“Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it.” 

C.S. Lewis, “The Efficacy of Prayer,” originally from The World’s Last Night and Other Essays

Always, he knows a word before it’s on our tongue. Always, he calls us to pray

Never, can a plan of his be thwarted. Never, can a sparrow fall to the ground without him. 

And yet God lets us play the game. God instituted prayer, Pascal said, in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causalityIn other words, prayer lets us feel like we have a hand in making good things happen. 

He lets our frail, little selves be somehow part of carrying out His sovereign, known-before-time-began, grand plan. He lets our prayers be the means to have happen his good and perfect will. 

Sometimes God does this before the prayer is even audible, sometimes while we’re still speaking (Isaiah 65:24). Often his answers come while we wait (Psalm 40:1). 

But does God grant requests because we ask? 

God answers us before we call, while we speak, and often while we wait.

Two years ago a wondrous text came through. It came just after Carrie shared her burden with our life group, that God would preserve a precious life. The answer came before we paused to pray; God answered before we even called. But in some little way we felt we’d played a little part.

Today my phone chimed while were still speaking. We were praying for Terrie who had some weighty “relationship issues” on her plate. I’d asked for God’s wisdom in the timing and grace in the confronting. Then came Terrie’s text.

The time was right last night. We spoke of all the areas I was concerned about and he was attentive and sincere. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. 

God had more double-grace in store. As if Terrie’s answered prayer, weren’t enough to feel the dignity of causality, God gave me more. This was of the waiting patiently and he heard my cry sort.

Of the for ten years with words and groans sort. Suffice to say, the little note my husband wrote at 11:10 this morning was God’s answer to all that. The two-line yellow post-it note was an answer to hundreds of garbled, groaning heart-cries. Does that mean prayer works?

Would grace have happened anyway or did our prayer affect God’s answer? 

Or, as John Cooper asks, Must we deny one teaching of Scripture-that prayer is effective, to affirm another-that God is sovereign? When God told Moses he intended to destroy the Israelites, Moses prayed and God did not destroy them. The interaction was real. Moses appealed, God relented. But God knew it would go down this way. 

When those phones chimed answered prayers and the post-it note filled me with glee, it wasn’t that my prayer brought it to pass. God did. 

We are commanded to present our requests to God and to pray, “Give us our daily bread.” But to think that God would grant a request because we pray- would make us agents of his grace– that blows the mind. For millennia, man has been mulling. Calvin, Pascal and Lewis are a recent few. 

Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents…He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to co-operate in the execution of His will.  

“God,” said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God’s mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures.

-C.S. Lewis, “The Efficacy of Prayer,” from The World’s Last Night and Other Essays

In short, God uses means. All his ways are grace and always, when God answers us, this is grace. And when he lets his creatures co-operate in doing His will-when he lends such dignity-this, too is undeserved grace.

God granted two big prayers today. Each, alone, was grace. That God would grant me a part by praying- if only a day for Terrie’s timing or a decade for a tangled, twisted web-this is double grace. 

Sometimes before we call, sometimes while we speak, and sometimes while we wait. But answers yes are never deserved, never earned. 

Always, when prayers are answered, grace. 

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 64:24
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *