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Posted on CCPC's website 2023

     In its travels, the Desk is still asked questions by various individuals. However, since one forum was overrun by trolls, and 'FB' is working hard to innovate itself into the same oblivion that MySpace finds itself in, the answers to those questions are now usually limited to a few brief lines in a personal message or email. Once in awhile, one will pop up that demands a bit more of an answer, perhaps backed up by a bit of research, and a pot of strong coffee (or worse) and a few quotes and some scripture references.
     This one was one of the latter, and comes from Miss Lady, a old friend of the Desk, and one with no known religious affiliation:

“If it’s always 'God’s plan' then what’s the point of praying for someone?”
- Miss Lady

     It was the interesting wording of her question, which was possibly lifted from a forum-owner's thread for suggested topics somewhere in the bowels of “reddit”, which got the Desk's attention.
     “God's plan” as versus “God's will”.
     To somebody like the Desk, those are two different things. But when looked at with the subject heading of “prayer” as related to those of us down here in the mud, are they?
     Then you have the undercurrent of “predestination” that comes with the word “plan” which would negate everything from free will up.
     And then, if 'this' is not scripted, do our prayers actually influence the Creator?

“I simply haven't the nerve to imagine a being, a force, a cause which keeps the planets revolving in their orbits and then suddenly stops in order to give me a bicycle with three speeds.”
- Quentin Crisp (1908 - 1999)

     Of course we're going to stop in the home office of a minor Jewish Magistrate and listen to the parable of the “unjust judge”, as well as look at a couple of Old Testament references where somebody implored God to change His mind, and He did! And along the way there will be other quotes, and perhaps some music, and some empirical studies of the subject, some of which had some serious issues with objectivity and interpretation, and then, when that pot of coffee is gone and perhaps we've rinsed out our Dean Martin glass, we'll come to some sort of conclusion.

     But first, let's look at those two phrases we mentioned coming in: “God's plan” as versus “God's will”.

     We'll explain it like this. The Plan is the larger overarching plot for this world. The term holds its meaning if we are talking about “God's Plan for your life” or “God's Plan for Europe” or “God's Plan for Humanity”. The only difference is the narrowness of the focus. And, to be sure, your life is part of humanity.
     But now we have to qualify it a bit. Your life may or may not make any difference at all in the larger scale. There have been innumerable people who have been born, lived out their lives in obscurity, toiling away in a field or a dismal and dirty workshop, and then they passed into eternity and nobody outside their small circle of friends and family ever even heard their name. But, then again, we might be talking about Thomas, a farmer and blacksmith in Ecton, England.
     One of Thomas's sons, Josiah, born in 1657, left Old England and moved to New England. He was Josiah Franklin. Benjamin's father.
     You never know where The Plan will end up, do you?

     To begin with, we are inside The Creation, and we are, like it or not, part of it. That is our point of reference and where we have to start and finish the conversation. By definition, The Creator is outside, and inside, and before, and after, The Creation. That is His role in the ... ... ...

Time Out For Pronoun Discussion:
     There has been a great deal of talk lately about what third person words are used to describe people. Those being “he, she, they, them” and even “it”.
     We're not going into the politics of pronouns here.
     In the root sources for the Judaeo / Christian / Islamic branch of religion, the Creator God is ALWAYS referred to with a masculine term. Period.
     In the Christian tradition, which is supported by Scripture, the Holy Spirit is cast in a role usually thought of as feminine, even though the terms used in relation to that aspect of the Godhead are also, always, male. We'll come back to that later, sometime after talking about King David, so just bear with us for a few minutes.

     For this jaunt around the topic of prayer, and What, if anything, it actually does, and WHO is listening... we'll stick with the traditional male pronouns for The Creator.
     You'll get over it.
End Time Out

“Many have quarreled about religion that never practice it.”
- Benjamin Franklin

     Disgusted with the mainstream denominations of his day, Ben Franklin became a Deist as an adult. See link below for more on Deism.
     This classic by the old master Louis Armstrong is leaning that way in a lot of respects:

“I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by....”

-Song as released by Louis Armstrong, written by Thiele and Weiss, 1967 version, ABC records.
See link below for more on “Satchmo”

           Can't you see his smile while you are just reading the words to the song?

