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Pleasing God

July 11, 2007

Pony, this is to follow up on what we were discussing yesterday about the petitionary prayers.

I wonder what you think about the idea of “pleasing God?”

I guess my take is that God gives us freewill to freely choose to do things that are pleasing to him.

Hmm does this actually brought into question the immutability of God? – It seems the case to me.

As such there are things in which God cannot predestined to come into being unless He knows that it is the free wish of his creation. However, I guess being God, he sees the larger scheme of thing and sees further too. For example, a boy wishing for a birthday cake may not get his cake because that may say means thatย his parents have to go hungry by skipping lunch to buy a cake for him etc. – in that case, when we pray for God’s will to be done, we are praying for Him to help us decide on what is the best outcome for us.

That point aside, on the meaningful relationship we are talking about. An analogy will be father is thinking of buying me a cake for my birthday- but there is a difference between i voicing out my wish that i want a cake and not doing so. Father will definitely be happier and he may decide to give me a better cake! And coming back to the first point again, if it is his wish for me to have a cake rather than say a transformer toy that will distract me from my studies, then he will stick to his will. Though i may not understand why fatherย should deprive me of a transformer toy, i trust that he loves me and wants the bring out the best in me- and thus iย pray (no matter how unwillingly at this juncture) that his will be done.

Hmm what do you think? ๐Ÿ™‚

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13 comments

  1. good thoughts herring!

    yes, it seems to me too that if God can be pleased/angered by our actions, it is difficult to see how He is immutable. do you think His timelessness (if He is not in time) would help the doctrine of immutability?

    your comments on praying that God’s will be done are helpful. i understand your point to be that there are areas in which God will not directly enforce His will but would do so indirectly if we ask Him to. There are also areas in which God has in mind to do X but may instead do Y if we petition Him to.

    one part that is less clear to me is this: “if it is his wish for me to have a cake rather than say a transformer toy that will distract me from my studies, then he will stick to his will. Though i may not understand why father should deprive me of a transformer toy, i trust that he loves me and wants the bring out the best in me- and thus i pray (no matter how unwillingly at this juncture) that his will be done.”

    If it is his wish to give you a cake rather than a toy and he will stick to that, wouldn’t your petition that his will be done be superfluous? after all, if he will stick to his wish, why is there a need to ask him to? presumably, that prayer is not petitionary in nature, assuming the one praying knows the relevant facts you mentioned. if so, what is the purpose of such a prayer? any thoughts?

    hmmm… interesting!


  2. >>presumably, that prayer is not petitionary in nature, assuming the one praying knows the relevant facts you mentioned. if so, what is the purpose of such a prayer? any thoughts?

    But the thing is i wouldnt know- because i have limited knowledge. If i know, i wouldnt have pray for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Given my obsession with transformer, i might think that owning a transformer toy is the best birthday gift. In that case, if my birthday wish is for myy father’s will be done, i will accept with serenity that this is in the best of my interest, although i may not at the juncture, or anywhere in the near future, understands it.

    Erhm hope i understood your question correctly.. ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. i see where you are coming from… but i have two issues in mind:

    (1) in some cases, we do know God’s will on that matter and yet sometimes, people seem to petition God. For instance, praying that God will let His word be known to region/tribe X, that person P will come to know Him, etc.

    (2) in the example you gave, it’d matter if I knew that my father has a specific wish and would stick to it, even if i do not know the content of his wish. Thus, it’s pointless to pray that his will be done. with regards to cake and toy, when we say that my father would stick to what he prefers me to have, it is with the clause that he would stick to that *should i pray that his will be done*. is that right?


  4. How about this? although i agree it might be sound horrendously selfish:

    (1) Although God is all-loving, it cannot be the fact that all will be saved.

    (2) Therefore an optimal number of people will be saved.

    (3) There is a series of possible world where different combination (C) of optimal number of people will be saved.

    (4) My incessant prayers for the salvation of my mother will move God to actualise the combination C1 which includes my mother.

    (5) therefore my prayers is not superfluous cos they have been heard.

    Will this work? ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. As for question 2, consider this the concluding paragraph of Stump’s essay:

    “… But for a small and particularly nice piece of evidence, we can turn to the story in the Gospel of Luke which describes Jesus making the Lord’s Prayer and giving a lecture on how one is to pray. According to the Gospel, Jesus is praying and in such a way that his disciples see him and know that he is praying. One of them makes a request of him which has just a touch of rebuke in it: teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples to pray (lk 11:1). If there is a note of rebuke there, it seems just. A religious master should teach his disciples to pray, and a good teacher does not wait until he is asked to teach his students important lessons. But Jesus is portrayed as a good teacher of just this sort in the Gospel of Luke. Does the Gospel, then, mean its readers to understand that Jesus would not have taught his disciples how to pray if they had not requested it? And if it does not, why is Jesus portrayed as waiting until he is asked? perhaps the Gospel means us to understand that Jesus does so just in order to teach by experience as well as sermon what it is implicit throughout the Lord’s prayer: that asking makes a difference.”

