If God Already Knows, Why Pray?

Abstract

The high and low views of divine providence are quite different. Christianity has been divided over the most Scriptural understanding of how God operates with his created universe. Some believe God is self-limited to allow for the libertarian freedom of humanity such as Open Theism and Arminianism. Other hold that God does not limit his power and that humanity has voluntary freedom such as Classical Calvinism. There are objections to each point of view but more importantly prayer is impacted based on these beliefs about God’s providence. A Classical Calvinistic view of God’s providence is biblically and theologically sound. Furthermore, there are a plethora of reasons that this view encourages a passionate and consistent prayer life. There are also practical and pastoral implications that are drawn out of a high view of God’s providence when it comes to prayer…

Scroll down to the end for a link to the rest of the essay on the topic

The full question:

If God already knows, why pray? Critically compare the biblical and theological bases of the high and low views of divine providence, especially in relationship to prayer. Critically examine the potential this doctrine contains to encourage a passionate and consistent prayer life and explore the practical and pastoral implications of belief in God’s providence in relationship to prayer.

Bibliography

These books are ordered from the most useful to the least used resource in my research. There are a few journal articles and websites at times as well. (scroll down to the end for my essay on the topic)

Providence & Prayer: How Does God Work in the World? – Tiessen, Terrence L.

Tiessen includes the assessment of eleven different views of God’s providence and how this plays out in one’s prayer life. Each chapter begins with a summary of the position and how it impacts prayer and then argues the chapter’s perspective based off significant proponents of the view. The position is soundly examined and then concludes with how it relates to prayer and a practical example of someone praying in a particular situation with that view. Tiessen begins with the weakest view of God’s sovereignty, to the strongest: Semi-Deist; Process; Openness; Church Dominion; Redemptive Intervention; Molinist; Thomist; Barthian; Calvinist; Fatalist. His position, Middle Knowledge Calvinist, is the last view he considers. There is also a helpful chart comparing each view at the end as well as a glossary.

This book is one of the most helpful in comparing one’s view of providence, and then how one would logically pray. If one’s view of providence always lined up with how they pray it would be quite accurate. Often it is the case that what one believes, is not how one always prays. It may have benefitted from a careful presentation of divine sovereignty and human freedom at the beginning to help orient its readers. An introduction for the proponent of each view may also have been insightful.

In consideration of other books that attempt to do the same Tiessen’s outline and careful summaries were the fairest and the clearest. The practical implications of how one prays was the most insightful and helpful.

 

Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: 4 Views – Ware, Bruce A.

This book includes an introduction that presents the major issues, and four papers offering alternative views on the doctrine of God. After each view is presented the other three authors offer a brief response.

Paul Helm presents the classical Calvinist perspective, Bruce A. Ware writes on a modified Calvinist doctrine of God, Roger E. Olson supports the classical free will theist model and John Sanders presents the open theist perspective. Each author writes persuasively, although some more than others. It is helpful to see the responses to each point of view and develop a further understanding of each perspective. The middle-knowledge perspective was nuanced but still helpful.

Being able to consider four competing ideas in one book is an excellent way to begin to come to grips with the breadth of opinion and consolidate one’s own understanding further. It is easy to simply read the views that one agrees with, but this places the reader outside their closed walls to read of other views of Christianity.

 

Why We Pray – Philip, William

‘Why We Pray’ is a brief book based on a series William Philip presented to his church intending to inspire people to pray. He found that pointing to examples of incredible prayer warriors deflated one’s desire to pray more rather than spur it on. This book, instead, focusses on who God is which then inspires more prayer.

There are four sections of why we pray because of who God is: We Pray Because God Is a Speaking God; We Pray Because We Are Sons of God; We Pray Because God is a Sovereign God; We Pray Because We Have the Spirit of God. Each section is full of helpful illustrations, and it is a delight to read. The illustrations assist in explaining and convincing the reader of each concept. They also make each point more readily grasped and easier to explain. Some concepts are skimmed over and assumed rather than more fully explained but this may be due to it being based on a talk that is unable to cover every concept.

In the end, it does seem to present such a wonderful picture of God that it inspires prayer. This is a logical and helpful way to present why prayer is good and important. It explains why Christians should pray.

 

Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith – Grudem, Wayne

What is Providence? – Thomas, Derek W. H.

Christian Theology – Erickson, Millard J.

Reformed Dogmatics – Volume 2: God and Creation – Bavinck, Herman

The Providence of God – Harkness, Georgia

The Providence of God – Helm, Paul

Four Views on Divine Providence – Jowers and Stanley (eds.)

The Doctrine of God – Frame, John M.

Does Prayer Change Things? – Sproul, R. C.

Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God – Packer, J. I.

If God Already Knows, Why Pray? – Kelly, Douglas F.


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