Back to the discussion of the Creation and the Creator already in progress.
     ... His role in the Creation is by His own choice and limited only by His own rules, and that Grand Plan, the 'Upper Story' as one study makes it, will play out in His own time. As part of the Creation, we have no actual say in how it works or when, the best we can do is try to determine the laws it operates under, some of which we do have a reasonable idea of what is going on, such as the basic laws of thermodynamics. Others we haven't a clue about, all we can say is, 'it happens'. For an example of those we will cite two common phenomena with which most people are familiar. Electricity and Gravity.
     We understand that the “electric fluid” as it was called, is actually electrons moving, but exactly how a magnet can strip some of the electrons off an atom in a wire and send it hurtling through your night light is a mystery because, in the majority of cases, atoms are fairly cohesive bits of matter and it takes a lot to break them apart. So why then would parts of them willingly go traveling however far it has to go until it completes the circuit, unless it doesn't 'complete the circuit' and ends up 'going to ground'.
     As for gravity, we know it is a function of mass in space that decreases over distance. But whether it truly is warping space and creating a 'gravity well' or it is some other force, the next half baked theory that comes out of a university lab may just be correct.
     Which brings us back to our opening quote from Mr. Crisp, and a followup from somebody with a trifle more academic standing:

“Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who sets the planets in motion.”
- Isaac Newton

     Did the famed English raconteur really have a deep understanding of planetary dynamics on par with Sir Isaac? We kind of doubt it, however, he did feel the sense of mystery as to how the universe operates that motivated Newton to pursue his inquires into nature.

     So, we have established that the physical world we see is part of the Creation, and that we are inside that creation. Like it or not, for better or worse, until we can get a transfer out, we're part of this reality.
     And now comes the part of the discussion about how much, if any direct influence the Creator has at any one time, or through all of time, over the Creation, and then on down to the details, which is where we move from the Upper Story of God's Plan, to the Lower Story, which is about us.
     If you do not accept the miracles of Christ, or of the Apostles, or even the Old Testament Prophets, then you most likely will not accept more modern examples such as a medically unexplained healing.
     And then there are things like an amazing coincidence that a believer will simply credit to the work of the Almighty and accept it as that.
     As one who has been on this end of several of those, some with no other rational explanation, this writer maintains that he has seen The Hand Of GOD at work in the lives of people who deny that He exists.

     But was it a prayer beseeching GOD to set up the chain of events that resulted in the fortuitous situation? Give us a minute, then we'll answer that.
     Below there is a selection of studies where various parties have attempted to verify whether or not prayer resulted in any change to a variety of situations. And, to be honest, the results of these studies have yielded some conflicting, and often contradictory results.
     Part of the problem is there is no purely objective way to control this sort of experiment. Do those praying actually believe in what they are doing? Are they doing it “correctly” (and yes that is in quotes)? Is Group A doing it the same as Group B? Are the subjects of the prayers as identical in all variables (age, condition, duration of conventional medical treatment, etc) as possible? And so on. And then at the end of the experiment, just how do you measure whether or not prayer worked, or didn't work? Let's say Patient 19 died in a month and Patient 21 lived three more years. Did the prayer not work for 19? Perhaps without the prayers Patient 19 would have died in surgery. We don't know. We can't know.

     Oh, yes, those last two statements were also the answer to the question about the 'fortuitous situation'.

     Just a touch more on The Creation's standing with the Creator, then we'll look at what we're told about prayer.

     There are those that believe that IF there was a Creator, then once he finished the original act of creation, that he 'wound the clock up and put it on His mantle and never touched it again'. That GOD has never intervened in the affairs of this world, which is about where classical Deism sits. Others think that the prophets were simply madmen running around condemning everybody and that Christ was a Good Teacher and that was it. We're on our own, and will be until the clock runs down. Some of these people also tend to believe that once you check out, you're done, there is nothing after this. One group of those that believe that is linked below with a quote from their own website, and you may be surprised to see who it is. (hint: it's not the Deists, and there is a link below to a Media Desk article that way as well)
     And then there are those that see Angels everywhere, and that if they're in a hurry to get somewhere and the traffic light is green and there is no train at the crossing then it is a direct blessing from God.
     The truth of the matter is probably somewhere in between.

     But that brings us to what, if any benefit there is to us here in the Lower reaches of Creation, kind of the New Jersey of the Universe, in the action of Prayer.

     Are we really just “talking to ourselves” or perhaps to those around us, instead of to GOD?
     And if we are talking to God, as in the original question, does it prove anything?

TANGENT 'talk story':
     One of the things the Desk does in its daily life is to abuse ministers and preachers and others of the religious profession.
     One of the ways it does that is when one of them gasses on in public prayer until you wonder if GOD is getting impatient with them and wants them to get to the point. (We'll touch on that scripture later on our way through the Gospels.)
     What the Desk says to them is as follows:
“You know, when preachers talk about how God answers prayers in three ways, they're wrong. There's actually Four ways that God answers prayer. The first is 'yes', the second 'no', the third is as they will say 'wait', but the fourth is different. You hear this deep laugh off in the distance that descends into a low fading chuckle. That's the fourth way God answers.”

     Another topic that has come up is how can a pastor speak about truth or vanity when he's been using that famous “hair color for men”?

     Some clergy don't enjoy speaking to the Desk for some reason. Go figure.
End Tangent.

