Attention Grammar Police!

If you should find offenses to the English language in any of my articles please leave a comment and let me know so that I can obliterate it forever! Thanks!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Does God Really Need Our Prayers?

UPDATE: I'm not writing this blog anymore, but please visit my YouTube channel The Vocabuverse and subscribe for more great things to come!

Another Youtube chap came out of the wood work today with another point about prayer, once again inspired by my video from the Sermon on the Mount.

He wrote:

And in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says that prayer leads to condemnation. This text has intrigued me as an agnostic philosopher and I’ve been trying to interpret it in a logical way. In my view, if God exists, then he must be perfect and asking him to change his will, through prayer, because of human desires or emotions is insulting. If a perfect God does exist, he has no use for petty things such as worship or prayer and just wants us to live good lives, regardless of religious beliefs.

Thank you my philosophical friend for your interesting input!

I’m not an historian first and foremost so cannot offer a textual analysis or critique of the Gospel of Thomas. It is not part of the canon of Scripture so I have never read it… however I am willing to give it a shot, maybe then I’ll have some idea as to why the Church Father’s in Nicaea rejected it… but for the time being I ask that you forgive my ignorance on the subject…

Neither am I the best at praying. I actually find it the hardest thing to do as a Christian. I’m a parent of two toddlers and do shift work so when I do get a chance to pray I find myself falling asleep. Not because I’m bored, but because the bliss of finally being still and quiet tempts me to micro-sleeps. I also get distracted easily… with things like YouTube comments. On a logical note, if the Devil does exist, then the last thing he would want me to do is pray, so I wonder if this is why it is also the hardest spiritual discipline?

I only mention the above because I am not an expert on the topic of prayer! Many theologians have written far greater works than my measly paragraphs on the subject, I would encourage you to look up writers like Derek Prince, Watchman Nee, E.M. Bounds for a better meal on the subject...

The interesting thing about your comment is that you seem to think that the Christian’s idea of the purpose of prayer is to change God’s will! This is not actually accurate, even though many Christians are guilty of perpetuating this myth, one need only to see Jesus bleeding sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane that each prayer consisted of him SUBMITTING to God’s will…

In Fact, the very prayer in Matthew Chapter 6 which Jesus teaches his disciples begins with, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy Kingdom come, THY WILL BE DONE on earth as it is in Heaven…”

It seems to me that prayer has more to do with God’s will than with ours.

I came up with two analogies that I hope will better explain this idea of prayer:

First I think of prayer as if my will and God’s Will were two gladiators pitted against each other in an arena. They struggle against each other but God’s will wins every time. My gladiator though, rather than being defeated, leaves the arena having learned something new about God’s character, while gaining strength of character himself.

On the other hand, prayer is like a man who wanted to move a mountain. Every day he pushed against that mountain for about an hour, but it simply wouldn’t budge. He did this every day for years and years until one day it dawned on him that he could not change the mountain, but realized instead that the mountain had changed him, for he had become a totally ripped and muscular man who no one could mess with… and so, he never stopped pushing the mountain.

Maybe they sound like fluffy New Age parables of the Chicken Soup for the Soul variety but I really just wanted to illustrate that while the Bible does teach us to “bring our cares” before the Lord it is balanced in its teaching that God is more concerned with our character than with us getting every little thing we ask for.

The last thing I wanted to address is this part of your comment:

“If a perfect God does exist, he has no use for petty things such as worship or prayer and just wants us to live good lives, regardless of religious beliefs.”

May I please ask if you are a parent? Because as a parent I can tell you that I do need my children’s love, I long for their adoration. It has been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my entire life and I cant describe what it is like to come home after work and have my kids cry out, “DADDY!!!” and then throw themselves at me like cuddling was a type of pillow fight, well, its just awesome.

If God is perfect then he is also the perfect Father. Why should a perfect Father expect less from his children?

As far as the last part of your comment goes however, yes I do want my children to live good lives, but I don’t want them living those good lives without me.

Today I caught a scene in a movie where a boy loses his Dad in the first five minutes of the film! I actually caught myself crying a little and realized it was because the thought of my girls growing up without me cut me deep. Of course they could go on and live good lives but it would be without the relationship they would have had with me.

