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Josh

I can't wait for the rest of this... Good post.

Frank

I'm with Josh. Waiting for more. By the way, if your readers here start to press you for the next post, repeatedly, how does that impact what you do or don't do next? One thing I loved about "Bruce Almighty" was how it raised the question of what it's like to be God.

bv1968

If God cannot be "persuaded" then how do we explain a text like 2 Kings 20.1-6? A story, btw, that is recorded in the Hebrew Bible three seperate times.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

Don Neyland

Another good post and a great question.

Can God be persuaded to act? I'm so glad you didn't go the 'can God's mind be changed' route, you know sometimes they get confused.

Well, I had this kind of "white-trash string theory of prayer" thing going one time... but it got so complicated that I finally had to admit my theory was smarter than me. So, here is where I'm at- Yeah, (basic mechanics of how it operates aside) God can be persuaded to act... as long as by "persuaded" you mean He was going to do it from the beginning because it was already part of your physical existence and faith experience with Him any way.

You see I start back on that whole "string theory of prayer" and now I'm confused.

But great question.

Don Neyland

What happens when it don't? Well, then ask Him what you should be praying for.. cause He can be persuaded but only if it is in-line with His will.

Wade Tannehill

Thanks Josh.

Wade Tannehill

Frank,

When I do a blog series, I usually have a rough draft of the entire series when I start to post. So I kind of know what's coming next. But subsequent posts are influenced and sometimes modified based on comments by readers.

Ben

God can be persuaded, but He's still God. Sometimes He isn't persuaded. Think about Paul. He concludes Romans fully ancticipating that he will soon visit the Rome and continue spreading the gospel into Spain. He prays and invites prayer that things will go well when he journeys to Jerusalem with the collected gift. As we all know, the story didn't follow Paul's will. Regardless of how many prayers were offered, or how relentlessly they were offered, God wasn't persuaded to do things according to earthly "wisdom." Why? I haven't a clue. I do know that when it seems I can't persuade God to get me out of pain, He automatically "feels" far away. Even Jesus prayed, "Why have you forsaken me?" God seems close when all is well, or even when we see the light at the end of the tunnel. But in the middle of crisis when everything is pitch black, it seems He's out to lunch.

And maybe it's right then, in those long moments, that our faith is really forged. He converts desolation into consolation in His own time and when He does the pain is quickly forgotten.

Ben

Trey Morgan

I think one of the problems we (or I) struggle with is that when God is silent I feel He's not there or that He doesn't love me anymore. This is so far from truth. I have to remind myself during tough times, that when God is silent or seems gone on an extended vacation, that He's actually closer than ever before.

Looking forward to your other posts...

bv1968

My tag is up and before the blogging public.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

paula harrington

Doesn't the first few verses of Luke 18 prove that God can be persuaded to act?

Wade Tannehill

Don,

I think that in Scripture we find that distinction you spoke of between whether God can be persuaded to act and whether he can change his mind. They are two different things. In 1 Samuel 15:29, Samuel says that God is not man. He does not lie or change his mind. I think this is saying that he will not be persuaded to act contrary to his holy will.

So, Don, you raised the issue that sometimes we might be praying what is not according to God's will. You defined God's being persuaded as meaning that he was going to do it from the beginning.

So in light of the Scripture Bobby cited, was God planning to extend Hezekiah's life anyway? Was the prophecy about his death merely a test? Or was God persuaded to do something he would not have done otherwise, had Hezekiah not prayed?

Did Hezekiah's prayer persuade God? Would Hezekiah's life be extended whether he prayed or not? Are there times that God is just waiting for us to ask before he acts?

Or did God actually make a decision to take Hezekiah's life, but Hezekiah persuaded him otherwise? Did Hezekiah actually persuade God to take a course of action he had not intended to take prior to Hezekiah's request?

It's the age old question: Does prayer change God or does prayer change me? If God simply does what he would have done anyway, why pray? Or does he condition his acting upon our praying?

Wade Tannehill

Bobby,

So what do you think about what I said to Don? Did Hezekiah's prayer merely bring him in line with what God really planned to do in the first place? If that is the case, then can we really say God was persuaded? Or was Hezekiah really the one who got persuaded? Was God just waiting for Hezekiah to show that he was in line with God's will before God acted upon his will for Hezekiah's life?

Wade Tannehill

Ben,

Well said. But it's very hard to see, in some cases, why our will would not be God's will. Suppsoe a family member's health problem is casuing financial burdens and family disruption. Why would it not be God's will to heal this person? I don't know, just as we don't know why God didn't always do Paul's will. I'm reminded of Paul's thorn in the flesh which God chose not to remove. I agree that it's in the long moments that our faith is really forged and even Paul's thorn had a purpose. But that's hard to hear when you're in the tunnel and there seems to be no logical reason for your being there.

