Petitionary prayer - a charade?

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reen12

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Here’s what I don’t get.

We’re called to pray. I can see the purpose
for prayers of penitence, prayers lauding God’s glory,
but I don’t get prayers of petition.

As an example:

Someone is suffering physically.
We are urged to pray for this person.
Why? God knows everything. To Him,
all is an eternal “now.” Is He saying
that He won’t lift a finger to help,
unless He is asked? What kind of
“Father” is that? If He knows of each
sparrow that falls to the ground, how
is it that He requests to be importuned
to help a suffering human being?

Prayers of praise are evoked naturally.
To see the beauty in the world, and
how “wonderfully we are made.”
Prayers of repentence flow from a
heart that asks forgiveness.

But asking the Master of the Universe to
turn His attention to help a human being -
again, what father would have to be
importuned to help his suffering child?

When the “result” of a prayer is clear,
it’s either a yes or a no. I’ve seen
people turn themselves into pretzel shape,
trying to ‘explain’ why God didn’t “help.”

Then there seem to rush in those who
try to convince others that, in reality,
God did help, but it’s just not clear
to us why He seemed to say “no” to our prayer.

What kind of mind-bending non-sense is
this?

If God is Father, then ‘relationship’ should
be His specialty. And what of those who
lay suffering, with no human relation near?
Or no human relation, period. What of them?

This whole routine makes no sense to me.

If He is Father, then let Him* act* like a Father -
without the need for prompting from limited human beings.
I have to tell Him? Is He not there?

If the whole exercise is predicated on
“We have to accept God’s will,”
then what’s the purpose of petitionary
prayer to begin with? He’s going to do
what He’s going to do - with or without
our prayers of petition.
The entire “economy” of this eludes me.
It seems like a wretched charade.

reen12
 
This is an area I’ve struggled with as well.

First, is petitionary prayer acceptable? Jesus said to ask “give us this day our daily bread,” so I figure it is. Certainly Abba knows what I need so it’s not like I need to remind him. And bread is such a small thing to ask for, so apparently it’s OK to ask for even very small things. One of the things that comes from asking is that I’m reminded that I need God. Even in small things I’m not self-sufficient, and even in small things my Father cares.

So let’s say that a friend gets sick and I pray for healing. Is God going to heal him because I’ve asked? I don’t think so. God isn’t some genie in a lamp who grants wishes when you ask. But again, I think God cares because I care. And I think that the greatest gift I can give someone is to share their lives through and with God.

I think God is about relationship and about love. Sharing my life with God means sharing my joys and sorrows, and sharing my concerns and petitions.
 
quote: SuscipeMeDomine
This is an area I’ve struggled with as well.

First, is petitionary prayer acceptable? Jesus said to ask “give us this day our daily bread,” so I figure it is. Certainly Abba knows what I need so it’s not like I need to remind him. And bread is such a small thing to ask for, so apparently it’s OK to ask for even very small things. One of the things that comes from asking is that I’m reminded that I need God. Even in small things I’m not self-sufficient, and even in small things my Father cares.

So let’s say that a friend gets sick and I pray for healing. Is God going to heal him because I’ve asked? I don’t think so. God isn’t some genie in a lamp who grants wishes when you ask. But again, I think God cares because I care. And I think that the greatest gift I can give someone is to share their lives through and with God.

I think God is about relationship and about love. Sharing my life with God means sharing my joys and sorrows, and sharing my concerns and petitions.
Thank you, SuscipeMeDomine, for your kind and
thoughtful reply. It’s not that I don’t love God. I do.
And I understand what you are saying about
relationship, and how we share our lives with God,
telling Him of the things that concern us, and those
around us - even it they are halfway round the world.

The Book of Job offers no clarity on the matter.
God deflects Job’s questions, and proceeds to tell
Job that He created the world, and was Job there
when He did this. Then, all is restored to Job.
Is it being suggested that children are “replacable?”
And deflection is the opposite of contact. It does
not foster relationship.

I can just hear an adolescent, listening to this.
“Right.* Got* it. I’m cool. No questions.”
“End dialog.”

At each sacred liturgy, the prayer is offered
“…and protect us from all evil…” The
tsunami, two years ago, brought great
loss of life, and unthinkable destruction. Are we
to think that our general prayer of petition
was not heard? Were these prayers to
ask God to intervene, before this happened?

It is all mystery. The mystery of God, of evil,
of sin and death and salvation and resurrection.
We are urged to be childlike, in our
relationship with God. I think that this
is the reality to live. To trustingly ask
God to protect us from all that is harmful,
or hurtful. Then the questions no longer
constitute a “live option.” For it is also
said “All things work unto the good, for
those who love God.”

