I had an interesting discussion of prayer a few days back with three friends. Predictably we covered a lot of old ground. Why isn’t my prayer answered as the Bible promises me? Is God in control of everything that happens or not? Is God’s Will flexible and subject to change based on my petition? Is persistence in repeating a request sufficient to make it more effective as suggested by the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18? In other words, can we nag God into granting our wish?
But then we moved on to what I considered more significant questions. If God is in control, how does that work? Does he manage every detail of everyone’s life? Does that only apply to true believers? Is He sometimes in control and otherwise let’s life unfold unaided? Can God be in control while not dictating everything like a play director?
Interspersed in the discussion were comments about meditation and fasting. Fasting was a part of Judaism and is even recommended by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament. How is it that fasting is no longer seen as appropriate, like prayer? Is fasting spiritually beneficial like prayer?
What about meditation, which is generally viewed as a commitment to a period of inactivity and solitude in order to enhance peace of mind and perhaps spiritual awareness and insight. What is the basic difference between prayer and meditation? Is there any?
One friend made a remark which resonated powerfully with me. The comment was something of this sort- Prayer is a celebration of weakness and need, not a request to be in control or to make God’s Will my own. It reminded me so much of Jesus’ own prayer as he faced death.
That same friend went on to say that after a prayer you rise up a better man. If that is true, prayer works, no matter what happens physically afterward.