Saturday, August 18, 2012

Is prayer redundant?

Over at the Secular Outpost, Jeff Lowder reposed an alleged dilemma involving the futility or the redundancy of prayer:

Why does Jeff imagine that that’s a trenchant critique of prayer? If the “something” we pray for is in God’s plan, how does that render prayer “redundant”?

If what we pray for is in God’s plan, then his plan didn't begin and end with what we pray for. Rather, his plan includes our prayer as well as his answer. The whole package is part of God’s plan. Jeff is artificially isolating what we pray for from the rest of God’s plan. But being planned, all of the interrelated elements of the plan are carefully coordinated. Jeff is confusing a planned outcome with fatalism. But that's fallacious.

To take a comparison: suppose I plan to give my son a present. Indeed, I know ahead of time what he intends to ask for. Still, I’m will wait for him to ask me before I give him the present. It’s important that the request comes from him. I don’t give him the present apart from his request. It’s important to involve him in the process to some degree. If I do everything for him, if he’s passive from start to finish, then the gift will mean less to him. He needs to think through what he needs and wants. Express himself. Exercise a bit of initiative.

Jeff has been an atheist for at least 20 years. And he’s had more ongoing interaction with Christians than many atheists. So it’s striking that he has such a philosophically and theologically simplistic, superficial grasp of prayer.

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