Wade Tannehill

Trey,

Very well put!

Wade Tannehill

Paula,

Unless I'm mistaken, it seems that in the passage you mentioned there is a correlation between persistence and persuading God to act. So is there ever a time to give up and how do we know when that is?

Or does this passage suggest that if what we're asking for is good, we should never give up? And yet, how do we, as humans, always know what is in our own best interests, or more importantly, the best interests of God's grand scheme?

ben overby

Wade,

I agree. It's hard to be in the tunnel for no logical reason. But what sort of transcendent God is ever going to be fully understood? Whatever else we might believe about God, we ought to believe that sometimes we aren't going to agree with His decissions. . . because we don't understand them. Of course, the suffering of this present time isn't worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. The cross teaches us many things including the fact that even though we might have the most intimate relationship with God imaginable there are those dark moments when it just feels like He's forsaken us.

Brian

for fun
here are the verses, just add comments..

Genesis 18:16-33

Numbers 14:10-20

RE: Hezekiah's Prayer,
in a Bible class one time, someone pointed out that, Hezzy's son, Manassah (one of the worst kings and tipping point for God's wrath and 586BC) was born in that extra period that God gave Hezekiah.

interesting...

Don

Wade
I believe that God was persuaded to do something he would not have done otherwise, had Hezekiah not prayed. But since God KNEW Hezekiah would pray it can be argued that God did was not persuaded. I don't agree with that argument. I believe that pray occurs on two planes. Our reality (plane) is that God can be persuaded by our prayers but in reality our prayers have already been answered by God (spiritual plane- for lack of a better phrase).

Basically, all we can see from the scripture [2 Kings 20.1-6] is that God tells Isaiah to tell Hezekiah that he is going to die. Hezekiah then response to God in an appropriate way that allows God to not bring about Hezekiah's death.

It is possible that the problem lies in our terminology. What does it mean to "persuade" God? As it concerns God, we certainly do not mean that we are able to alter an action by an appeal to reason or an appeal to emotion. Nor are we manipulating God. So what does it mean to persuade God?

Possibly with Hezekiah God simply responded to two entirely different sets of circumstances or realities. Was Hezekiah going to die? Yes, that Hezekiah- the unrepentant or remorseless Hezekiah was to going to die but then he changes and he repents of that reality so now God deals with that Hezekiah. We have the same realities in our lives. There is a plane of existence that is "walking in the light" and a plane of existence that is not "walking in the light". We are the same person but our spiritual circumstance allows God to modify His relationship with us.

Maybe rather than 'persuading' God we simply transform the circumstances that exist between us {God and us}.

See... it just starts to get so ethereal that it starts to loose the concrete reality that God did not bring about Hezekiah's death. But then prayer is really otherworldly.

Did I actually say anything?

Don

Thanks for not getting into the whole 'miracle' aspect of God being persuaded to move into and alter reality.

bv1968

Wade, I do believe that God was persuaded, on the basis of the prayer of Hezekiah, to alter the future. It was a future for not only Hezekiah but also Israel. As I stated earlier this story is recorded three times in the Hebrew Bible: 2 Kgs 20; 2 Chr 32.24-36 and Isa 38.1-8. This lets me know that there is something God wants us to get here.

I think the text is also more pointed that Don lets on. The King is told to put his house in order "because you are going to die; you will not recover" (20.1, NRSV). But v. 5 the voice of Yahweh says: "Go back, tell Hezekiah ... I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you." The contrast between those two statements cannot be swept under the rug.

The prayer of Hezekiah help shape the future. James Harding once said that God is the "Great Weaver" and he uses our prayers as "wool" to fashion the "eternal warp of his purpose." God lets his children help fashion the future through prayer.

I do not embrace a theology of prayer that basically affirms that prayer accomplishes nothing except the reflex influence. For further insight into my own personal understanding of prayer I recommend chapter 8 of Kingdom Come.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

Don

To Bobby,
That is the entire "string theory of prayer" I was talking about.

And my "It is possible that the problem lies in our terminology. What does it mean to "persuade" God? As it concerns God, we certainly do not mean that we are able to alter an action by an appeal to reason or an appeal to emotion. Nor are we manipulating God. So what does it mean to persuade God?" denies a "reflex influence" or aspect of prayer.

For God to use "our prayers as 'wool'" says more about the power of mankind than the power of God.

Wouldn't it be more fitting to say that God knowing our prayers in advance has already woven the tapestry of our lives. I do believe that before the foundations of the world God had the garment finished.