    (Eleonore Stump, “Petitionary Prayer,” 187-188)

    I think, from thereon, father has prepared a cake, but he is waiting for me to ask. If i dun ask, he will still give me a cake; but if i ask, there might be more cherries on it? ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Thank you for the discussion! I’ve grown an inch taller! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Let us write this down so that we can remember:

    It seems that we have agreed that:

    It is superfluous for us to pray for God to touch a person given the fact that we know that a all-loving God would try his best to save.

    that is if we put aside “selfish” motivation, like praying for God to save a person first at the expense of another, simply because we, say wish for the former, say a loved one, to enjoy more good years in the Lord’s fold, or because we subconsciously wish to see this strengthen our faith.

    However, we do agree that intercession prayers, both self-directed and other-directed are important, along the line of Murray “Does God respond to petitionary prayers:”

    “(1) to help us realise that ‘God is the ultimate source of all the goods we enjoy;’

    (2) to help us come to a greater understanding of ‘God’s nature and purpose;’

    (3) to keep us from being overwhelmed or spoiled by God’s gracious care for us;

    (4) to help us recognise our ‘interdependence and through this cultivate healthy mutual relationships within the community;’ and

    (5) to make us ‘better aware of each others’ need.'”

    (Basinger’s summary of Murray’s position, Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, 266-267)

    Do let me know if any part need fine-tuning. ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. hmm… why do *you* agree with Murray?


  8. Why do *you*, Pony, not agree with Murray? I will also post this question to anyone else, centaurs, trolls or fawns out there. Please feel free to jump in on this question.

    Haha but okie seriously, i find Murray’s argument pretty convincing and it provides me with rationale to continue praying! ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. hmmm…

    herring, you are quite sly. i asked why you agree with him ans you said you found his argument convincing. do you think that is very informative? hmmm… i will also post this question to anyone else out there.

    on my part, when i seriously reflect upon his argument, i find it convincing.


  10. >>herring, you are quite sly. i asked why you agree with him ans you said you found his argument convincing. do you think that is very informative?

    Oh yup i find it both convincing AND informative. Thanks for the reminder! ๐Ÿ˜€

    >>hmmmโ€ฆ i will also post this question to anyone else out there.

    Shucks, din i cover everyone else? Oh i forgot the plantinga of notredame!

    >>on my part, when i seriously reflect upon his argument, i find it convincing.

    I find it convincing intuitively. ๐Ÿ™‚


  11. Here’s a summary of chapt 11 of Thomas P Flint’s “Unanswered prayers” in Divine Providence, 212-228. According to the Molinist, God chose not to answer prayers because:

    1. The granting of some prayers is dependent on other free agents which God does not want to control;

    2. By middle knowledge, he knows granting some prayers is going to bring more harm than good.

    He summarised the superfluity of prayers pretty good though- seeing them (2) below as countering (1):

    (1) For any X, if we pray for X, then God gives us X if and only if he sees (via middle knowledge) that X would be good for us (and for all concerned).

    (2) For any X, if we don’t pray for X, then God gives us X if and only if he sees (via middle knowledge) that X would be good for us (and for all concerned).

    Which is basically what you brought up.

    His answer for this paradox is two:

    1. That prayers are conscious-raising: that prayers benefits the person who pray. – Pretty much Murray’s sense;

    2. That prayers are circumstances-raising: God sees that though the prayers do not cause situation to change, but it can raise circumstances where others watching the answering of prayers will benefit.

    Yup, that is pretty much it. I think the Molinist’s account does not raise any point substantially new. ๐Ÿ™‚


  12. very helpful summary, benalytic! i’d like to raise one issue in relation to those answers for the paradox:

    could we sincerely pray for God to do something if we already believe He would do that thing whether we pray or not? for eg, i’ve heard people pray for God to hear someone’s prayer. If that person believes God would (just be His nature) hear that someone’s prayer, could he sincerely pray for that very same thing?

    it seems that the value of prayer mentioned in 1 & 2 can be partaken off only if we can sincerely pray for something. thus, for that to be so, prayer cannot be superfluous.


  13. Good question! ๐Ÿ™‚
    i think it is perfectly biblical for God not to hear our prayers:

    Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth (Jn 9:31)

    We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1Jn4:6)

    So there are two conditions when God hears not one’s prayers:

    1. when one sins
    2. when one is not of God

    2 is self-explanatory whereas 1 is a intimidating truth cos we are ALL sinners! So not that we have to pray that God hears others’ prayers, we must also pray for God to forgive and cleanse us of our sins and hear OUR prayers! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Guess that’s why some people end off prayers with “Hear this our prayers for we give thanks and pray in the precious name of our Saviour.” ๐Ÿ™‚



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