Christian Counseling Training: Is Prayer Useful if God Knows the Future Anyways?
Some say if God knows what will happen, then why even pray for the outcome.
These so-called academics are merely being critical since most have little faith in God or do not believe in him at all. They merely pose a riddle for Christians to decipher-usually young college students who are not well versed in theology to defend their faith.
The reality is prayer is useful and important and relevant. There are four purposes of prayer. The first simply involves adoration. The second revolves around thanksgiving and the third involves contrition. The final element of prayer is petition. Petition is the element where a person asks God for a particular favor. This obviously is the least reason we should pray but ironically the one most people find themselves using prayer for. When things are good, many people do not think about praying to God or adoring him, but the moment a family member becomes sick or a tragedy befalls them, people begin to pray.
While God, as a loving father, does not discourage us from asking him various favors, it is important to use prayer not as a way to get things but as a tool of communication to develop and foster a better spiritual life.
With this said, some people when in crisis will pray, but their prayer is based on a sick faith that seeks contract instead of covenant. This form of praying hopes to bargain with God for a price. This is the exact opposite of how Christ taught us to pray in the “Our Father” and again how he set those words to example in the garden where he offered his will to the Father.
Ultimately, during petition, while we must lay out our wishes and desires, we must also conform our will to God and accept his law. Whether suffering or crosses result, one’s prayer should be to conform to whatever is God’s end purpose for one. God’s ultimate end is blessings of a spiritual nature and will always answer prayers that seek spiritual growth, however, physical blessings are depended upon the will of God. Yes, a cure is wonderful, or a material gain is a blessing, but they are not the most important things in the overall existence of oneself-and in some cases, they can be false goods that can lead to one’s own eventual downfall. Christian Counselors should emphasize this point to people.
Prayer and the Future
With an understanding of prayer and its elements, we can now move forward and answer the challenge of non-believers. To the Christian, prayer for petition does not contradict an Omniscient God who knows the future. Just because God knows the end result of any petition or favor I may ask, it does not mean I do not play a role in that final decision, even though already preordained in the mind of God.
Christian theology and philosophy teaches that God exists outside of time. Time is not co-eternal with God but is a creation of God at the moment the universe came into existence. So before the clock even ticked, there was an eternal God, the Alpha and the Omega. With this understood, time as an existence and part of our fabric of time and space, did not co-exist with the Creator with no beginning but actually started the moment God created or released the first bit of energy that would transform the universe.
Hence, if God exists outside of time, as an Eternal and All-Knowing Being, he then sees everything in an all present prism. The moment creation started, so did God witness the end of it. This may seem impossible to finite beings trapped in time, but is well within the understanding of God’s being.
So when someone prays, God actually sees the prayer of the person and the eventual outcome. He can choose to apply the petition or choose his own will over ours. In this way, there is hardly a contradiction or an idea of fate. The reality is that people play a role in their fate even though God knows the final end; God just merely views the process and the end at the same time.
What Is Process Theology?
While on the interesting topic of time, I would like to delve into a particular philosophy which attempts to pose as Christian but is repugnant to all orthodox theology regarding God. Process Theology pioneered by Alfred Whitehead found the problem of prayer and fate to be incompatible. Process Theology rejected the classical metaphysic notion that God created outside of time but that God and time were co-equals because God is a being and hence must exist in a past, present and future paradigm.
Rejecting the wisdom of Aquinas and the idea that God is greater than any force, even time, the Process Theologians created a new metaphysical philosophy. This new philosophy taught that God as a being existing in time did not know the future since it did not happen yet. As one can see, this was totally in competition with what Scripture taught about God knowing the future.
The true mask of this heresy was exposed when it even proclaimed that God does not act in the historical and temporal reality of man but answers prayers through inner workings and inspirations. It was clear from that moment, that Process Theology was a merely a form of Neo-Modernism with all its attempt to “demytholoize Scripture”.
Yet, these “Christians” felt they had done metaphysics a great favor. Now, one could pray to God and sincerely ask for his aid and help. With God being a fellow traveler in time, he did not know the outcome and could freely bestow or withdraw his graces from the situation the prayer was involved with.
Obviously, as Christians, we understand that prayer and God’s omniscience is not a contradiction but merely a lack of understanding by temporal beings.
If you are interested in taking courses in Christian Spiritual Counseling for certification, please review the program. Our Christian Counseling Training can help prepare for you this ministry.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C