“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Soren Kierkegaard
We examined this quote in a recent Theology on Tap discussion on prayer. We reaffirmed that prayer does change things. We also reaffirmed that prayer often changes us, though that may not be reason we prayed. We also discussed that prayer is the way we seek to influence God to influence our circumstances. The thought process is clear on that one. Most of our prayers are prayers that seek to influence God to influence the situation. We want God to do something after we pray, primarily we want God to do what we want God to do, the way we want God to do it.
It reminds me of that story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
It is not always clear how to pray for situations. Like the people in the story, we fail to see a possible positive outcome in a terrible situation. Even the good that came out of terrible losses was unpredicted. Yet by the famer’s,”maybe,” response, even the positive out come may not last. How and when prayers get answered feels a little ambiguous. Inspite of the ambiguities in prayer we are told by Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Perhaps the peace that passes all understanding, is having faith in the goodness of God regardless of what does or does not change, and who and who does not change. Which bottom line means to believe and act as if our lives are in God’s hands and that is the best place for them to be.