“It’s time to Stump the Scholar!” Six little words that strike fear into the hearts of Hugh, Fuz, Ken, Jeff, and Dave at the end of each I Didn’t Know That! podcast. Although my trivia questions may perplex the scholars at times, I am always impressed by the way our team excels at offering answers to the truly difficult questions. From Jesus’ conception to the Nemesis Theory*, each week the scholars bravely grapple with our listeners’ outstanding science-faith questions in an effort to follow the command found in 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
In a recent episode, Jeff and Fuz were presented a question pertaining to the nature of prayer. Jennifer from Maryland was wondering why people “recruit” others to pray with them for specific requests. Jennifer went on to say, “My understanding from the Bible is that if you ask in the right way, then your prayer will be answered, even though it might not be the way that you envisioned it. It seems as though we feel compelled to ‘convince’ God with large numbers.” Although this question falls outside of their scientific disciplines, both scholars drew upon their personal experiences and understanding of prayer to formulate thoughtful answers to Jennifer’s query.
Fuz related that when he was a young man, his father taught him how to pray according to Islamic beliefs. Fuz describes this method of prayer as “a highly ritualistic, rote activity,” differing greatly from the Christian view of prayer. “Prayer, for a Christian,” he says, “is a relationship activity.” However, Fuz greatly stresses a strong view of God’s sovereignty when contemplating the concept of prayer. He explained that he does not believe prayer is “designed to convince God to do something that He wouldn’t otherwise do.” Rather, prayer is the means by which we communicate with our Creator, and ultimately become more aligned with His will.
Jeff cautioned that if we are not careful, we may fall into the practice of trying to control God through our prayers. He believes that at times “we try and manipulate God by praying the right way or praying with the right number of people.” Jeff recommends that when we pray we should be “coming before God not to get our requests [answered], but to get closer to God so that we know what He wants—[what] He is about.”
But what about praying for others? Both Fuz and Jeff agree that praying for others allows us to demonstrate our love and concern for those around us, and by extension, the love and concern God has for us. Praying for others is also a way of letting God know that we are trusting Him on their behalf. So while prayer in numbers may not be intended for persuasion, it holds great potential for deepening our relationships with our fellow man- and womankind, and with our Creator.
At this point, I would like to note that though Jeff and Fuz each have their own beliefs about prayer, they both acknowledge what a difficult concept prayer is to understand. They also realize that there are many other views of prayer and that not everyone will agree with their perspective. “And that’s okay,” Fuz says. He encourages everyone to continue to wrestle with their own beliefs on prayer.
This openness to questions and willingness to pursue truth is something I value most about Reasons To Believe. I feel it is important to acknowledge that unlike trivia questions, the big questions in life don’t often have clearly defined right and wrong answers. That is why communication with God through prayer and a lifelong quest for His truth don’t only apply to the RTB scholars, but to all followers of Christ.
Intrigued by this discussion on prayer? There’s plenty more where that came from! Check out the I Didn’t Know That! podcast for more science-faith Q&A.
To submit your questions for possible use in one of RTB’s podcasts, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for a chance to ask your question to the scholars in person? Join us on RTB’s 2011 Alaska Cruise Conference and learn more about God and His creation while exploring the beauty of the Last Frontier.
*Visit the I Didn’t Know That! page this coming Tuesday, November 16, for a discussion on the Nemesis Theory.