Prayer and Free Will



In essay number 2, the concept of Free Will was discussed, and the solution to Free Will as proposed by Thomas Aquinas was accepted.  That idea was a consideration of time from the standpoint of an eternal being for which all time is present time.  For an eternal being, there is no past and there is no future.

This idea, if true, poses other problems, namely that prayer cannot influence God because there is no future in God; only the present exists.   One of the cherished ideas in Christianity is that prayer can influence God, and, through prayer, humans may plead for specific actions.  Such actions are impossible if only present time exists.

The idea that the will of God might be influenced by prayer is an old idea, and a long standing part of most religions, especially Christianity.  Curiously, all versions of the Christian Bible contain passages which support the idea of influential prayer and passages which state that God is immutable.

Passages which state that God is mutable include Genesis 3:16-18, 6:6, ch 7, 18:20-33; Exodus ch 33; 1 Kings chapter 1; 2 Kings 20:1, 4-6; 1 Samuel 2:30; Jeremiah 18:7-10; Amos chapter 7; and Jonah 3:10.

The first indication of the mutability of God occurred in Genesis chapter 3, when God threatened Adam and Eve with death if they ate the forbidden fruit, but when the fruit was eaten, God changed His decision, and spared Adam and Eve.  Perhaps the clearest statement about the mutability of God occurred in the book of Genesis chapters 18 and 19 in which the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was told.  In this story, God tells Abraham that He will destroy the cities.  Abraham objects, and asks if God will destroy the innocent along with the wicked.  God says that if there are 50 just people then He will not destroy the cities.  Abraham objects, and the number is slowly reduced to 10 people.  Clearly, Abraham was able to persuade God to change His decision which God did four times.

There are many passages which state that God contradicted His own commandments by killing innocent people or arranging for the destruction of armies, cities, and various groups of people.  Clearly, the story of Noah and the Flood is an example of the death of uncounted humans as God deliberately drowned all of humanity except Noah and his family.

But in Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalms 33:11, 102:25-27; Ezekiel 24:14; Malachi 3:6; and James 1:17, it reads that God does not change.  In many other passages, it is clear by inference that God remained firm in His decisions even when such firmness resulted in the deaths of innocent people.  The biblical record reveals a petulant deity whose inconsistencies are difficult to explain if one believes in an omniscient and rational being.


Suffice it to say that the attempts to reconcile Free Will, Omniscience and Time all result in problems none of which have easy solutions if one wishes to maintain the classic attributes of God.  Thus, we are forced to reexamine these ideas and propose different solutions.

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