I explained, in my opinion, the 'contrast' between those two statements when I said, "God simply responded to two entirely different sets of circumstances or realities"- that is a fairly big CONTRAST.

Don
BTW: Bobby is it possible for you to make a positive comment about your personal beliefs without denigrating someone else?

john dobbs

Wade, you are reaching into our hearts with this subject. Prayer is the inner core of our relationship with God. At times all of us have been frustrated in prayer, lazy in prayer, bored in prayer, feeling useless in prayer, passionate about prayer ... our faith ebbs and flows at times yet we affirm our belief in prayer (or as Charles Hodge says in the God who answers prayer). I just finished reading Celebration of Discipline's chapter on prayer. I am confounded by a few things there....not sure where I am on those things ... well... I could probably write for hours on this...just wanted to affirm the importance of this subject and the weakness that many of us feel in this crucial area of spiritual life.

Wade Tannehill

John,

Thanks. Your words are so helpful and contribute much to the discussion. Your words have likewise reached into my heart. Surely we can all realte.

Darin

Wade, I hear your voice and I can't say what I would think. In my own life I often wonder if I draw my tunnel to small, but that is only in my own experiences.

I can say that the heart that you have is ministering too many through your blog. Thanks.

paula harrington

God was persuaded to act when Moses argued with Him. (God allowed Aaron to do the speaking.) God spared the ten righteous in Gen 18 thanks to Abraham. God acts in His own time. Thankfully for us.

Brian

thanks sis,
someone finally picked up my suggested verses...

I confuse open theology and process theology, but they are the latest things to come down from liberal pseudo-christian scholarship

one says that God really isn't sovereign or in control, he just influences things,
the other similarly, claims that God's knowledge of the future is limited.

both are interesting and helpful to think about but in the end--baloney

these two issues (God's omniscience and omnipotence) seem to be underlying this here discussion...

Wade Tannehill

Brian,

I'm intending to deal with the Scriptures you mentinoed in a future post. I already had the Genesis pasasage in mind, but thanks for reminding me about the Numbers passage.

I, for one, do not believe that openness theology is mere baloney. Do not discount it entirely until you’ve read John Sanders’ book “The God Who Risks.”

I believe that in granting us free will God has taken the risk of not always getting his way. Humans cooperate in the writing of history. Concepts like omnipotence and omniscience owe more to Platonic and Western concepts than they do to the Hebrew Scripture. Is it possible for God, in his sovereignty, to have imposed a self-limitation upon himself in which many of this world’s particulars are characterized by randomness, while in the end we have the assurance that God’s will prevails?

It seems to me that our limited definition of sovereignty makes God a micromanager, humans mere pawns, and prayer a sham. If God has the completed script already in hand, then prayer does not really persuade him to act. He is merely playing a game with us.

For example, when God told Hezekiah he would die, was God just playin’ with him, knowing all along that Hezekiah would pray and then not die? Or did Hezekiah’s prayer truly persuade God to act, as a face value reading of the story seems to indicate? I think openness theology gives us the option of taking the Hebrew Bible at face value as opposed to reading it through a Platonic lens.

bv1968

Don I did not denigrate anyone. Not you nor anyone else. You speak of my denigration and yet you have recently started throwing around terms like "digressive" as if it were fine seasoning.

But I do not think I have denigrated you or anyone else. The term "reflex influence" is an actual statement of a position. James A. Harding critiques that position. But it did not die in 1910. When I was in MS I had a "discussion" with a preacher from a congregation nearby and those were his exact words to describe his view on prayer. Prayer, according to him, did nothing to God, it did nothing to shape and alter the future. Prayer was reverse psychology on ourselves ... the reflexe influence. According to him, the only reason we pray is because we are "commanded" to do it.

If it means that I am denigrating to a person because I say such a view is absurd ... then I apologize but that is what I believe. It IS absurd. It is not biblical. The scriptures reveal a God that has RESPONDED to the prayers of his people. That is he has altered his announced intentions. That is he has been persuaded. Why should this be a theological problem? If we have a REAL (not in word only) relationship with our Abba then the concept of persuasion is also real and authentic.

The example of Hezekiah cannot be dismissed so easily. Hezekiah did not understand the prophetic word to mean he would simply die someday, somewhere in the future. That is the lot of all humanity. Hezekiah seemingly understood this to be an immediate judgement from God. The response from God confirms this.

