Since the beginning of this week I have been thinking about prayer and how we are to confront it knowing that our prayers don’t change God’s mind. As is always the case when something like this arises, I have searched His word and spoken to trusted friends on the matter. But as is always the case in my quest for knowledge of God, sometimes the best gems of wisdom come when you aren’t looking for them. Hence my experience this morning.
In my quiet time, I switched my order around and decided to read “Longing for God” by Gayle Beebe and Richard Foster. The book’s aim is to introduce Christians to people from the past who had intimate relationships with God and as a result of that relationship, produced works that have built the foundation for spiritual formation–in the literary sense–in the lives of Christians–well some of them considering most people don’t read Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal and others for fun (I do!).
Nevetheless, the chapter I was finishing up was about Thomas Aquinas’ great work Summa Theologica and the section of the book on prayer and devotion. He offered the mistakes that he believed defeat the work of prayer–believing the world operates independently of God, believing everything is fixed and believing that God changes His mind. Eureka!
Beebe and Foster would then go on to offer their commentary on Aquinas view of prayer by stating the following:
“Through prayer we work to sort out what role we will play as secondary agents in God’s primary purposes. Prayer is not telling God what we think, or simply thanking him for food and drink. Rather it is our active, intentional effort to understand what God is doing and how we can join him. Thus through prayer we become co-participators with God. God’s will sets everything in motion.”
That was great, but yet and still I wanted more. So I decided to scour the Internet in search of a free online version of Summa Theologica so I could read exactly what Aquinas wrote. Alas, the version I did find was much too clunky. It seemed my search was going to be in vain until I returned to the origin of this entire thought process, the post that started it all. There in the post, the first comment was a Thomas Aquinas quote addressing man’s stance in prayer:
“We do not pray to change divine decree, but only to obtain what God has decided will be obtained through prayer.”
- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae
To come full circle knowing that God is the one that closed the gap and gave Aquinas–and me–the knowledge of Him to acknowledge that we are to look to Him for all of our understanding.