In the past year, I have had the opportunity to encounter many sincere Christians whose response to various tragedies was to mobilize as many other Christians as possible to prayer. The intimation being that the more of us who are willing to pray, the more prone God is to make this tragedy turn out the way we would like. This has been very problematic for me because frankly, it presents God as being able to do the “right” thing, but not necessarily inclined to do so unless we really show him we mean business.
Now, aside from the fact that I am convinced that our idea of “how things should turn out” is almost always flawed, I simply refuse to see God that way, and consequently, cannot pray that way. This does leave some folks – especially us Pentecostals, who pray louder, longer, and harder than the rest – confused…why bother praying then? Here’s what I would say if I was a 16th Century French theological prodigy:
“Believers do not pray with the view to informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant. On the contrary, they pray in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things.”
– John Calvin