Another even more radical example is in Ex 32. God saw the idolatry. He tells Moses he is going to destroy them and he will make Moses into a great nation (vv.7-10). But like Hezekiah years later, Moses was not satisfied with this and prayed ... he sought "favor" with God. Moses askes God a series of questions and one was what would the Egyptians think. Well who cares what the Egyptians would think? But the amazing thing is that the text says "Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened" (v.14).
I think this is called persuasion.

Prayer is powerful because God respects his creation. He loves he creation. He wants "us" to be part of the family of God. We have the full rights of "sons" and are coheirs to the thrown itself. Those are concepts bestowed upon us by the Creator himself. He does listen to us ... I for one think that is a comforting fact.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

Wade Tannehill

Reflex influence sounds like a disease. I don't really think Don has it. When he says that our spiritual circumstances allows God to modify his relationship with us, I don't think that's refex influence. It sounds more like we do have some choice in the matter.

Now as far as the garment being finished, I don't know. I think God is going to bring the whole thing to completion as he wills, and it will be perfect, but I also think he allows us to contribute.

Anyway, Bobby--I'd be interested in hearing what you think about what I said to Brian. How does that fit or not fit with what you're saying?

Brian

wade,
thanks for a description of what I was talking about. you have definitely thought about it more than I and what you said was helpful.
I will note the book you recommended. and would appreciate bobby or others to comment on the current scholarly discussion

as for "reflex influence", wade is right, sounds like a disease, take a purple pill

Vicki

I completely agree with Bobby Valentine and I commend his use of the scriptures in stating his beliefs.

Donna

I too anxiously await the rest of the story...

Don

Wade-
I sincerely apologize for using your forum and I will not again for this purpose and this will be my last foray into "bobbyland".

Bobby-
"Don I did not denigrate anyone. Not you nor anyone else. You speak of my denigration and yet you have recently started throwing around terms like "digressive" as if it were fine seasoning."
I honestly believe that you cannot see your own short comings. If you don't realize that you just did it again...then at this point in your life it is a hopeless discussion.

I did not mention you by name or respond to your comments personally until you responded to me by name- but you can't seem to exist in the same "plane" as me so I will try to avoid your "domains" in the future. You seem to function better when you are the sole authority.

I responded to Wade and then you responded to me by name. Go back and read your comments... Wade certainly thought they were directed to me because you directed them to me, by name. Even after you "explained" how you were right and how I had actually wronged you Wade still felt the need to explain me to you- "Reflex influence sounds like a disease. I don't really think Don has it. When he says that our spiritual circumstances allows God to modify his relationship with us, I don't think that's refex influence. It sounds more like we do have some choice in the matter."
Thank you Wade but Bobby has a personal problem with me and I will stay off any blogs he is commenting on so that they do not digress into this mess.

So in the spirit of unity I leave with this-

"Good Post Bobby- I am uplifted with each and every word and I commend you for everything."
Don

Wade Tannehill

Donna,

Great to hear from you again!

Brian

wade,
sorry to jump ahead in your thought process, progression of posts. blogging is like bible class, when you try to lead up to something, someone always jumps in and ruins it, and you miss out on learning stuff while working up to something else

Wade Tannehill

Brian,

Don't worry about it. I appreciate your contributions.

Wade Tannehill

Don,

I wish you wouldn’t go away mad. I have valued your contribution to these discussions over the weeks and I appreciate the perspectives of everyone who has commented. I think every person who commented has something to teach me.

I was unaware of any personal problems between Bobby and yourself. I simply thought we were all having a friendly discussion. Even friendly discussions can sometimes get heated. I have had many friendly heated discussions with friends through the years. That’s all I thought was going on here. I was unaware of any personal issues beneath the surface. And those are none of my business.

But anyway, Don, I just wanted to say that if you won’t be back, I for one, will miss you. You’re more than welcome on this blog.

Personal issues aside, I think it’s healthy that we of the Christian blogosphere compare notes and viewpoints. Listening, correcting, questioning, and adjusting, remembering that our goal is to seek the wisdom and will of God for our lives. Blogs are a good tool for sharpening each other. That is why this blog remains an open forum.

Bobby and Don,

My prayer today is that God will be persuaded to intervene so that two brothers might be reconciled. You guys need to call each other. Now that we have closed that issue on this forum, those still interested are welcome to continue the discussion on prayer. My next post is coming soon. God bless you all.


Don

Wade,
I am sorry this interfered with your blog. That's real honest to goodness sorry and not Wah-Wah:(.
I am not mad or angry -frustrated that it continues to happen -yes.
I am not "taking my keyboard and going home" :)
I just don't think it serves anyone else or is of any good for this Don & Bobby V thing to keep going.
I am at a loss as to what is going on. But I can tell you that as far as I know Bobby has no real animosity towards me or me towards Bobby. We simply always end with a He said-He said situation. I didn't even want to continue this much of the problem...

