Thursday, 17 March 2011

To Erika.

Germany, Ebrach abbey, Pentecost MiracleImage via Wikipedia
OK I think I'm getting it, essentially you believe that God must treat us all the same and that His intervention, if any, must be equal in every way.  To suggest that God might not be 'impartial' would describe a God who is 'unfair'.  If that's it, then I can agree with you up to a point'.

However we are made in the image of God and have been given the attribute of consciousness and self determination (free will).  Our relationship with God, for me, is real and I am involved in how my relationship with God pans out.  If I sin, then I am further from God, as it were.  God loves me just the same, like the father of the prodigal son, but my sin doesn’t help.  In the same way that my love for God might lead me to ‘good works’ and that will draw me closer to him.  How we behave has a real effect on our relationship with God and on the quality of that relationship.

So we are all offered the same opportunity to be close to Him but we also have a choice in how we respond to His love.  We are indeed children of God but we are also able to choose to love or to reject Him, just like your children.  Without this possibility then we would be no higher than angels and the sacrifice of Christ would not have been necessary.

In the matter of prayer, or more specifically response to our prayer then I am unable to offer you either signs or arguments, as my original article was attempting to say, but I can offer some other thoughts in the light of your ‘hatred’ of the God I believe in.

The Bible is a notoriously difficult book insofar as we have to respond to ambiguity and contradiction that lies therein, however it is considered to be Holy and authoritative.  You and I have to read it and draw our own conclusions according to how we believe the Holy Spirit guides us.  If we also subscribe to membership of a particular ‘church’ then we may also owe some obedience to that Churches’ view of the Bible.  (This is perhaps a little contentious).

In my own understanding of the Bible and in line with general teaching regarding prayer by various Christian communities I believe that God does intervene in response to prayer.  I have no particular insight into how this works and why, as I have said earlier.

I don’t believe that this necessarily defines His action, in response to prayer as being unjust in relation to others.  Firstly situations are often so complex that reducing the argument to a comparison of ‘like with like’ is not, in my opinion, possible.  I guess I leave that to Him.

Secondly I don’t think that He started the ‘machine we call life’ and then left the building.  In other words I believe that He hears prayer and answers prayer in very real ways; ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.

Thirdly I believe that we are called to help one another.  To reject prayer as a way of assisting others through intercessions in the ways I have suggested is, in my opinion, to limit prayer and at worse turn it into a self indulgent therapy session.

Finally I believe that God intervenes directly in this world and has done so throughout generations, but most spectacularly in His incarnation and in the miracles that Jesus did, and of course the resurrection of Christ.  Essentially God made the world and takes an active and continual part in it, throughout time.  Why one blind man might be healed rather than another?  Well I do believe Jesus was asked a similar question.

However I do agree with you that if this were to be elitist and preferential then it would be wrong, however this is available to us all.  Paul gave thanks for those who ‘knew Jesus in their hearts’ but had never heard of Him, and I believe the Holy Spirit will go wherever it will.  I believe that God is there for every child, and if we choose to turn to Him then he will respond unreservedly with real and practical love. But if we do not turn to Him then we are missing out.  Our choice.

I hope that this helps but I accept fully that this may not advance your understanding one jot, and for that matter it may simply reveal that I am foolish.



  1. Dear Mr C!
    I am touched! What a lovely reply, thank you!

    I do agree with all you say.
    I agree that God intervenes constantly, in all our lives, that he hears our prayers. In fact, I believe that he prays through us when we cannot pray. I know how it feels when he takes over and prays through me and in me for others and it is the most humbling proof of God’s constant intervention in the world. Without the knowledge of his constant healing presence I could not survive. And yes, I agree that to benefit from what he has to offer we have to want to draw close to him and we are responsible for our part in the relationship. Like in human interactions, true love doesn’t flourish if there isn’t even the attempt at reciprocating and the more we learn about loving another person the better we get at it and the more fulfilling it becomes. Our relationship with God is just like that and so, yes, to that extent, we are responsible for our own healing. Or should I say for accepting the offer of healing?

    I still cannot get over my caveat. People who turn to him end up dying in despair, people who don’t appear to have turned to him are physically healed. Physical healing is clearly and demonstrably not available to all of us and it equally clearly does not seem to depend on faith or on prayer.
    This cannot be what God’s healing is about.

    The thought also leads, to my mind, to that terrible terrible guilt I have come across largely in evangelical people who firmly believe in the power of prayer for healing. If you’re not healed, does it mean your faith isn’t strong enough? That you’ve done something else wrong? That God doesn’t think you’re worth it? I have known people destroyed by the belief that God could heal them physically if only they prayed right, if only he wanted to…. And they ended up not only losing their health but their faith with it, in the most cruel manner.
    And all that while missing out on the real healing God was freely offering them all along.

    I suppose I believe that God’s intervention and his healing are spiritual, not physical. And we can see the fruit of it in very very sick people who shine from the inside with his love, with dying people who still radiate love for mankind, who are not bitter, not disappointed, not fearful.

    And I think I believe that our task is to become like them, to trust God regardless of what happens in our lives, to keep praying and absorb the true healing he can fill us with.

    Of course… having said all that… it still leaves me with the problem of mental illness and the occasions where people are simply not capable of responding to God. It’s too glib to tell a sufferer that if only he wasn’t ill God could reach him and heal his spirit…

    It’s SO complicated, isn’t it!

    Thank you for engaging, it means a great deal!

  2. It may be a bit late in the day to join in with this discussion! – But earlier in my life I trained and worked as a Psychiatric nurse and for a time I worked on a specialised ward where there were a number of patients suffering with what they now call “conversion disorder.” – “a condition in which patients present with neurological symptoms such as numbness, blindness paralysis, or fits but without a neurological cause.” – These patients suffered with very real symptoms, they believed they had real some real physical illness (e.g. epilepsy) which caused these symptoms. – Yet the doctors told us that the symptoms were effectively psychologically induced, somehow their brain was ‘converting’ emotional difficulties in to physical symptoms. – So real were the symptoms that, more often then not, those around them were also quite convinced that the illness was real.
    Having thus witnessed a number of examples of how powerful the subconscious mind can be at creating, and presumably also removing, real physical symptoms, I am left very hesitant about making any judgment about what may actually have happened in any particular case where someone has apparently been healed as a result of prayer.
    This doesn’t stop me praying, although I am inclined to believe that the main aim of prayer is not that I might change God’s mind but rather that God might change me.

  3. How interesting and the last sentiment humbles us all maybe. thank you! :-)