Many people believe that prayer is unnecessary, because if God wants something done, He will do it whether we pray or not, and if something is not His will, it will not happen, even if we pray for it.
No one refutes this idea better than C. S. Lewis. He has written about prayer in numerous places. Three of his best works on prayer are “Work and Prayer” in God in the Dock, “The Efficacy of Prayer” in The World’s Last Night, and what he writes about prayer in his Letters to Malcolm.
Essentially, the argument of C. S. Lewis is this: Any responsibility in this world which God can pass on to human beings, He does pass on to human beings.
God prefers not to do something if a human can do it.
And God has provided two means by which we can accomplish these God-given tasks: work and prayer. And just as we view work as a way of getting things done in the world, we must begin to view prayer similarly.
Here is what Lewis writes in “Work and Prayer”:
You cannot be sure of a good harvest whatever you do to a field. But you can be sure that if you pull up one weed that one weed will no longer be there. You can be sure that if you drink more than a certain amount of alcohol you will ruin your health or that if you go on for a few centuries more wasting the resources of the planet on wars and luxuries you will shorten the life of the whole human race. The kind of causality we exercise by work is, so to speak, divinely guaranteed, and therefore ruthless. By it we are free to do ourselves as much harm as we please. But the kind which we exercise by prayer is not like that; God has left Himself discretionary power. Had He not done so, prayer would be an activity too dangerous for man and should have the horrible state of things envisaged by Juvenal: “Enormous prayers which Heaven in anger grants.”
Prayers are not always – in the crude, factual sense of the word – “granted”. This is not because prayer is a weaker kind of causality, but because it is a stronger kind. When it “works” at all it works unlimited by space and time. That is why God has retained a discretionary power of granting or refusing it; except on that condition prayer would destroy us.
Read the whole on Prayer by C. S. Lewis here.
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Harold Shuckhart says
What you are saying is that God is like an absentee landlord who expects you to maintain the property. If God’s existence is exactly like God’s non-existence, His non-existence is the more logical path.
I don’t think we read the same post, Harold.
Jeremy Myers says
I agree with Sam. I am not sure that your comment has anything to do with what was written in the post…
God’s existance is not exactly the same as his non-existance. All the universe points toward some greater intelligence. You are familiar with the law of dystrophy I am certain. This is the natural law that states that all things left to themselves tend toward disorder not order. This is observable law all around the entire known universe, and without the intervention of intelligence there is not one singe recorded instance of the natural world resulting in greater order or organization. So logically, the existance of a larger intelligence is the only option.
But God is not just some “absentee landlord” who created the order and then left it to its own means. He is constantly intervening, both directly and through the use of agents (human and non-human). He created us with intelligence and will in order for us to be small reflections of Himself. He even honors this created will so much that He allows us to act contrary to His divine plan.
I would conclude that if His existance and non-existance were the same, then non-existance is the most logical course. But if there is any difference, no matter how seemingly slight between His existance and non-existance, then only existance is the logical choice. But in the end, who wants to trust in the finite, limited, flawed logic of humans after all the pain and suffering human logic has caused.
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry.
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks for the reply, FedEx. I agree with your reasoning. Your response helped me see what Harold was referring to.
I suppose that with some stretching I could see how Lewis could be misunderstood as talking about deism. But it is not what I meant, and it is not what Lewis meant either.
I like your clarification.
God has not left us alone, but instead, partners with us in His work in this world.
Katherine Gunn says
Hmm…for some reason, the passage on prayer toward the end of James’ letter came to mind while reading this post…
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” ~ James 5:13-18
There is a lot in this passage that speaks to this whole series, maybe…on praying God’s will, etc. Time for me to pause and reflect….;-)
Jeremy Myers says
I was not planning on talking about James 5, but now maybe I should…
It definitely fits in here. Hmmm…. if I do, I run the risk of making this chapter go too long, just like I did with the last one on doctrinal statements….
Clive Clifton says
Dear Harold, you have given me a headache, you also confused me from the beginning when you used the word dystrophy which is a medical term for a wasting away of part of the body through lack of nourishment, it does not lead to chaos but death. Anyway now I’ve sorted that out in my head, I don’t see, using logic that is, that existence of God trumps non-existence of a God.
However I do agree that God interferes in our lives constantly weather we like it or not. I suppose thats OK as he is God after all. I told a story yesterday from Simon Guillebaud’s book More Than Conquerors about how a package containing a hot water bottle and a doll that had been posted 5 months previous to answer a specific prayer for both items. God walks up and down our time line as He is outside time, and sees our needs before we ask and interferes for our good and His Glory.
I keep saying that I believe there is no formula for prayer as God is love and answers all prayers no matter how simple or eloquent, He may not answer them in the way would like but He does answer them, otherwise Jesus bidding to ask, knock and seek would be a lie, and as he can’t tell lies, only the devil does that, then all prayer is answered.
Again I say, prayer is a two way conversation with Big Daddy, that means listening as well as talking, God gave us two ears and one mouth so we need to listen twice as much as we speak.
In the olden days we used to all kneel to pray now I’m the only one who does. This is a choice, it does not mean I’m any better than anyone else, it’s a preference which helps me to be ready and focussed. In prayer meeting I either sit, stand. kneel or prostrate myself as I feel led. Sometimes my eyes are open or closed. Just pray. I ask God at the beginning what should I pray, and wait, He sometimes gives me words, places, people or pictures. If need be I ask for clarification before I speak into what He gives me.
You see, its all about relationship, we don’t give God orders or make demands of Him, we may plead in powerful ways but never demand. However even after saying that I know some who do and God being gracious acced’s to their demands. What a great God we have.
Can you pray a prayer and make a deal with God. “If you give me this I will do this for you” that sounds a bit dodgy, the answer is Yes, he did for me 30 years ago and I know I’m not the only one.
Harold, have a lovely Christmas as we celebrate Jesus birthday and look forward to his coming again to wrap the whole thing up. So we continue to pray for our family and friends and neighbors to come to faith before they throw off this mortal coil. Love Clive.
It was not Harold that brought up dystrophy, but me. I was simlpy making the point that in the natural world all things tend toward decay or disorder, and that any order (ie the resence of intelligent life), is a strong evidence for the existance of God(Higher intelligence). Was not intended to confuse, was just making the point that given all the observable evidence, the existance of God is not the same as His non-existance.
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry