Category Archives: Prayer

#2 Post of 2013 – If God Cannot Change, Then Why Should We Pray?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

The Bible teaches, and theology argues, that God cannot change. This is called divine immutability. But if God cannot change, then why do we pray to him? After all, when we pray, aren’t we trying to change God’s mind?

Norm Geisler answers this question in his Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation. Listen to what he says:

God is omniscient . . . , and an all-knowing Being cannot change His mind. If He does, He is not really all-knowing. Therefore, God cannot change His mind in answer to prayer.

When we pray (or have prayed), God not only knew what we were going to pray, but He ordained our prayer as a means of accomplishing His purpose. Prayer is not a means by which we change God; it is a means by which God changes us.

Prayer is not a means of our overcoming God’s reluctance; it is a way for God to take hold of our willingness. Prayer is not a means of getting our will done in heaven, but a means of God getting His will done on earth.

If you think about it for a minute, we don’t want to change God’s mind anyway. After all, who knows what is best? Us or God? Geisler reminds us of why we should rejoice in the fact that God is immutable:

Since God is unchangeable, we can trust His Word: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Num. 23:19).

Also, we can trust God’s promises completely: “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Ps. 102:25–27).

Further, we can be sure of our salvation, because “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). What is more, God’s immutability provides an anchor for our souls: “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged” (Heb. 6:17–18).

Finally, we have a stable foundation for service. Paul wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

God is unchanging and we can all give praise for that. I don’t know about you, but I would have a hard time worshiping a God whose mind I could change.

How Do We Listen to God?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Oftentimes you’ll hear pastors or priests tell us to listen to what God has to say to us, but how exactly are we supposed to do this?  Should we expect God to communicate in a booming voice, much like he spoke to Moses on the mountain?  If not like this, then how are we to understand this command to listen to God?

Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft introduces the concept of listening to God in his book Prayer For Beginners.  An important step in learning how to pray is learning how to listen to God.  So, how do we go about listening to God?

In a conversation, if you are the wisest, it makes sense for you to do most of the talking. If the other person is wiser, it makes sense for you to do most of the listening. The wiser the other is, the more listening you want to do. Well, prayer is conversation with God, and it makes no sense for us to do most of the talking. We ought to be listening most of the time.

But, you may object, we cannot hear God’s voice as we can hear the voice of another human being. True, but we can hear God’s voice in other ways. We hear him in nature, which is his art. We hear him in his providential directing of our lives, and in the lessons in human history, and in the “still, small voice” of our conscience, God’s interior prophet. We hear him loud and clear in Scripture, his inspired Word deliberately given to us.  One way of praying is listening to God’s voice in Scripture, reading Scripture as God’s Word—which is exactly what it is!

And the best listening, the listening that gets the closest to God’s heart, the listening that hears the most total revelation of God, is listening to Christ, God incarnate, God in the flesh, “very God of very God”. “The Word of God” means the Bible only secondarily; primarily it means Christ. In the words of the Catechism, Christ is “the Father’s one, perfect, and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one” (CCC 65). Praying by reading the Gospels prayerfully and “listeningly” is one of the very best ways to pray.

Let’s review the ways we listen to God.  Kreeft introduces 6 ways of listening to God in order of their effectiveness and importance:

  1. nature
  2. providential directing of our lives
  3. lessons in human history
  4. conscience
  5. Scripture
  6. Christ in the Gospels

The implication of this ordering is that those who listen primarily in ways 1-4 are missing out on the 2 best ways to listen to God.  They are starving themselves of his fuller revelation.  There is nothing wrong with ways 1-4, but we mustn’t stop there.  If we are going to hear the most from God, if we are going to get the “closest to God’s heart,” we must take seriously the reading of Scripture, and especially the reading of the Gospels.

What Is the Meaning of Life?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

This is the one of the most basic and fundamental questions that every human being must come to grips with, or waste their lives away.  If you don’t know what the end goal of your earthly existence is, you will drift like a boat without a rudder on the high seas of life.  You will chase one thing after another, never making any progress, because progress implies that there is something to progress to.

The Christian answer to this question is powerful and compelling.  Recently, as I was reading philosopher Peter Kreeft’s little book, Prayer For Beginners, I came upon Kreeft’s wording of the Christian answer to the meaning of life.  Prayer, Kreeft explains, is a necessary activity for attaining the meaning of life.  In this context, he explains what the meaning of life is:

Becoming saints is the meaning of life.  It is why we exist.  It is why God created us.  It is the reason he banged out the Big Bang, . . . and why he providentially provided this one perfect planet, and why he breathed his Spirit into the Adam he formed out of its dust, and why he does the same to every baby conceived, and why he prepared a chosen people, and sent prophets among them, and finally came down from Heaven into a mother and a manger and a Cross, and was forsaken by God so that we need never be forsaken, and rose again, and sent his Spirit to haunt our hearts—all this stupendous effort was for one end: to make saints, to make little Christs, to give his Son brothers and sisters.

The whole universe is a saint-making machine.  And prayer is the fuel that powers it.  He was not called “Jesus” (Savior) merely because he was to save us from the punishment for our sins; he was called “Jesus” “for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21).  His purpose was not just to make us safe but to make us saints.  Prayer is our first step in becoming saints.

The meaning of life is to become like Christ, to become a saint.  It is not to become wealthy, it is not to gain honor before other men, it is not to become famous, it is not to gain power over other humans, it is not to seek bodily health so that we can live longer, it is not to revel in fleshly pleasures.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Heb 12:1-2

What is the Purpose of Prayer?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

It is not to get what we want, but what God wants.

It is not to convince God to change his mind, but for him to change our minds.

It is not to have our will done in heaven, but for God to have his will done on earth.

Prayer is the means by which we praise God for who he is, ask him for forgiveness, and thank him for everything he’s given us.

We are to bring all of our concerns to him, but we know that what we want is not always best for us or for anyone else.  That’s why Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours,” when he was praying to the Father.

As my wife likes to say, God is not a genie in a bottle.  He doesn’t operate by our commands.  He has a long-term plan for the earth and all its inhabitants.

When we pray, we’re not trying to change his plans.  He is changing ours.

Thee, Thou, Thine and Thus in Prayer?

One of the teachings of Mormonism is that one should use reverence in prayer to Heavenly Father. It is taught that when you pray you should not use the language of our day.  Rather you should always use Thee, Thou, Thine and Thus. If you address God in common language (you, me, them, us, etc.) you are NOT being reverent.

I simply ask, why? What justification is there to support this position?  Is Old Modern English really MORE REVERENT?  If so, when the early Christians prayed in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic were they being IRREVERENT?

Don’t get me wrong… I fully believe that one should approach God with awe and reverence. He is the ONE and ONLY TRUE God and He does deserve respect. However, why do we need to use Early Modern English to show respect? I believe that the only reason this is taught within Mormonism is this was the language used in the King James version of the Bible. Joseph Smith taught that the King James Bible was the “most correct” version of the Bible on the earth. In fact, it is the only version used by the Mormon Church today… despite the fact that we have MUCH BETTER translations available.

When my wife and I left the LDS Church one of the things we dropped almost instantaneously was the use of Early Modern English in our prayers. We began to address God in Modern English. We both feel that this has contributed greatly in our communication with God. We no longer have to struggle for words that simply do not feel natural.  We are able to address God in a natural manner and are able to concentrate on what we want to say to Him and not how we say it.  We believe that we can now approach Him as we really are and can communicate with Him reverently in the language of our day.

God has told us in the Bible that He already knows the groanings of our hearts.  In fact, He knows them before even we know them.  I really don’t think He cares what language we use when addressing Him.