Again, thank you for your kind and thoughtful
reply.

reen12
 
This is certainly a tough question that ultimately involves delving into Grace and the nature of God and man, which is the subject of centuries of theological debate. I saw the post and it recalled what I was reading in Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s “Christian Perfection and Contemplation,” and excellent book by an excellent theologian and author (despite what some people say about his views on pure nature… after reading some of his works I am not at all convinced he actually believed in pure nature… but back to the point).

I’ll quote a bit from “Christian Perfection and Contemplation”:

Bascially it is very simple. True prayer, by which we ask for ourselves with humility, confidence, and perseverance, the gifts necessary for our sanctification, is infallibly efficacious…

It is puerile even to conceive of a God who would not have foreseen and willed from all eternity the prayers we address to Him, or of a God who would incline before our will and change His designs. Not only all that happens has been foreseen and willed, or at least permitted, in advance by a providential decree, but the way things happen, the causes that produce effects, God has prepared the causes that must produce them…

Prayer is a cause ordained to produce this effect, the obtaining of God’s gifts necessary or useful for salvation… Is it surprising that divine Providence wills that man should ask for alms, since man understands that he lives only on alms? Here as elsewhere, God wills first of all the final effect then he ordains the means and the causes which are to produce it. After deciding to give, He decides that we shall pray in order to receive; just as a father, who purposes in advance to grant a favor to his children, resolves to make them ask for it.

…when we pray, it is not a question of persuading God, of inclining Him, of changing His providential dispositions; it is simply a question of raising our will to the level of His will so as to will with Him what He has decided to give us, the good things useful to our sanctification and salvation."

Okay, so I quoted a lot, but it’s a phenomenal book! I know it raises a lot of questions about grace and nature, free will, etc… but I hope this is somewhat helpful when thinking about prayer.
 
easy answer, Jesus told us that every good thing we ask of Him will be granted, so how rude is it to want it, and accept it, and enjoy it, without asking.
 
As an example:

Someone is suffering physically.
We are urged to pray for this person.
Why? God knows everything. To Him,
all is an eternal “now.” Is He saying
that He won’t lift a finger to help,
unless He is asked? What kind of
“Father” is that? If He knows of each
sparrow that falls to the ground, how
is it that He requests to be importuned
to help a suffering human being?
Prayers of petition are a good thing. Yes, God already knows what we need and what will happen, but when we pray for someone, it shows God that we acknowledge our dependence on Him, that we need Him for everything. Here’s an example:

My then 52-year-old mother had a brain aneurysm rupture in 2003. Miraculously (and I am using that term in its full meaning), she not only made it to the hospital (50% are dead within minutes and don’t make it to the hospital) and made it through brain surgery 2 days later (50% don’t), she was back teaching her elementary school class 4 months later. Yup - miraculous - no rehab needed (almost everyone who has this happen needs some kind of rehab). Oh, and why did they wait 2 days to do the surgery? Because it ruptured on Christmas Eve and the doctor didn’t have his usual top expert team because everyone had the holiday off.

During those days, weeks, and months, there were literally thousands of people praying for my mother. Family and friends told their families and friends, and my mom’s name was included in the prayers of petition in many Masses across the country. Did God know the ordeal my mother and our family would go through? Yes. Did He know who would pray for her? Yes. Did He need all of us praying in order to heal her? No. But maybe that no can be seen two ways:
  1. No - of course not, He’s God, He doesn’t NEED our help to do anything - He is omnipotent.
  2. No - well, maybe. Not that He needed our help, but that His plan for all of our lives - all of those who prayed for my mother and our family - included those prayers we said. We always wonder why this happened to Mom, what the point of it was, if God was going to heal her anyway…what we come up with is that somehow, my mother went through that because maybe one person out of the thousands who prayed had turned away from God, but because of that crisis, turned back to God in asking Him to help my mother. If one person came back to God (or came to God, period) then that whole terrifying ordeal was well worth it. :yup:
So, prayer of petition, I believe, are not only OK, but wonderful! Does God gives us every answer we want? No, but if we can grow closer to God through our prayers (as we should, and no matter what the “answer” is), then that is validation enough to ask for what we or others need. Remember, prayer is supposed to be a conversation with our Lord.

I hope this helps. PM me if you want. God bless! 😃 :cross:
 
quote: SuscipeMeDomine

The Book of Job offers no clarity on the matter.
God deflects Job’s questions, and proceeds to tell
Job that He created the world, and was Job there
when He did this. Then, all is restored to Job.
Is it being suggested that children are “replacable?”
And deflection is the opposite of contact. It does
not foster relationship.
Job’s story is certainly one that you can look at. But it’s not the only one. Consider today’s gospel, for example. Here we have someone asking for Jesus’ help and getting it.