The worst case scenario for me as a Dad would be if through some freak series of circumstances my children grew up under another man’s roof and for some reason I was able to see them from a distance but they could not contact me. I cannot describe the hurt I would feel were I to watch my children go through life under someone else’s guidance, especially if their surrogate Father did not have the best of intentions toward them. My paternal instinct makes me want to guide them, protect them, provide for them and see them through to adulthood with the greatest possible chance of survival.

Why should God not be allowed to have a paternal instinct? I would imagine that if a perfect God does exist (which I believe he does) then I would expect him to have a paternal instinct towards his children – I would not venture to call this a “petty” thing.

The Bible teaches that God made us in his image. If part of that image reflects my experience of Fatherhood then I am not surprised that he expects our adoration.

Finally I would like to lay down a challenge to all my atheist/agnostic friends...

Wait for it...

Simply try praying.

Specifically, the Lord's Prayer, every day for a month. The only rule is that you entertain, for that month, the notion that there is actually a God and so approach him with the appropriate reverence.

I for one am curious to see what will happen if you do. Either nothing or maybe, just maybe, you might end up line the guy who tried to push the mountain?

Thanks for reading and please keep searching!

God Bless

UPDATE: I'm not writing this blog anymore, but please visit my YouTube channel The Vocabuverse and subscribe for more great things to come!


  1. Your philosophical friend here, I did enjoy reading this blog. Especially the analogy of the man and the mountain. In my life, I've had some very tough experiences, but at this point I'm just happy to be alive. I often find myself smiling for no reason!

    The reason the Gospel of Thomas intrigued me was because it was said to have come from the 40 days after Jesus' resurrection and seems like a very personal exchange between him and his disciples. I haven't read much of the Christian canon, though, so I don't know how it compares. In this though, Thomas is speechless when asked to compare Jesus to something and Jesus tells him three "secret" sayings, which Thomas cannot speak because the other disciples would stone him.

    Anyways, I am not a parent, but I do love my friends and family very much. I can't say that I agree that God would have a paternal instinct, because of the same reason I am agnostic. I am a scientist, and as precious as love may seem, it can be explained as a physical phenomenon of brain chemistry from our natural instinct to protect our kin. Many animals share the same instinct, my dog loves me and protects me from things she sees as threats. It is often necessary for the survival of a species. Without the protective instinct, other means are needed to ensure survival.

    My philosophical idea of a perfect God is mainly that of a creator. Science shows how the cosmos was formed all the way from stars to planets and life. Organic molecules that are the building blocks of life form from non-organic matter quite easily, and primitive cells can form from these organic molecules and evolve into more complex life. Carl Sagan had an elegant, yet easy to understand demonstration of this in "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue" from "Cosmos."

    But, science can't explain what began the universe, and that's why I'm agnostic. There are theories that try to explain away the possibility of a creator, but they often don't agree with each other and cannot be tested. So I say, if God exists, he began the universe and set everything in motion, then let it be. If God is perfect, then his creation was perfect and he does not have to interfere or change anything along the way. And if we wish, or pray for something to happen, it does not matter because things are only going to happen one way, the way they were meant to.

    Well, I think I've rambled on long enough. I've studied some of the Abrahamic religions, but I've been much more interested in Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. I will continue to study everything I find intriguing, but until I find something compelling enough to make me pray, I'm content with just living.

    PS I'll link to the site where I read Thomas.

    1. I guess one other thing I should have mentioned is that emotions (such as love, hate, jealousy, sorrow) make us imperfect, and we can do much better things with our time than pray and worship. We can do things to help other people, even to simply make them smile, instead of wasting our time in church.

    2. Hi PJ, that's one big comment:) I'll try to get back you with a reply in the next few days... When I do, do you mind if I blog it rather than put it in the comment stream? I think my readers would fin the conversation interesting... Cheer:)

    3. I don't mind at all. I would blog myself, but I don't have much free time as it is.

      I should probably clarify something though. I wasn't really saying the God wouldn't have emotions, but rather wouldn't have them in any way that we could imagine, human consciousness is our only way of experiencing the world and it's actually very limiting. Also that rather than praying and worshiping him, he would have us actually DO things for each other. Instead of going to church, volunteer, spend time with someone you don't see very often, try to solve world hunger! Just do something good and productive to make the world a better place for each other!

      I think that's all for now...


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.