""personal issues beneath the surface"" yes that is a great way to put it. I just seem to rub him the wrong way. He isn't the only one and he won't be the last one. So, it will not profit anyone for me to follow him in the blogosphere. I will comment on his blog and he is more than welcome on mine. But it isn't worth stifling what you have to say about this subject. We have already "messed" this post up enough.

It is OK with me. I am sorry I replied to his comments. I broke my golden rule "Don't take it personally - even when it is."

Don Neyland :)

bv1968

Ok, guys (and gals). Communication is always tough. It is tough in person and it is even more difficult through a blog. I will say my piece and let everyone else be the judge and jury. But this series of comments is driving me crazy. I read through them last night, early this morning ... I read them with Pamella even. I think something has happened that I never intended and I believe Don did not either.

That Don and I disagree on some points of view has not been a secret for 20 years. But my disagreement, to my knowledge, has never been a barrier to friendship and fellowship. I think there are folks who grate my nerves far worse than Don and I remain friends with them. For some reason there seems that something has gone terribly arwy here.

It was not now and never has been my intention to call Don on the carpet or speak to him directly in a "correcting" or "authoratative" manner. As I understand things this is what I intended to do: 1) I simply intially commented on Wade's post in the affirmative and cited 2 Kgs 20; 2) Shortly thereafter Wade interacted with Don on 2 Kgs 20 and then he specifically asked what I thought of what he said to Don about that text; 3) I never intended to denigrate Don, I brought Don's name up in resonse to Wade's question at that point I stated that I believed 2 Kgs 20 was more "pointed" or unambigous than what I understood Don to be saying. In that same series of comments I mentioned the "reflex influence." I did not ascribe that position to Don. It is a real position that some folks have held (hold) and I simply stated that I do not hold such a position. 4) At this point things went into a black hole as far as I am concerned.

So this is where I am at. I did not mean to denigrate Don. I do not want to hold membership in "Bobbyland." I have never had a "personal" issue with Don that I am aware of. I apologize to Don. I apologize to Wade. I apologize to ever person who has had to endure my bad communication and any bad attitude that I have displayed. If I know my heart, and I may not, I want God to bless my brother, his family and his work in the kingdom. All I want to do is take that purple pill that Brian has prescribed. Because of any harm I may have caused Don or anyone else I intend on putting this message or part of it on my own blog too.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

Wade Tannehill

To Anyone who is Interested:

On Bobby's blog, where his apology is also stated, Don has also commented. I think we're getting somewhere.

My only regret is the derailment of the topic at hand. I'm still waiting for Bobby to comment on openness theology.

Wade Tannehill

Bobby,

Thanks. I appreciate your heart. Neither you, nor Don, really owe me an apology though. I think the types of discussions we were having (before it got derailed) are very healthy when shared by folks who don't take things, or intend things, personally. And understand that I'm not pointing the finger at anyone. I'm still scratching my head over the whole thing.

But the original discussion on my blog had to do with prayer. And perhaps by stating, comparing, and refining our views on what Philip Yancey calls "the philosophical underpinnings of prayer" our faith might be increased. As Yancey says, "...the issue may well determione how we view the utility--or futility--of prayer." ("Prayer: Does it Make any Difference?", p. 131). This was my original goal.

I guess the one good thing that came out of all this is that the number on the comments counter is making me look very popular. :)

Don

I believe our understanding of prayer speaks directly to our definition/philosophy of the nature of God. If we don't have a "prayer philosophy" maybe we haven't given God enough thought.
Don

Tim Archer

I'm jumping in late, but I definitely feel that our prayers can change things, even what God is planning to do. If I didn't believe that, I'm not sure why I would pray.

Grace and peace,
Tim

Wade Tannehill

Don,

That's exactly what I was trying to say. How does one define sovereignty, providence, etc..? Is God immutable, omnipotnet, omniscient? What do those things mean? I'm not asking for an answer, but these questions warrant discussion.

Thanks.

Wade Tannehill

Tim,

I suppose some (not necessarily me) would say that under those circumstances we would pray merely to bring ourselves into conformity with what God already planned to do. And since he knew what we would pray for from the beginning, it looks as if God changed something, but did he really? Or was it all prearranged? Is the script for our lives already written in pencil and God is just waiting for us to ink over it, knowing that we will?

I don't think we can answer all these questions conclusively, and anyone who thinks they can needs a strong dose of humility. We're talking about God here. But the dialogue is still worth it as we seek to know him better.

Thanks for coming by. Better late than not at all.

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