If you believe that praying for something works, that praying for God to intercede and save a child’s life, or to help warring factions agree to a cease fire, or simply that God will help you find a way to help others this day, then you are an Open Theist.
In each case, you are praying for God’s intercession. You want His help. You are asking Him to do something that otherwise might not have happened.
Put simply, you are hoping – praying – for change.
Some theologians say that, because God is all knowing, He therefore knows everything that is going to happen. He knows whether or not that child will die, whether a cease fire will or won’t happen, and that God knows what you will actually do today regardless of your prayer for His help.
In other words, that everything is predetermined.
But if that’s the case, what’s the sense of an intercessionary prayer? Why ask for God’s help when everything is precast and unchangeable?
Personally, I believe in the power of prayer.
Years ago and not long after my father died, our extended family went through a very trying time that threatened to split us apart. Suffice it to say, the split was so deep I feared I would have to choose between my marriage and my family of origin.
So, in my anguish over what to do, I prayed for guidance. And, I think of it as the Holy Ghost, moved within me and guided me to an answer I might not have otherwise found.
The answer was simple: family, both of origin and of marriage, are stronger than this deeply dividing issue. Affirm the unity of the extended family and, through that, an answer that preserves the extended family will be found.
Now, as you may know, compromises are rarely to anyone’s liking. Each faction usually has to give up something to reach a compromise. And some may even see it as a capitulation.
In this case, that’s how it came out. It was a compromise, an undesirable and poor one, one that some said was the same as giving up.
But the extended family was preserved.
God, through the Holy Spirit, moved in our lives and guided us to a workable answer.
I’m not saying that everything is fine, that all ill feelings were healed, that everything was fixed. On the contrary, the hurts were deep and remain painful to this day, and almost certainly for the rest of our lives.
But the family was saved.
We talk, we share, we love.
Our prayer was answered.
While it’s true that outcome may have happened without the prayer, it’s important to note that neither side of this argument can be “proven”.
But if our lives are no more than the watching of a movie whose every frame and word are predetermined, then why would God create such a thing? If He is the author and knows what’s going to happen, would He sit and watch it unfold – remember, He would know each frame, so why bother? And if He isn’t going to watch, then what’s the sense of creating, of fabricating it in the first place?
When the Bible says that we are created “in His image”, that cannot mean we look like Him. Of what use would God have for eyes before He created the universe and its stars? What good would two hands be before there was dirt and rock to be mounded up into mountains?
“In His image” cannot be literal. Hands and eyes on God are nonsensical. He doesn’t need them.
Rather, it is a figurative statement. We have some of His qualities, some of His abilities.
And we have them because He gave them to us.
We have the power to choose, to make up our own minds, and to ask – or not – for His help.
And He also has that power. And sometimes as we are told, He may answer our prayers with an understanding but firm, “No.”
We learn to accept that sometimes “God’s Will” will be done.
But the very act of acknowledging that also carries the implicit acknowledgement that we too have a will, that we have choices we can make (or not) and acts to perform (or not).
That is God’s greatest gift to us, the power to choose.
We can choose, and act, as we see fit.
And we can also choose to ask for His help when something seems beyond our immediate power.
The future is what we make of it.
God made it that way.