How Does Prayer Affect God’s Plan? -- By: Mark Pretorius

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 02:1 (Sep 2006)
Article: How Does Prayer Affect God’s Plan?
Author: Mark Pretorius


How Does Prayer Affect God’s Plan?

An Enquiry into God’s Providence with Special Reference to Prayer and Healing

Mark Pretorius1

Abstract

If God is sovereign and His plans fixed, why pray? Does prayer change what God has purposed to do? If not, what is the point in praying? One could take these questions even further and say: if prayer has any effect on what happens, then it would seem that God’s plans are not fixed. On the other hand, if God has settled His plans and He will do what He is going to do, then does it matter whether we pray or not? Every committed Christian wants to believe that prayer makes a difference. Thus, this article has a twofold purpose. The first is to show that God’s providential plans and His command for Christians to pray are consistent with His purpose to bring about His plans through prayer. The second is to answer the question: does God heal when one prays, and specifically when it comes to intercessory prayer? Bringing clarity to these questions is important as it has a direct bearing on how we will view miracles and God’s willingness to answer prayer.

1. Introduction

The first question one might ask in a debate about the providential hand of God on His creation is: how should one, in this context, define providence? According to Tupper (1985:579), providence means that God “sees ahead” and “watches after” creaturely existence generally and each individual specifically. Williams (1996:117) defines providence as “the overseeing care and guardianship of God for all His creation.” As such, God is understood as one intimately concerned with His creation. In certain ways, God is central to the conduct of the Christian life, as it means Christians are able to live in the assurance that God is present and continuously active in their lives.

However, the role of prayer is a problem that has concerned thoughtful Christians when considering the nature of providence, and how it links up to miraculous events, and specifically, physical healing. Erickson (2001:430) states that the difficulty stems from the question, “What does prayer really accomplish?” On the one hand, if prayer has any effect on what happens, then it seems that God’s plan was not fixed in the first place. On the other hand, if God has settled His plan and He will do what He is going to do, then does it matter whether one prays or not? Every committed Christian wants to believe that prayer makes a difference. According to Ware (2000:164): “What is the point in praying, if prayer itself turns out to be superfluous and ineffectual?”

2. Providence in Prayer and He...
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