Prayer and Free Will

Second, the notion that God doesn't tamper with our free will presents problems in the area of prayer. For example, what exactly are we asking for when we pray for someone's salvation? Aren't our very words, "God, change this person"? Aren't we asking God to intervene by influencing a person's will in order to elicit a response of faith? It seems difficult to argue that God doesn't tamper with free will and then pray this prayer.

The problem doesn't just present itself when praying for someone's salvation, though. It includes prayer for anything involving human agency.

God answers prayer in two ways. He can respond directly, like he did when Peter was in jail and an angel released him. Since there was no human involvement, no one's will was violated. The same is true when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes or raised Lazarus from the dead.

It seems, however, that most of our requests entail God's mediate action, in which the answer involves the agency of another person. Characteristically, we're not rescued by angels. Usually, God doesn't multiply food or raise the dead in direct, immediate response to our prayers. Instead, the garden variety of prayer sets the will of God against the will of man.

Our prayers for a new job involve a human decision to hire. Our requests for the protection of the unborn speak to intentions of legislators and judges. Our petitions for good grades relate, in part, to the benevolence of a professor. In fact, with many prayer requests, the contrary will of a person is the precise issue of concern. Most prayers appeal to God to prevail upon other human wills. In effect we're praying, "God, use Your will and Your power to overcome the power and will of others."

If God never "tampered" with out free will, there would be precious little to pray about.

quick thought |
Greg Koukl