June 27, 2018
In the WELCA Gather magazine Bible Study for June, Anna Madsen writes about prayer, focusing on the scripture of 1 Samuel 12:12-23. In preparing for this study, one line spoke strongly to me: “My friend, Pastor Tim Olson, nicely frames the dynamic of verse 23 this way: “If prayer affects God, it affects the Body of God, and if it affects the Body of God, it affects God.””
As we discussed the nuances and paradoxes of prayer in our time together, the idea that only God can see and understand the “big picture” not only of our individual lives, but of the world, leads to a growing trust of how God answers our prayers. When we fervently pray for a particular outcome and it doesn’t happen the way we desire, is God angry with us? Is God punishing us or preferring someone else’s prayer over ours? I would venture to say that it is less about anger or punishment and more about the ultimate care and love God has for us all, knowing infinitely more than we do about what we need or what is best for all.
Prayer is certainly a simple, and yet complex entity. In its simplicity, prayer is conversation with God - much like a conversation with a friend or loved one. There are times to talk and times to listen. And yet, in its complexity, how we pray, what we pray for, when or how often we pray, and whether we are praying correctly or with enough faith, make us wonder more about the process instead of relaxing in the gift.
So when we consider that God might be affected by our prayer, what might that look like? Can we change God’s mind about something? Maybe - there is certainly scriptural precedence for doing so. Can we be honest about our feelings and hopes and perceived needs? Most definitely - it is God’s desire for us to do so.
What does prayer affecting the Body of God look like? Because we are the Body of God, prayer affects us by sometimes bending our will to God’s, often growing our trust in God’s care and love for us, bolstering one another through remembering others in prayer and lifting them up before God, and even bringing about outcomes or guidance that might not have happened without taking the time to seek God’s wisdom and help.
May you be faithful in continuing to find the depth and breadth of the gift of prayer. Each time we pray, we learn and grow. God is so good!