Chapter 1, Section 3, Sayings of the Fathers, pp 31-32

I give thanks for another day to greet all of you and share a few more thoughts on the Necessity of Prayer, the snippets from the Church Fathers that Fr. Matta has chosen for us.

St. Ignatius Brianchaninov was a monk and bishop in the church of Russia and is revered by the Eastern Church. He suffered ill health but was a prolific writer. He tells us that God does not need our prayers – that He already knows our needs and is already merciful and generous even to those who do not pray.

  1. I don’t think any of us would dispute the truth of this. But if it is so, why do we ask God for particular things in prayer?

St. Isaac of Nineveh tells us something very similar when he writes that “It is not by reason of our requests that God dispenses his gifts and blessings.” In other words, our prayers do not lead God to “change Him mind” about what good He is going to do (my interpretation – do you agree?).

  1. In the Old Testament, we encounter stories where holy leaders and prophets prayed and “God repented of the evil” He was going to do (e.g. Exodus 32: 14; Jonah 3: 10). Why do you think the Bible presents God as changing His mind in response to prayer if this is not so?
  2. Does this awareness impact how I pray when I experience a special need? Has my understanding of prayer grown in this regard in the course of my life?
  3. Have you known anyone who lost faith because they did not receive what they asked for in prayer? If they came to you and asked you, how would you try to explain this mystery to them?

Saint John Climacus lived in the 6th-7th centuries. Very little is known about his personal life but his book, Ladder of Divine Ascent, is most widely read in the Eastern Church, though he is honored in both the East and the West.

  1. It is interesting that St. John describes prayer as “a devout, persistent coercing of God”, basing this on parables of Christ. How might we understand this in light of what St. Isaac wrote?
  2. It is also noteworthy that St. John writes this in the context of instructing us to, “Hold on to the staff of prayer and you will not fall. And even a fall will not be fatal…” (Emphasis mine.) What does our devout “coercing” have to do with the fatality of our falls? Hmm….

I may offer my personal responses to my own questions later in the week…in the meantime, let us continue to read, reflect and pray together. Grace and peace to all…

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 1, Section 3, Sayings of the Fathers, pp 31-32

  1. We have the parable of the unjust judge where a little old lady nags him half to death until he rules in her favor. We also have Mary’s request that He change water into wine, though that was not His inclination. Yet He did so as an obedient Son. To this day She continues Her role as our Intercessor and Advocate.

    God can do anything He wants. If He wants to change His Mind, that’s His prerogative. The problem is our linguistic and conceptual notions of time and eternity. The trinity knows how everything is going to turn out in every detail, however, the Father sent His Son into the world of time to change the minds of fallen humanity. God had no need to create us. He did so for His own amusement. If there were any need at all it is that, even being infinitely immense, His Love was still greater. His Love was so fulsome and strong that He was compelled to pour out the excess, and for that He made Creation and humankind. He is with us and our dithering minds hoping that we will be open to him. His respect for our free will and His desire that His Love for us be returned to Him means that He meets us wherever we are. If we are sinful one day and devote the next, He shapes His Providence to accommodate us, shaping the trajectory of our lives.

    God is both Actor and Spectator. A film director knows the plot, but she harnesses every nuance of the actor’s personality to wring out every bit of drama she can. It’s a matter of tension and release.

  2. Some fine reflections here, Gary, but I am a bit uncomfortable with the term “amusement” and the film director metaphor. Yet I think I understand what you are trying to express and, of course, words always fail us when we try to write or speak of God.

    My discomfort lies, I think, in the potential for some to misinterpret your words as though God regards the tragedies of our lives as no more important that a film He watches for entertainment – and I know that is not what you mean.

    Although my “justice and mercy” post takes a different perspective, I like your description of God shaping “His Providence to accommodate us” – how loving He is…

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