked. Disappointed angels. They hate to see us defeated when they were so ready to help. “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Matthew 7:7)
That fragment about ‘Disappointed angels’ gets me every time.
|Oh, you disappointed an angel. Now, she’s gonna cry herself to sleep.|
Matthew 7:7 as a whole fits into a larger picture of praying for salvation and not judging others. I’ll give it one point for being about prayer. It doesn’t support the whole army of angels bit – but hey, that’s why you string Bible verses together written hundreds of years apart. If first you don’t succeed, grab a different verse and shoe-horn it in.
In the next section, Debi ties these odd ideas into the series of events that lead her to marry Mike Pearl. The result is amusing and disturbing at the same time.
Anti-Pearl: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
― Søren Kierkegaard