I’ve been reading Peter Kreeft’s fine book about God (The God Who Loves You). One of the more interesting chps of the book deals with how the love of God and loving God resolves some theological issues. One of them: Why pray if we cannot change God?
I never approach anyone’s discussion of an issue like this with the kind of intense hope that I approach a Cubs game. Why? Because, unlike the Cubs, there’s not a chance that anyone can finally “win” on this kind of issue. Instead, and again unlike watching the Cubs, I look for wisdom.
Here’s Kreeft’s probing.
God knows as present what to us is still off in the future. That means God knows the answer to our prayer request before we ask. “I cannot,” Kreeft states, “change God’s mind.” So then, why pray?
He goes to Pascal’s famous comment: “God instituted prayer to communicate to his creatures the dignity of causality.” And then he says this: “God lets us really cause events and really make a difference” (147). If we should not pray because God knows what will happen before we pray, then — Kreeft argues — we should not farm or eat or read for the same reason. (I’m not sure how those fit with prayer, but still … there’s something to his point. Passivity is not our response to believing God’s got it all figured out.)
“God does not need our prayers or our works, but we need both.” “But we cannot change God, can we? No, we cannot. But is that why we pray? To change omniscient Love?” And here he attends to a very common response to this issue:
“Isn’t it [our reason for praying] rather to learn what it [God’s love] is and to fulfill it? Not to change it by our acts, but to change our acts by it.”
Then he shows that prayer is participation in the Trinity’s love — it is entering into the perichoresis or the indwelling, delightful interpenetration and union of Father, Son and Spirit.
Well, yes, this is a wise old answer. But is it enough? Doesn’t the Bible have enough contingency in how God sets up this world that prayer is presented at times as prompting God’s action?