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June 10, 2012

Question:  Does prayer change God’s mind?

 An important supplement to today’s question would be: “Does prayer change our mind?” Prayer has a number of important functions, beyond the well-known “prayer of petition”— asking God for something that we want or need. One of these other functions is to seek guidance for a course of action. Another is completely non-conceptual: to fill our hearts with inspiration, divine light and love. This is the prayer of love, when the believer prays for no other reason than to commune with the object of one’s heart’s desire.

The fatalistic point of view would have it there is no need to pray because God has already ordered the universe according to divine wisdom. But this sort of attitude does not take into account two factors: First, contingency operates in our lives and in the universe; Second, we, as well as others, benefit from this now much neglected spiritual exercise. In other words, the act of supplication itself contributes to the stability and growth of the soul.

The command to pray is surely not given in vain. If prayer did not influence the Divine Will, then why would we be asked to pray? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the appointed successor of his father, Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, and the interpreter of his teachings, said: “God will answer the prayer of every servant if that prayer is urgent. His mercy is vast, illimitable” (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 246). However, he goes on to explain that divine wisdom does not sanction every prayer. If we all prayed to be wealthy, were that prayer to be universally answered, world affairs would come to a standstill.

What is the connection between prayer and fate or predestination? Bahá’u’lláh has revealed that the divine will orders two sorts of divine decrees: irrevocable and impending. The irrevocable decree cannot be changed, but he states that “The decree that is impending, however, is such that prayer and entreaty can succeed in averting it” (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 133). This statement shows clearly that prayer can influence the Divine Will.
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen June 10, 2012
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