Full Text for Dogmatics 1- Volume 37 - If God is omniscent, then is there really a point to praying? (Video)

dogmatics 37 Captioning provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 ******** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ******** >> If God is omniscent, then is there really a point to praying? Are we really asking God for something? After all, aren't we telling Him things He knows? >> That question you asked is really one of those classical problems when we talk about God's transcendence and then how He relates to us temporal beings, spatial beings. On the one hand we say God is omniscient, that means he knows everything. He knows everything in the past, everything in the present and everything in the future. And if we look at that, then your question seems to be very justified and almost -- well, the only way you can think about that, compelling. It seems as if the transcendent God doesn't need us, of course, to inform Him. And, well, he knows what we are about to pray, so why should we tell Him? He knows what we need, and He knows what will happen. And then, well, let's just leave it to God and leave it at that. Period. We don't have to pray, at least not a petitionary prayer. We can still praise him. And the same question you raised was once asked to me by a student I met in Constance, in Germany, when I was a Pastor there. He was a student of philosophy, and he said: I just can't get myself to pray. It seems so futile. What we see here is that a meditation, I'll put it like that, of God in His majesty, God in His transcendence, seems to contradict what we know from scripture. Scripture is very clear about that, that God wants us to pray in that God has promised to hear our prayers. That seems to imply that the future is in some respect open, that God reacts to our prayers, that we can make God to do some things. So, again, we have one of these points where the revealed God, God in His word, on the one hand, and God in His majesty seem to contradict each other. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, if He rules everything, what's the use of prayer? How can God then say: Pray. Ask me. Ask and you shall receive? When we talked about the hidden and revealed God, we talked about that tension between God in His majesty and God in His revelation. And we said that when we experience that tension, that we have to grasp to the revealed God and not to steer to the hidden God, God in His majesty. If these two ways to talk about God, describe God, seem contradictory to us, then we have to choose the revealed God. That is: When God says pray, when He gives us a promise, then we have to take that seriously and not say oh, God cannot be serious about that because He is omniscient. He is immutable. Rather, we have to stick to His word and His promise and say we cannot conceive, maybe, how that is possible, but God has promised that our prayer is not in vain. It's not some futile exercise. It's the same problem we have when we look at predestination and at election. If God has elected us from eternity, well then we will be saved. So why should I listen to God's word? Why should I cling to Christ in faith? Why should I read the Word of God? Why should I do anything that is Christian, because after all if God wants me to save, He will do that. Period. This kind of almost fatalistic approach to God was rejected in the discussion about election, as you can read about that in the formula of Concord, where we say we have to take away, we have to put aside these thoughts of the high majesty, of God in His majesty, but rather stick to the revealed Word of God. That's the way how He saves us. So, in the doctrine of election, the fact that God works through means does not contradict His soul-saving action. Also, when He tells us to pray, that is then the way how His will is done and fulfilled on this earth. We do not know what God's plan is for our life. But we know that when we ask Him, when we pray for somebody, that this has some effect. And not only a subjective effect that our faith is strengthened, you could always say that. It's like giving thanks to God. Well, we don't tell God anything new, but if we give thanks for His great gifts, then our faith is exercised, is practiced, and therefore we are strengthening our faith. But in some way God hears our prayers and you can even say reacts to them. When we talk about God's omniscience and prayer, that also has to do of course with the question of God's immutability. We will talk about that a little bit more in the next question. Suffice it now to say that God as He presents himself in scripture seems to be mutable. On the other hand, we say he is immutable. He is the same from eternity. Again, we have to admit that if God enters our time and space, things will inevitably be for us temporal. They will be sequential. And in some respect, that is true, not in every -- in every individual respect, but in some respect it is true. So the sequence we have when we say God I ask you for this and then God will give it to us or He will fulfill our prayer in another way is the way we ought to think about God. And this other aspect, God in His majesty beyond that, beyond space and time, we have to leave alone. If it makes us mute, if it makes us doubt of His promises, so in doubt always choose the revealed God.