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Free Will And Prayer

Free Will And Prayer

This summer I wanted to spend my extra time reading. Things went pretty well. I decided to read some classics—children’s classics. It started with Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I remember reading this book over a dozen years ago for an elementary book report. However, I could only remember one scene. As the characters walked down one particular street, all the children played and moved to exactly the same beat and in exactly the same way. Every ball bounced simultaneously; each girl leaped the jump rope in unison.

However, another scene struck me in my latest reading of this children’s classic. It was one of many engaging ideas, particularly about human freedom. Mrs. Whatsit uses a sonnet for comparison:

It is a very strict form of poetry is it not?

There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That’s a very strict rhythm meter, yes?

And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?

You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.

Life as a sonnet: God does have a will, and each of us must find a way to live within that will in our own way. The parameters have been set, but the words have not been chosen. God’s will is for us all to love and follow Him. He has not decided when we’ll fail or succeed on the journey. He waits to see what we will do.

In Genesis 22, God tests Abraham by asking him to take his son Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed. As he raises the knife in the air, he hears, “Abraham! Stop! Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son.” And because of this, God blessed him.

I’m not challenging God’s ability to know everything. God knows everything that has happened; He knows everything that is happening now. He can see our hearts, our minds, knows our thoughts and personalities. He can even predict things to come. But, God chose to give us the ability to choose.

This affects every aspect of our lives, especially the role of prayer. Praying develops a unique relationship between Creator and creation. This relationship works to accomplish God’s will upon the earth, and through prayer we learn what needs to be done. Our relationship with God helps us choose to serve Him, and prayer makes a difference in the world.

James says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (5:16). The perfect example of this comes not from my life, but from Moses in Exodus 32. Unknown to Moses, the “people of God” have made an idol for worship. God, in His anger, tells Moses, “I have seen these people, and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.”

In response, Moses prays. Moses reminds God of His promises. Moses pleads on behalf of Israel. Then the Lord relents and does not bring the disaster He threatened. God did not plan to threaten, let Moses pray, and then relent. God intended to destroy these “stiff-necked people.” God heard Moses’ prayer, and it made all the difference in the world at this critical moment in the journey to the Promised Land.

Prayer changes things. God created humanity with free will to decide how we will live. We have managed to really screw it up. After several attempts of making things right, the ultimate grace was given—the life of God Himself in the death of His son, Jesus. While humans continually mess up the world, God redeemed the world through His son. Jesus’ death took the relationship between Creator and created to a new level.

The power of God is at work and has been at work. It is our task, in view of God’s mercy and amazing love, to choose to follow God and to pray on behalf of our world, nation, communities, churches, friends and families.

I must admit I was much better at reading children’s books this past summer than praying and making a difference in the lives of those around me. May the Spirit of the Lord move among us so that our sonnets will change the lives of those around us because we have chosen to engage with God on behalf of others.

[Brad Carter, a recent graduate himself, works with college students in Texas].


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