My friend Ken asked me to explain what I meant when I said, "prayer has its own reward".
I like some parts of this reply, and want to refer back to it when the Heresy trial begins.
One of the most powerful aspects of prayer is that God wants us to come to Him, so in our coming, we've done the greatest thing we can do. In fact it should be enough.
When people tell me they prayed for me, I say, "and God answered your prayers". They think I mean because I was healed, which is true. God may have been moved by the pleas of his children. "He understands how his children feel, God will listen to you", goes the Nickel Creek song.
But I really mean, that God answered their prayers the second they prayed. God's intentions were met at that moment. They came and He abided with them. Answered prayer. Done. In full. Now even if I died that next day, I believe that God's objective was met, that his child who prayed for me entered in. And God met him there. In that light it must befuddle God (if that's possible) that we complain when we didn't get what we asked for, no matter how hard we prayed...
The deal is, we are so results oriented. The extreme for me was when in a Baptist church I once layed eyes on a brochure that read: "When Southern Baptists Pray...God Works". Now I just have to believe that their good 'ol American work ethic there just got the better of them. Like a bunch of railroad workers whipping God, in shackles, into pounding the spikes in faster. Or the picture I get is a board room, and the chairman, a pompous man, looks over his glasses and says, "Now God, we talked in the last meeting about the results we need for this month's numbers... by the looks of things, you've not quite met your quota..."
I realize I'm over-simplifying it, and yes God does change things on our behalf if we but ask. But people often chuck their faith because they view God as ignoring them. "How could God be good if..." that old argument. God is ultimately good because He's placed realities that are for our benefit. Like the one we often overlook. Choice. God is ultimately in "control", right? He's got to have choice to be able to be supreme. If He doesn't, we're more powerful than He is. So God had choice. He's made us in His image, maybe that's why we have choice too. But it is clear that we do. I can choose to eat the candy and get sick, or not to and enjoy restful sleep. Choices have consequences. Lots of choices have more consequences. Some of those exponential bad choices have such deep consequences that things like genocide happen..
Now when I choose something, does God know what the outcome will be? Hmmmmm. Interesting. That would mean that God can't help but to know the outcome... All outcomes come racing at Him and He's at their mercy, after all, they will be what they will be. So why pray? If God knows, and He's powerless to His knowledge, He can't help but know the ending, we are Predestined, right? (Oh now there's a sticky wicket). Or there's the view that God is moving every atom in the universe at once. Maybe that's true. He could, you know. I don't think that's quite it, though. He clearly gave us choice, meaning we move at least the atoms we're responsible for, in the way we want to. When I choose to break a commandment, if it were God moving the atoms, it would be God who was worshipping an idol; and just how does God take His own name in vane, then forbid it in the Ten Commandments? Doesn't seem right. Can God do or be evil? Seems to me (at Melinda's prompting for this paradox) that the answer is yes. Does He? It's a pretty sound argument that the answer would be there, "no, God chooses not to...every time". Otherwise, we are once again more powerful than God.
I don't pretend to know the rules of Heaven, or the physics of eternity. But it seems to me that God must, something like, CHOOSE to not know certain things. (after all I believe He is all powerful and the only way to have true power over a thing is to be able to accept or deny it). I believe that while I was there on the creek, I was indeed for a time, fateless as Christopher likes to say. So that said, I was allowed to have a choice that God chose not to have. Doesn't make me a god or anything like one, just a person with that choice. So God's "will" if you'll allow, was to let me choose. Just like His will is to let Ken Buchanan choose to accept or deny His existence. God must have chosen to not choose that for you. So why pray?
I think the fall of man has prompted something like a deliberate unknowing in the mind of God. Not that I really know, I am but pondscum. Isn't it possible that God chooses to leave us all fateless and from time to time, when prompted, perhaps coersed, or maybe even out of love - interveines on our behalf? That would be truly a miracle wouldn't it? God deciding to go against His nature to know it all, so that when we in our best moments come to Him, He can slide into his nature (like an Italian suit) and touch us for our own good. It's not even a theory, so don't read it as one. It's a fiction that might in some small way be more informative than facts we wish we had.
However we view it, one thing is certain. God wants us. Craves our attention. Will do the outlandish to get us to come and abide with Him. He already has it all. Why isn't He satisfied that we merely exist? I think it's because love is meaningless unless it has a substrate. (like the wind is invisible unless it has smoke or trees to move). So our response to God is the substrate in which Love moves. Suddenly I realize that it's not about what I want God to do for me. Will my company make it financially? I've been praying for God to act in the thousands of potential customers out there. I peek up from my desk to see it the web counter is ticking. And God is delighted that He can see, for once, the smoke move - because I've come to talk. He loves me. I can't get that. I keep thinking prayer always has the word "request" as part of it. Prayer is our pausing to be filled, to be moved by the invisible wind of Love.
How can you hate a God like that? He gives me a choice (even though He could choose me to oblivion), to return to Him out of my suffering and lack, (though one touch could but restore me), so that in the end, I will be moved by my experience of abiding with Him. Too often I duck in to pray get through the list and blast out and wonder when God will act. He acted while I was babbling, He's just too polite to interrupt me and say, "eh, hem. You are blessed". We seek these emotional experiences or the definitive answer to prayer, and it drives us batty when some teenie aspect of it "comes true". Maybe the thing that happens could actually be explained by medical science or is a bonafide coincidence. It wouldn't matter to God. His work was done by the time you said "Amen". He gets us a second time if we're smart enough to thank Him for the "teenie" thing.
So I don't know if I've answered anything. I actually hope I didn't, because I don't have answers. This little experiment is all about choice, knowledge and prayer. The whole thing gets real wobbly on the topic of wisdom. And I don't even want to know about homosexuals in the ministry or coffee hour politics. These things are far too weighty for me.