There’s an apparent incompatibility between praying for God to take a specific course of action when we know that “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3) If what he does is based on what he pleases, then how could it be based on what we pray?
C. S. Lewis reflects on this very question:
Can we believe that God ever really modifies his action in response to suggestions of man? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or an inanimate. He could, if he chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, he allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to cooperate in the execution of his will. “God,” says Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to his creatures the dignity of causality.” But it is not only prayer; whenever we act at all, He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so.
C. S. Lewis, The Efficacy of Prayer
The psalmist asks God to bring life to him, but of course the psalmist is already living. It’s not merely life that he asks for, but a specific kind of life–the kind of life that is fully alive to God’s word, God’s love, and God’s assessment of good and evil.
And where does this kind of life come from? The New Testament answers resoundingly, “From the Spirit!”
So then for this supernatural life that sees God and Christ with new eyes, we must seek the Spirit who gives the rich oxygen of divine experience to our gasping breaths.
Give Me Life!
- Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name! (80:18)
- My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! (119:25)
- Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways (119:37)
- Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! (119:40)
- In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth. (119:88)
- I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word! (119:107)
- Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your justice give me life. (119:149)
- Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise! (119:154)
- Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your rules. (119:156)
- Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. (119:159)
He Who Gives Life
- It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (John 6:63)
- If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)
- For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6)