     And so we have made it to actually talking about what the Book of Books says about Prayer.

     First off we have to deal with a bit of confusion on the matter that is propagated by well meaning Sunday School Teachers and Worship Leaders everywhere.
     They call the example prayer recorded in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 as “the Lord's prayer”. Well, in a way, it is, He did recite those words. OK. Fine. But He also did not tell us to mindlessly repeat it, in fact, if you go to Matthew and drop back a couple of verses, the instruction is exactly the opposite, do NOT use “vain repetitions”, which some translations embellish with the added words “much speaking”, which is the 'gassing on' we mentioned in the tangent. And which is exactly what the class of middle school kids are doing when they are repeating the words from the King James at the prompting of that Sunday School teacher.      The true “Lord's Prayer” is seen in John 17, where He prays for us. Most versions of the Bible that have chapter headings call this section the High Priestly Prayer. Which in a way it is. It would be better to call it His Intercessory Prayer for the Church.
     Which is also where the “Upper Story” of the larger Plan of God intermixes with us here in the Lower Story and we see the Will of God for individuals at play. And in the case of the prayer, individual local churches can be read into it as well as the larger Church, as in the Body of Christ.

     Be that as it may, there are other verses in the New Testament we need to look at before we drop back to the Old. And since we've already dealt with two of the most famous sections about prayer in the Gospels, we'll look at a few of the more obscure ones elsewhere before moving on.
     Philippians 4 : 6 and 7. The instruction is to 'pray about everything' instead of worrying about it, with thanksgiving, and the instruction comes with a promise: the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.
     This message from Paul is right on spec with what Christ said in the passage in Matthew and Luke where he gives the “Our Father” model prayer, praising God and acknowledging His Will and His Kingdom.
     Which is eventually where we're going with this. But we need to look at a couple more verses first.

     James works a lot of teaching into his short book. One of those is directly related to the topic of Miss Lady's question. Chapter five beginning in about verse thirteen and following. The Apostle tells us to pray if we're in trouble, and sing when we're not. But if anybody is sick, they are to have the elders pray over them and anoint them with oil in the Name of the Lord. The latter there is something many Protestant churches have gotten away from, for reasons that have nothing to do with Scripture but everything to do with trying not to even hint at anything that smells “Roman Catholic”, which we needn't go into here as the Desk has already ridden around that roller coaster in the Reformation and Restoration article linked below.

     The last New Testament verse we're going to look at confuses some people, they go off on a tangent about a 'prayer language' which leads them to just babbling on like they were trying to get people's attention..... wait a minute, that brings us back to what Christ said in Matthew.
     OK, we'll just mention the Spirit praying for us when we don't know what we're doing (which may be most of the time for some, like the Desk) from Romans 8: 26 and 27, and go and get our Old Testament examples. And besides, we're going to come back to The Spirit in a few minutes.

     As with the passages we just looked at, we'll begin a short review of prayer in the Old Testament with perhaps the most famous example of the prayer of the faithful changing God's Plan. In this case, it was a man that The Creator knew face to face.

     Exodus 32 tells of when Moses was delayed on the Mountain and the people got itchy and did something stupid. We see what GOD was thinking in verse 9, but Moses reminds God of His promise and how it would look to the Egyptians if He toasted the people now.
     In 14 it says “God relented”.
     Apparently Moses was able to persuade God to spare these “stiff necked people”. The incident is so remarkable that it is relayed in the history lesson that is Psalms 106, where it talks about Moses “standing in the breach” to keep God from destroying them, see verse 23.
     So, did GOD change His Plan? He had to know this was going to happen, and He had to know that Moses would speak up, and so on. So where does "God relenting" fit into the overall scheme of things? The Desk isn't even going to try to answer that one. That's between Him, and Moses. If you want to sort it out with either of them, be our guest.

     A slightly less famous example... OK, an example that most people have never heard of... occurs in a book with one famous section, covering Samson and his adventures, and a whole bunch more that Sunday School seems to forget about: Judges.
     Not far into chapter ten we hear about a man with thirty sons, who rode thirty donkeys, and ruled thirty towns.... OK, whatever. The part we're interested in begins in verse six, and comes to a point in ten and following, with God's very pointed answer to idol worship in 14.
     Something we should consider here is that the text specifies “the Israelites”, a plural term indicating the nation as a whole, everybody, from all twelve tribes... and rationally, we know that is probably a bit of a stretch because the Jews as a race have never done anything for any extended period of time as one. Even during the Exodus under Moses, which we just discussed, there were those that yearned for Egypt, where they had plenty of food (the infamous 'flesh pots'), even though they were slaves. In any case, in the Judges example, enough of the people had changed their ways and returned to God, see verses 15 and 16, that He got tired of listening to the people , something seen in the parable of Christ in Luke 18 about the widow that 'wore out' a judge with her constant asking for justice, and God raised up a hero to rescue them.
     In Chapter 11 verse 1 things take a Hollywood turn with this story:
“Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute.”

