Prayer, Belief and Control

"Faith is at once the most wonderful and the simplest of things. In it a man opens his eyes and sees and accepts everything as it - objectively, really and ontologically - is." - Karl Barth1

Why do we pray?

I cannot help but ask this question over and over.

If God indeed knows everything, and administers everything according to His will why then speak about our desires to this all-knowing, all-powerful God upon whom all things and its existence out-and-out depend on?

I cannot say that I know the answers to all these things.

Used to believe that I have a clue about how the over-all scheme of things work, or so my Calvinist teachers led me to believe.

However, life is more complicated than that. There are layers upon layers; facets that we could no longer keep track of; unending interpretations of the same thing; contexts upon context; complexities and dilemmas that would overwhelm us and eventually lead us to snapping or to asking more questions...

Thinking about it makes me feel a loss of control. In much the same way that I feel a sense of affinity with this comic book character named Tuesday in Jonathan Vankin’s graphic novel Bangkok Nights where in the ending of the story she lamented:
"We're all prisoners of forces beyond our control...we can only change our own lives. and when we can't change, sometimes surviving is enough. because now, the way it seemed to me...only elephants are free. "2
I am not far away from Tuesday’s conclusion and sentiments about life. I don’t have a lot going on, and the thought of entering the seminary to understand how God and the Bible works in human history has further got me into asking more probing questions that strike at the very heart of this thing in my life called faith—belief.

Belief in this Almighty God, who enters into our human plight as Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who indwells us with His ruach, the Spirit: God this event of Triune love, summoning us to an eternal embrace. This God whom I am struggling now more than ever to feel near me…

…in the middle of all this, I still find myself believing. I find it hard not to believe and like Anselm, "I do not seek to understand in order to believe but I believe in order to understand." 3

That is why I believe. That is why I pray. Are we not all that way?

We pray because we want fortitude.

We pray because we want a sense of being in control –or better yet a sense of someone being in control.

So now I guess it is in this question of control over my life and all its complexities that I struggle. For I do not know everything. I cannot do everything. Neither can the people around me. So for now I am only led by the circumstances in my life to get down on my knees and pray…

  1. Barth, Karl , Church Dogmatics Vol.4 trans. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1956) p.748
  2. Vankin, Jonathan Tokyo Days Bangkok Nights (New York: Vertigo/DC, 2009) Bangkok Days, follows a young crusading feminist Tuesday who drags her aspiring actor boyfriend into her spur-of-the-moment cause of liberating a teenager from prostitution.
  3. Anselm, Monologion and Proslogion With the Replies of Gaunilo and Anselm. trans. Thomas Williams (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1996) p.99

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