I admit I may have some things wrong here, and if I do, I’m certain that somebody will be *helpful* and correct me where I am wrong…
My idea here is that there are a few things about prayer that I don’t understand, and am hoping somebody who BELIEVES in prayer can answer. My issues with understanding prayer come from a few concepts I have on the christian faith from my being raised by christians, going to church, etc as a child and even being an alter boy and getting confirmed in the catholic church before studying other versions of christianity. Perhaps my issue is with my understandings not of prayer, but of the underlying ideas of god, omniscience, etc, and if so, I’m sure you’ll all be happy to correct me.
Now as I understand the christian faith (and this may or may not apply to ALL versions of christianity, but it seems to be prevalent in most christians faiths I’ve come in contact with):
God knows all (omniscience)
So before I was born, god “knew” I would have red hair.
I’m alive now, presumably god knows exactly how and when I will die.
God can do all (omnipotent)
So if god wanted me to have red hair, despite my parents genes predisposing me towards red hair, god could have made me a blond, etc
If god “knows” I am supposed to die 24 hours from now, in a car accident, and god chooses so, he can save me from that accident
I assume that so far I have not said anything that any christians will disagree with, but who knows… If I have made a mistake so far, please speak up.
Now we get to the area of prayer.
Prayer supposedly works. According to the bible, if you ask for something in prayer, god will give it to you.
The webpage WhyWontgodHealAmputees goes into this is much greater detail that I care to right now, and I don’t see the need to copy and paste the content, just check the link for details.
Now if we assume that prayer does indead work (as the bible claims), we get to my questions:
If god knows everything that will happen already, and has the ability to change everything, how can prayer change what was going to happen?
Here is a simple example:
Let’s say god knows I am supposed to die in a car accident 24 hours from now
Let’s say that somebody prays for me to live to my birthday (which is more than 24 hours from now)
And let’s say this prayer is answered, and I live past that car accident 24 hours from now.
Does this mean god was “wrong” when he “knew” I was going to die 24 hours from now?
Or does this mean god “knew” I would not die 24 hours from now, and thus the prayer had no effect on anything, since I was never going to die 24 hours from now anyways?
In one scenario, god can be wrong
In the other scenario, prayer has no effect
Ok, on to my second question:
If we are to assume god’s plan is what’s "best" for everything (i.e. he has omnibenevolance), then isn’t praying for any outcome, putting our own wishes, desires, etc above the will of god?
Again, let’s use the example of me dying in 24 hours.
If that was really god’s original plan, and god knows all, can do all, and is “good”, then by definition whatever the original plan was, shoudl be the best possible plan, and can not ever be improved upon, correct?
By praying for anything, isn’t the person automatically claiming that their own wishes are greater than god, since they are essentiually saying “I know that god has a plan, but I want MY needs met now, even if they were not originally part of that plan“?
[Also posted at the JREF for more discussion]