One of my perplexed questions

For a long time I have pondered concerning the actions and prayers of ‘believers’ – if we are pushing in a wrong direction does that cock things up, does it even work against a godly resolution – I will come to Gaza and Israel before I finish this post, but maybe start a little back from that. Of course what I write are ‘perspectives’ but they are based on certain presuppositions (I hesitated to write ‘truths’!!):

  • I do not believe that God controls the future in the sense of exercising omnipotence over all things. For sure God works in all things for a good / the best outcome. God is love, and that love is non-controlling (although I struggle with certain aspects of Oord’s ‘God can’t’ I certainly go with the premise of ‘Uncontrolling Love’). To believe in ‘sovereignty’ in the sense of control runs up against the justifiable ‘problem of evil’ objection.
  • There is no divide between the God of the OT and the God of the NT, but we are not invited to read OT genocidal commands as coming from heaven… we are invited to continue to read and in reading discover that the God who is one (Old and New Testaments) is the ‘Christlike God’. We must engage with the intra-canonical dialogue and disagreement of Scripture. Scripture disarms us as much as parts of it need to be disarmed.
  • (Relevant to Gaza / Israel – surely it is remarkable that there are no NT Scriptures that seek to pull on Ezekiel-type passages concerning Armageddon, the land as promise etc… The only way to get there is to start with a system and then fit the passages into that – something completely absent in the NT… and I include Revelation as apocalyptic (and certainly far from literal) literature in that assertion, which of course does mention the mythical place of Armageddon.)

We spent much time praying into the effects of the Civil War in Spain – and into some of the underlying history from centuries prior to that. A big concern was the burial of Franco inside a huge ‘cathedral’ hewn inside a mountain with the largest cross of its type above the tomb – some 200 metres high. That raised the question as to whether by placing the cross there corrupted the meaning of the cross but co-opted some of the power it symbolised. That is a huge assumption and if true (I think so) indicated why it was such a battle to see Franco’s body exhumed and moved. That experience and journey left me with a conviction that when something that is genuinely ‘of Christ’ is used (abused) it is not something neutral but co-opts what should be present for transformation and reconciliation for something that stands against genuine transformation and reconciliation. Moving on…

This then has given me my perplexed question. What happens if I as a believer in Jesus start to pray for (say) judgement against my enemies – does that in some way release something spiritual that has an outworking against my ‘enemies’, all the while Jesus is saying ‘Martin, love your enemy, bless those who curse you’?

What if, prayers that are ‘wrong’, in the sense of not flowing with the Christlike God and for the kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, actually frustrate the coming of that kingdom or indeed go further and they actually resist the kingdom of God coming? This is the heart of my perplexed question… and if (as I suspect I am partly on to something) it really troubles me.

My guess is that since so much of evangelical Christianity is shaped by (a modified) form of Dispensationalism there are huge amount of prayers that are along the lines of ‘give Israel victory, restore the boundaries to them’ being offered up to heaven in the current war scenario. If not prayers, then I doubt if from that quarter there are prayers being offered up for peace and reconciliation, or if peace is viewed as a good outcome it is as per Rome who built their temple dedicated to the god of peace (Pax) literally on the field that was dedicated to the god of war (Mars). Peace but how? Through war and subduing all the enemies – the way of all Imperial kingdoms / basileia . So different to the path of peace forged through the blood of Messiah – the way of the kingdom / basileia of heaven.

Into Gaza and Israel we have generational trauma on both sides; both groups have been wronged, and of course until we are healed of such wrongs we tend to believe that any wrong that we are now involved in comes under the heading of ‘justice’ – two wrongs making a right / a justice.

The kingdom does not advance and rejoice when blood is shed – blood shedding being one of the primary actions that pollute land and polluted land draws demonic strongholds to it in increasing measure.

I wish I could resolve my perplexed question with the answer that God does not listen to ‘wrong’ prayers, but sadly and painfully I have not been able to do that. If I am only partly right I pray God have mercy on us, forgive us as we do not know what we are doing. I have to increase my faith that God works in the midst of all the mess we have helped create.

God have mercy on… Israel, Jews, Gaza, Palestinian Arabs (many of whom have Jewish ancestry), God have mercy on us who claim to follow the Prince of Peace.

4 thoughts on “One of my perplexed questions

  1. Both perplexing and troubling Martin. There have certainly been prayers I have not been able to say Amen to and it troubles me that there is a train of thought (catastophic end time) that does not pray/act for peace as that would be forestalling the coming kingdom/Jesus’ return. Wars and climate change hastening the end and all that. Is there something here about authority and not realising that we have it? Do we have it as ‘in Christ’ all authority etc. ? can we excerise it wrongly? (maybe definitley) That our words really do have an effect and not just those that come under the heading of ‘prayer? I have had /done the teaching in years gone by, but what have I exercised? More questions here for you sorry, but as you say perplexing, but probably rather important.

    1. As you say, Simon, ‘probably rather important’… And if so, another question will be, what can we do to render ‘wrong’ prayers be ineffective, and how do I partner with God so that my ‘wrong’ prayers not mess things up.

  2. No adequate words of my own for that. All I have today is ‘Blessed are the peacemakers (those who make peace) as they will be called sons/daughters/children of God’. Those who love their enemies also get called that and all creatiion groans for them to be revealed.

  3. I have also be struggling with this question as I’ve sought to pray for Ukraine and Israel/Gaza. What would Jesus pray? What would be God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven? I thought it was obvious. God is always on the side of the weak, the persecuted etc. Those who wrote down the OT scriptures whilst Israel was in exile from presumably an oral tradition, made great pains to credit wars and victories to God.
    Then I remembered Josh 5:13-14. Joshua asks the Commander of the Army of the Lord, “Who’s side are you on?” He doesn’t answer directly but says, “No”, as if Joshua is asking the wrong question.
    I find I take sides easily, maybe too easily. So what question should I be asking of God? And what can He do, given the freewill He has granted us?

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