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Prayer: A Theological Reflection

A brief reflection on prayer.

Prayer, the holy mystery in which flesh communes with divinity, encompasses moments where we present our deepest desires before the Divine, seeking active engagement in the intimate corners of our lives and offering supplications for divine intervention in broader geopolitical realms. "Lord, bring peace to Gaza. Father, heal my ailment."

Every day, millions of fervent prayers are made, and we often envision these heartfelt pleas ascending to the throne of Grace to a God who has absolute power and rules with meticulous control. God in this line of thinking deliberates whether to heed our entreaties or not.

Sometimes, we explain to ourselves. the signal is green, and our prayers are answered, reshaping the course of history and the fabric of our existence. At times, it's a resolute red—a denial of our request, as God's will diverges from our petition. His ways are higher than our ways. Or it's an amber light, indicating a delay; we must patiently await God's response.

Consider this from a traditional point of view. An almighty and benevolent God determines whether to quell the conflict in Gaza or alleviate a physical affliction. Once this divine decision is made, nothing can obstruct its fruition, for God reigns with unwavering control. Just as in the act of creation, so in providence—God commands, and can overrule all other forces- that which he specifically allows or ordains- and the tapestry of history and our individual stories evolve in response to our prayers.

However, despite our prayers seemingly resonating with God's known attributes—His compassion and desire for peace—many remain unanswered or met with a resounding 'no' or 'wait'. Thus, we are compelled to grapple with the understanding that our prayers - "end the war" or "heal the tumor" - may not align with God's will or desire.

This view of prayer and of God is, in my opinion, reductionistic and pastorally insensitive, leaning too heavily on the view that God is to be understood as absolute power and absolute control. God is not a puppet master but rather the cosmos is full of both human and divine powers that can align or oppose the will of God. Gods power is not that of absolute control, bur rather a power that that can be frustrated and is aligned with self giving sacrificial love. This understanding of the world sees prayer and God's answer to it as taking place in a war zone, with hostile actors. We pray your will be done on earth as in heaven, because the world displays many aspects which are counter to what God wants to happen.

There is obviously still an overwhelming mystery to prayer, but be assured Gods desire is for shalom, peace and wholeness and he has revealed in stunning clarity his character in and through the God-Man Jesus.

In the book of Daniel, we encounter a striking illustration of spiritual warfare. Daniel's fervent prayers ascend to heaven, but an unseen battle unfolds in the spiritual realm. As Daniel awaits an answer, the angelic messenger, Gabriel, arrives with an explanation. He says:

"Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia." (Daniel 10:12-13, NIV)

In this passage, we witness the complexity of divine interactions and the unseen battles that may delay the answers to our prayers. The prince of Persia represents spiritual opposition, highlighting the intricate dynamics of heavenly realms and spiritual forces. Daniel's experience serves as a poignant reminder that our prayers are not isolated events but are part of a cosmic tapestry where spiritual forces, counter to the will and desire of God, are at work.


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