Over the next few days I’d like to share what the Spirit taught me concerning prayer during my summer sabbatical, specifically over our family’s sixteen day road trip in July. Most of this is distilled from the fifth chapter of Terence Fretheim’s Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters.
One of the most basic teachings about prayer in the Bible is that it is a means through and which God gets things done in the world. God acts in the world in and through prayers (and other means). So put negatively, God accomplishes less if we don’t pray.
Prayer actually impacts God and the future due to the value He places on humans and relationship. In the golden calf story of Exodus 32:9-14, we see an exchange between Yahweh and Moses in which Moses pleads with God not to destroy the Israelites in His anger because of their idolatry. Remarkably, God relents. God so honors the relationship established with Moses, that the decision-making situation changes from what it was before the prayer. The human party enters into the decision-making process! Some translations read that God “changed His mind.” What was going to happen didn’t happen because of prayer. Because of God-human relationship.
God can use our prayers to expand upon the possibilities in a given situation. Prayer makes more room for God, giving God more space to do His work. We are, quite literally, co-operators with God! Our prayers actually provide God with additional factors to work with and consider that were not otherwise part of the “equation.”
Think about that.
Somehow, mysteriously, the power of God is made more available for a third party situation because we have prayed, even when they’re unaware. We could say that prayer is a form of mission in and through which God accomplishes things in the world beyond the hearing range of our words and the doing range of our actions.