     Oh well, God uses who He will, including somebody who would have been shunned by 'polite society folks'. For an example of a total loser being God's instrument, check out Jonah. See link below to that study. And, to our point here, Jonah's book could be an example of God changing his mind in response to the prayers of the people, or not, it's hard to say anything definite about Jonah, except this: he had some serious psychological problems and may have had a somewhat loose grip on reality. Again, proving God can use Anybody! Which we will touch on again before we wrap this one.

     King David is known as a “man after God's own heart”, and yet even he disappointed The Creator on a couple of occasions. Everybody knows about his little outing with Bathsheba, but how many recall another incident where David acted like a human politician instead of a man of God?

     1 Chronicles 21 records how David, against the advice of his own 'chief of staff' conducted a census. The part we are interested in is that while an angel was destroying Jerusalem and a plague raged, God changed his mind, see fourteen through the end of the chapter.
     This is also the beginning of the building of the Temple on the threshing floor. So it is worth knowing about.

     Speaking of King David and the Holy Spirit.... well, we've mentioned both... let's head down that path now.

     David was fully aware of the Spirit aspect of God. That which was mentioned by Paul in Romans. We see this directly in his Psalm that begins “Have mercy on me oh, God”, which we call Psalm 51, which he wrote after his bit with another man's wife. Look at verses 11 and 12. This is an indication that David understands his relationship to the Almighty and is his prayer, in this case, set to music as a song, that God would basically save David from his own worst enemy... David.
     The promise of the Spirit, which indwells believers like David, was promised by Christ in John 14, and made apparent early in Acts. The Spirit is part of what makes the Will of God (it took awhile, but we got back to it) known to believers, and, in this writer's opinion, even to those who DON'T believe.....

     ..... for instance, when 'a little voice' tells you something. Or your conscience is nagging at you. Or even a long winded spiel from somebody who is little more than a half-drunken, half-crippled, ex-sportswriting crackpot gets you thinking about your relationship with Almighty God (remember what we said about losers being used for God's purpose?) it could well be The Spirit of GOD nudging you just ever so slightly down here in the Lower Places of Creation, which is part of His Will. And even though you have sovereignty over your life and soul, God's Love still includes you.
     And while HE is aware of how things are going to go, you're not. So using 'predestination' as an excuse for not doing what we're told and praying to God as described in the Book, isn't going to work.
     There is no doubt that prayer has an effect on the one praying. It does calm the mind, and if you will, it 'centers' the soul. It can even open one's mind to possibilities that were previously un-thought-about or even unthinkable. Is that The Spirit whispering to you, or your own subconscious, Freud's 'ID' if you wish, floating an idea to the surface? Well, explain the difference and we'll go with it.

"To believe in God is impossible not to believe in Him is absurd."
- Voltaire

     But will prayer alter the Will of God?
     We'll answer with: 'yes, we've seen a few of the examples', and, 'no, the overall course of the drama has been set before Adam listened to his wife and got us all in trouble'.
     And both are correct.
     We've seen examples where in the “Lower Story” that nonsense that is going on around here, where God changed His mind and, at least in the short term, and somewhat locally, things were different. However, the overall Upper Story, involving the coming of the Redeemer and the Salvation of the rest of Human Race through the Church (capital 'C'), and the Redemption of Israel (those two are different and separate issues, see Revelation with any questions), has stayed the same.

     So, how's that for “the long answer” to say basically the same thing we said as the "short answer" which was about six words?
     On the forum where the question was posted in a thread by that old friend, the Desk answered with something along the lines of "because that too is 'God's plan'".

    All Links to outside sources were WORKING as of date of original posting of this artcle.

The Louis Armstrong House Museum

"How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, His precepts!"
- Benjamin Franklin

“Deism and the Founding of the United States”

A review of studies with interesting, and some contradictory, results.

An article on the 2006 study of Cardiac patients mentioned in the above review of studies:

"Jonah may well be the only person who has a book of the Bible named after them that you aren't supposed to like. And for good reasons...."

"Satanists do not believe in God, Satan, Heaven, or Hell. There are no souls-and nobody to buy them..."

Related Media Desk Non-Fiction articles:
A look at the overall topic that used the above link as a resource: "... can you really sell your soul to the Devil"

And another question on a similar topic:
OK, answer this one: "Is the 'Restoration' or even the entire Protestant Reformation Still Relevant?
    ... ... and don't just say 'now more than ever'."

NOTE: The essay presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.
The ideas and statements in this article may not be endorsed or maintained by the Elders of the Local Church.

With the assistance and cooperation of The Media Desk.