Monday, April 13, 2009

A Prayer Request?

I was a tad surprised to find a Prayer Request e-mail in my corporate inbox from a woman I didn’t know and about someone that I didn’t know either. I checked the e-mail distribution and she sent it to everyone in the division where she works plus the “Battlefield Lab Access List” in the division where I currently hang my hat. That’s what got me pulled into the distribution.

I assume everyone in her division knows the person in question, apparently a lady due for surgery later in the month, but it would appear the Battlefield types, like myself, aren’t familiar with her. That didn’t stop one of the guys from responding that he’d pray for her even though he didn’t know who she was.

My immediate reaction was that the e-mail was a clear violation of company policy, especially given the breadth of distribution, a policy that everyone has to sit through a boring refresher briefing on yearly. Then I remembered that I never met a rule I didn’t break if the situation called for it and had to chuckle at myself. I’m sure someone will let her know that it was technically a no-no but I doubt it will go any further than that.

Besides, her heart was in the right place.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. The e-mail got me thinking about the logic of prayer as it relates to the Christian definition of God.

God is Omniscient. That means he knows everything that has happened, is happening and will happen until the end of time. That means he’s known for thousands of years that the lady referred to in the e-mail was going to become ill.

God is Omni-benevolent. That means everything he does is good and, I would assume, he does all good things. So why didn’t he prevent this woman from becoming ill? Was it because he chose not to or was it because he was incapable of preventing her illness?

God is All-Powerful. That means the second option above, that he was incapable, is impossible. That leaves he chose not to. Why would God do that especially if he is so benevolent and loving? The only possible option is that, even if we mortals can’t see it, this lady’s illness and suffering will lead to a greater good.

You buy that one? Personally I don’t. I think it’s a load of nonsense. Yet I’m sure millions of people would explain it just that way and follow it up with “we have to have faith because we can’t understand God’s plan” or something to that effect.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s return to the question of the logic of prayer. If God chose not to prevent this lady’s illness because her illness is for the greater good and a part of his divine plan, then I have to assume her recovery or death is a part of it as well don’t I?

So what’s the point of praying? Is it an attempt to change God’s mind? But, wait a minute, God is Omniscient, that means he’s known for thousands of years how many people were going to pray for this lady, how often they were going to pray and whether or not it was going to make any difference.

If her operation needs to be a success, then she will recover regardless of whether or not anyone prays for her won’t she? If her operation needs to fail in order to fit in with God’s plan, then she’s toast regardless of how many people pray isn’t she?

That sounds terrible fatalistic doesn’t it?

Perhaps all God wants is for one agnostic or atheist somewhere to ask that she get better? Ok, I can do that. Please Lord, if you exist, and if you’re listening, please help make the operation a success and let her recover. Thank you.

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