Our understanding of God in the Old Testament grew once we met Jesus in the New Testament. Meeting Jesus is exactly the opposite of being deflected. God came to us in our humanity. It is all about relationship.
At each sacred liturgy, the prayer is offered
“…and protect us from all evil…” The
tsunami, two years ago, brought great
loss of life, and unthinkable destruction. Are we
to think that our general prayer of petition
was not heard? Were these prayers to
ask God to intervene, before this happened?
Things like this are far beyond my understanding. I recently read something by a rabbi (and I wish I could remember where I read it!) that gave one explanation. The idea was that ultimately we have to trust God on issues like the tsunami. Somehow in his great plan it makes sense. If we understood everything, we would understand and accept that it makes sense. However, God doesn’t want us to simply sit back and accept it. Because we don’t understand everything we take action to help the people who have been hurt, and that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do. Take action. I’m not doing a good job of explaining this, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about. Our lack of understanding leads us to show our love of others.
 
This is indeed a very tough question, Reen, and one that I fear many take far too lightly. As you noted, one of the most exasperating things is to be suffering and to have one of “Job’s friends” come along with a glib answer about how we must have done something to offend God, or that what we are experiencing is for our good.

Yes, in faith we try to understand and accept that all that God does is providential, even those things that involve mass death and/or suffering. But for one who is suffering, that is in most cases of little help, and can even take one to despair or anger.

I tend to think that our prayers of petition are not for us to convince God in any way, but to bring us consciously into joining into the healing work of God. As someone previously mentioned, part of it is in showing our recognition of our total dependence on God. I think these prayers of petitions, along with their “answers” not only bring us to that, but also help us to prepare for our own times of suffering.

There is something about the conscious effort made that to me is important. When we sin, we know that we are forgiven before we even ask as God knows our hearts. Yet it is in that conscious effort of examining our conscience and actually offering our contrition that we find forgiveness, and come to peace, within our own mind.

The prayers of petition not only consciously remind us that we are all joined together, but also lend a healing comfort to the person being prayed for–that others care and wish them well. There is simple affirmation in knowing that.

I know you struggle greatly with the book of Job, and God’s “non-answer” to Job. But I think there is an answer there. Part of it is “the world is too big for you to handle; please just let Me do My job as I know what I’m doing and why”. I think the other part though is relational. No, children aren’t replaceable, and Job having more children doesn’t “restore” things as they were. But I think that the bigger metaphor may be–though I may well be wrong here–that while things may change, God will bring things back to the way they are supposed to be to accomplish whatever the final plan–which is His plan, not ours–may be.

In the end, I don’t think it’s a charade at all. I won’t pretend to know the meaning or purpose behind something like the tsunami, though my faith tells me there is meaning and purpose. Nor will I miniimize anyone’s pain, or try to pass it off with glib answers. But I will do my best to stand by those I know to be suffering and add my prayers to theirs that if the suffering can’t be eliminated that we can together come to hope that it is not in vain.

Not much of an answer in the end, as I also struggle with this, but the only answer that makes sense to me in light of what God says repeatedly. I sure do wish though that “ask and it will be granted to you” came with some clearer explanations. Sometimes that “cloud of unknowing” can be harder than what I’m suffering with.
 
quote: puzzleannie
easy answer, Jesus told us that every good thing we ask of Him will be granted…
What to tell the parents of the 4 year old child who went missing in Portugal?
Mystery has no room for easy answers, puzzleannie.

Was Doctor Rieux, in Camus’ novel, correct, when he says
“I refuse to accept a world in which little children are made to suffer.”

And no “divine plan” is going to explain away such suffering -
no, not even for an easy answer. The “divine economy” is bankrupt.

reen12
 
reen… we are asked to pray for others, because it is an act of Christian Charity. We are showing love to our neighbor, through prayer. And these prayers benefit us, as much as those for whom we pray. Hope this helps. God bless. 🙂

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:38-39)
 
God is family! He’s not some lone, power-wielding, detached personality out there in the sky with a bucketful of goodies to distribute or withold! We all know that. And we, His children, through Jesus, are an integral part of that intimate family, which starts with the Holy Trinity! As such, we are meant to be inseparable from Him and from each other. When we pray “OUR Father, give US this day our daily bread” we, as loving members of the one family, are seeking His blessings on each other. But more than that, we are acknowledging the Father’s boundless goodness by expressing our faith in it! Intercessory prayer, or petitionary prayer, is therefore praise! And the Father of all goodness and mercy likes to hear it! Would He deny us our needs if we didn’t ask for them? Of course not - how could perfect love impose such a condition? In my own experience, whenever I have prayed for someone, I have received more blessings in my own life than perhaps even the person I prayed for! It’s happened so often - I pray about someone else’s problem and one of my own, which I didn’t even pray about, suddenly gets fixed!!. It’s almost like, if I need something for myself, I’d do well to pray for someone else’s need instead!!! Hence I’ve come to understand that intercessory prayer is not just a request - it is more an active expression of our love for each other and a true reiteration of our trust in the love of God. Of course, He always responds, in more ways than might initially meet the eye!
 
We ask in prayer because it shows God we trust in Him and are dependant on Him.
 
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