10 May 2007

Free will, prayer, and the future!

This is a part of a debate/conversation I'm having right now with some friends of mine. We're all being raised in Christian families, but our opinions do diverge on certain issues: For example, the effect of human prayer on changing the future. Here's what I said.
Human free will as pertains to the future

I firmly believe that humans have free will. However, I don't concede that God doesn't know the future. It's odd to say that God does some things half-way...that he either knows the future in part, or he knows it all the way and can't change it. That's a false dilemma, because if the past is any indication, God doesn't do things half-heartedly. Is God limited in any of his abilities? Not from what we can see, though we are certainly limited in our knowledge of him. How could he be? We don't know of a single thing that God cannot do, other than sin. Can he not predict our actions? There's simply no way that so many people could predict so accurately Jesus' birthplace, career, punishment, death, and ressurrection by simply using human intuition. If God didn't know the future, he wouldn't have been able to tell these people about Jesus. Didn't he create us? If he created us, he ought to know all our quirks. If he knows all our quirks, he ought to know what our free will is going dictate we do. It follows that he can use the Holy Spirit to actually change the course of action we take when we follow our free will. Thus we have free will, but he has the ultimate plan, and uses our free will to accomplish his plan.


I think God listens to what we have to say. How he'll reply to it (yes or no) depends on what he knows we need...but I believe he will reply to it. We can pray about the future but whether or not God will change it as a result of those prayers is probably something no one will know until they get to heaven. I'm not convinced it's possible to know FOR SURE if God changes things because of our prayers in any way short of divine revelation...which doesn't occur a lot these days.

That's a brief outline of what I think of prayer, etc. I tend to be almost fatalistic when I pray for something: I ask that God's will be done, and (depending on the circumstance) that he work through me. It's complicated....I'm up for debate, though! :)


Mark Watson said...

But really how could God "change" something in the future based on our prayers? Wasn't it all planned before the world was created? Or if it wasn't planned, then God certainly knew it would change, and if He knew the changes then would they really be changes? So can the future be changed by prayer? I think not. The future is defined already, prayers are simply factored in :-). But really I'm just nitpicking, you know, debate style :-p.

Here are some verses for thought though:
Matthew 21:22: "And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith." (You need the context for this one)
1st John 3:22: "and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him"

So it would seem that God does answer the prayers of the Christian, or, as in Matthew, the one who has faith.

In conclusion, yes, God does always do His will, but our prayers our factored into His will. And for those who have faith, He does answer them. And of course even when He doesn't answer our exact prayer we can still trust Him that all is for the best. After all, He is God and He knows everything, right?

Anyway, those are my quickly-typed, random thoughts. I hope I am making sense...

Crystal Soldier said...

Those do help. I'll be looking more into the scripture side of things (it's the only place we can find solidarity - our own opinions change so quickly!)

Thank you for your input. That's a lot to digest. Basically I believe that God does his will, and he answers our prayers in accordance with that will.

I agree with most everything you said. I'm just 'nitpicking' myself...sparring with my friend over this, even though it isn't that important.