WILLIAM EDELEN: Can Prayer Requests Change God’s Will?



The Contrary Minister

I would like to ask, “Can something called God’s will really be changed by requests from the earth?” And, if so, “What kind of a capricious, chaotic universe would this be?”

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that belief in an unchangeable God or unchangeable force is to be found in all of the higher religions.

Jesus is credited with saying that God makes his rain fall on the just and the unjust alike, the sun to shine on the just and the unjust alike.

What kind of chaos would it be if the eternal will, the eternal God, the eternal design could be changed from time to time as this design was subjected to millions of people in a barrage of requests to make things different?

It is incomprehensible to me how such thought can be entertained. It is the type of thinking done by Eddie Rickenbacker and crew, as expressed after their rescue from an ocean raft in the South Pacific. They uttered desperate prayers for rescue and, when a ship did finally appear, full credit was given God.

Do you know what bothers me terribly? When I think with aching heart of all the thousands of good and fine men who desperately croaked out words of urgent appeal to God through parched and anguished throats and whose answer was to be devoured by shark and barracuda, to die from starvation or drowning.

Why were there no miracles performed by God in order to save them? Were they less good, less virtuous, less sincere than Rickenbacker? How could anyone worship a God who was so capricious as to save Rickenbacker and let thousands die horrible deaths, including those in Nazi gas chambers? What kind of God could this be? What kind of God could allow us to believe such nonsense?

“If God is God, he is not good. If God is good, he is not God. Take the even, take the odd,” wrote Archibald MacLeish in the play J.B.

Well, there is a massive cop-out in thinking this question through seriously. And the massive cop-out is to come up with the lame answer that God heard the the prayers, but the answer was no. God says, “No, you must go ahead and get chewed up by a shark. It will be a learning experience for someone.”

Do you realize how many prayers consist of pleading with God to deviate from the natural laws of the universe; to alter the rhythm and to perform religious magic because of the merit, the eloquence, the sincerity of the one doing the requesting?

Faith “healing” raises many questions, for it implies that natural law may be superseded and that miracles may be performed for the faithful. Now, I am not saying for one minute that healings do not take place.

I am not only asking, “Does a God, or supernatural force have anything to do with it, or is it a matter of natural law?” If the mind can make you sick, changes in the mind and attitude can make you well again.

A God so capricious as to heal some and permit others to suffer the most horrible pains would hardly be worthy of the attributes of love and compassion. If a supernatural being would intercede and restore health to a sick person as a result of verbal requests hurled his way, then how are we to account for the thousands of good and God-loving people who suffer painfully?

If you believe that God hears some and rejects others, then it presents to you quite frankly the most tortuous problem about the mercy and love of God. If you really believe that God heals those at so-called sacred shrines such as Lourdes (those who touch and bathe in the waters), then what about those who do not have the money to make such an expensive trip to Lourdes?

Are we to assume that a God of love and mercy will allow a child to come down with leukemia simply because the parents of that child, or the child, did not possess the necessary religious belief that would attract God’s intervention?

If God is the God of the universe, then healing powers are a part of natural law and would be just as available at the corner of 9th and Main in Boise or 1st and Park streets in McCall Idaho, as at Lourdes.

Does God play favorites and limit his own powers of healing to specific locations and places? Who could believe in such a capricious deity?

When we spell the name of God with the wrong alphabet blocks like kindergarten children, we form childish words and infantile concepts that impede the intelligent quest for the divine mystery and the mature faith.

In our search for the right alphabet blocks to spell the name of God — ignorance, magic, sorcery, superstition, threats, fear, and supernatural caprice — must be deleted from the alphabet of divinity.