Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Does God Speak to People When They Pray?

As mentioned on the blog yesterday, the next few posts will be a mini series as a way to respond to some questions and issues that arose out of my endorsement for Matt Papa's response to Kony 2012.

Here is the first of many questions posed to me and what follows is my response:
"Wouldn't people be more willing to glorify God if he spoke to them when they prayed?"

The person asking this question really did not unpack it very much so much of my response is off of assumptions as a result of their other questions. To answer that question truthfully I will say that it really depends because if by God speaking to them one means hearing everything that they want and receiving everything that they want than absolutely not. 

And truth be told, God has spoken to all of creation whether praying to him or not through what most theologians call "general revelation" or "natural revelation." As Russell D. Moore puts it, "General revelation is the self-disclosure of God to all rational beings, a revelation that comes through the natural creation and through the makeup of the human creature." Another way to put it is that general revelation comes to all people everywhere.

Both Old and New Testament speak to this reality of general revelation starting from the Creation account where God shows himself as the universal Creator (Gen. 1-2). In the creation account it is also revealed to us how the order of creation was to work in perfect harmony. Later as we get into Genesis 3 and beyond we see where death and decay come into the story, which we will pick up in another post.

But even in the midst of suffering we see God speaking to people, not always as they wish, such as the case with Job; who cried out to God, but still suffered. Throughout Scripture we see God revealing or speaking to people through his creation and his chosen servant.

In the New Testament we see God speaking to people and revealing himself further as God himself comes in flesh as Jesus (John 1:1-4). And in Jesus we often see him pointing to the created order and patterns set up by God in the Old Testament. 

We further see God speaking to people by "providing rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying the peoples hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). Events like these alone are what the apostle Paul proclaimed should lead the people to recognize the reality of God. It is important to not here that Christ Jesus is the purpose of all revelation.

Now there is also what is called special revelation. In the words of David Nelson, "In contrast to God's general revelation, which is available to all people, God's special revelation is available to specific people at specific times in specific places.' The content of special revelation being primarily God, who reveals himself to whom he chooses, when he chooses. 

I agree with Nelson who goes on to further say, "The proper setting of special revelation is Christian faith. God makes himself known to those who receive his revelation in faith" (Heb. 11:1-6). Revelation being both knowledge about God and knowledge of God.

So I would say based on the brief overview of Scripture that God does speak to people, but often outside of one praying. Does God answer prayer? I fully believe so, which calls for a response of worship, but in the answer it does not guarantee it is always what we want because God being sovereign knows what is best for us; but either way it still requires a response of worship from us.

As human beings we were designed to worship whether God speaks to us when we pray or not. In some ways it really doesn't matter if God speaks to us when we pray, but God graciously has provided the Scriptures to us and general and special revelation; where he does reveal himself to us, but often so outside of us praying. You see, prayer is not a special wand that you wave to get a response out of God because the reality is that God is often already at work.

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