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If one were to accept that God has a plan and that His will is to be honored, isn't hoping to sway God's plan for the future disrespectful?

-- Update --

A lot of these answers are across the board, so here's an example to help refine the question:

Someone's wife is gravely ill and in the hospital, and her church's parishioners say they will "keep her in their prayers".

It's safe to assume that they will pray for God to reverse his direction regarding her health and make her better, and it's also fair to say they're not asking him to show them the way to do it themselves.

Just making a request for him to rethink the matter, it seems. Where does that fall?

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“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.” ― C.S. Lewis –  Flimzy Sep 14 '11 at 20:09

5 Answers 5

I don't believe that prayer should be considered questioning God's will. Prayer can be many things, praying for blessings is in the Bible as well many times. Praying for good fortune and mercy aren't necessarily going against God's will. God gives us free will for a reason. If it were against God then Jesus wouldn't have prayed to God nor would his disciples and fellow Christians.

Basically prayer isn't necessarily questioning God or asking for something. It is talking to God asking for the best and asking what your duty should be to live in his image.

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Couldn't it even be more general than this, in that each of your examples was of the form "praying for" or "asking for". Couldn't it be simply talking to/with God, without any request? More for the comfort and edification of the praying person than for anything else. –  Chelonian Sep 15 '11 at 1:02
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How about praying for someone to get better from an illness? Doesn't that presuppose that you'd rather see him change a direction he's already gone in? –  Samuel Hulick Sep 16 '11 at 1:08

I think the following explanation of prayer is very helpful:

Prayer

Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.

So we don't pray to change God's will, we pray to learn about it.

Matthew 7:7 (KJV)

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

But yes, trying to change God's will is disrespectful. You're essentially saying that you are wiser than God.

Romans 11:34 (KJV)

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

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Prayer is about partnering with God to see his will be done. See how Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9–13:

Pray in this way "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Fist and formost prayer recognizes who God is, our holy Father in Heaven, and that we are to ask him to bring His will to be done on earth, just like it is in heaven. So if your praying correctly you aren't questioing God's will, your asking that it be done. So then you should ask yourself, what has God said about heaven? His will is done perfectly there, so what's that like? Do His children go hungry or get sick there? Is there any lack in Heaven? Is there any evil in Heaven?

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Not praying would be second guessing God. He says, "Ask and you will receive." (Luke 11:9 / Mat 7:7).

But, the other half of the equation would be to, "Seek first the kingdom and the will of God, and all these things will be given to you" (Mat 6:33).

That doesn't mean that you have to over-analyze your prayer, God knows what is happening in your hearts and he knows how people think. (John 2:24)

He directs all things and nothing happens that was not His will. But, as said he would do for Abraham, He can relent in His just punishments. (Genesis 18:16-33)

So, as St. Paul says:

Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thes 5:17-18 (NABRE)

The key is to be thankful in your prayer, even if the woman doesn't get any better, God's will is done. How could God's will not be done?

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If god's will is to be done either way, what outcome would the people praying in this scenario be hoping for? That they'd be thankful whether she dies or not? I'm not intending this to be rude, I'm just confused. –  Samuel Hulick Sep 16 '11 at 6:14
    
@Sam I think this is a difference between the Catholic understanding of the Lord's Prayer and the Protestant understanding as WhatAboutJohn3_17 explains it. We believe that "Thy will be done" is more of a statement of fact or a promise to act than a petition. CCC 2822 –  Peter Turner Sep 16 '11 at 13:28

Your question would imply several things:

  • there is no enemy or at least he does not try to interfere with God's plan
  • there is no free will
  • God's plan comes about automatically
  • bad things that happen to us are in God's plan and will
  • God uses things that were introduced by the fall within His plans (sickness)

Prayer is communication with God. Jesus tells us that when He is in us and we stay in Him, we ask and it is given to us. God values the relationship between Him and us so much that he likes it if we ask.

Does it change His plan? No, but His plan includes our actions. So praying for the healing of the woman you use in your example might just be in His plan.

Your example would by the way imply that the schemes of the enemy are in God's plan but not our prayers. Sickness is not of God. And prayer is a mighty weapon against the schemes of the enemy.

God foresaw both our and the enemies actions and built them into His plan.

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