August 13, 2009

What is prayer?

I have no clue. A good friend of ours was just recently badly injured in a bicycle accident. According to the initial reports from his daughter, they came very close to losing him. Scary stuff.

In the updates and comments (on FB) there has been a steady discussion about prayer requests and offers for prayers and offers for prayers on specific aspects of this crisis. I understand that as a reflection of concern, and as an expression of caring.

What I don't understand is the "we can get a bunch of people who don't know him to pray for him" thing. Again, concern is a great thing, but I don't get the theology of the matter. Doesn't it imply that the God they are praying to has to be convinced into doing something good? God, on his own, won't heal anyone unless people request it? What kind of God is that?

Not only that, but the numbers and quality of the people praying seems to supposedly matter. If someone is more advanced as a Christian, do their prayers matter more? Or if we can get a bunch of people praying on this particular issue, will God respond as long as there are more than 10 people praying? Perhaps more than 20? Perhaps fewer if enough of them are suitably "mature in their faith?"

I don't get the theology here at all.

6 comments: said...

You're not the first to be perplexed by this theology, though I wonder if it even is theology at all. Could be just some part of human nature that seeks security, safety, or comfort in numbers. In other words, perhaps it's a form of community.

For what it's worth, I've always liked the BCP's answer to the question "What is prayer?":

"Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words."

Streak said...

I like that one, Anglican. Thanks.

Like I said, I really understand a need for some sense of control or order. That, I get. It is the logical conclusion of following the prayer language through that I don't get.

steves said...

I think that is a very elegant explanation.

leighton said...

What's FB?

Streak said...


leighton said...

Oh, right, that thing I haven't logged into in about 6 months. >.>