Tag Archives: Prayer

The logic of change

20 Jul

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature.... Romans 1:20 (NLT)

During the summer I like to arise at 5:30.  After feeding the cats, scooping poop and making some salty hot water infused with lemon juice, I head out on an early morning walk in our Smoky Mountain cove, the cup of water in hand.  The birds herald the new morning and the occasional distant cockle-doodle-doo of roosters comforts me, a souvenir from living in the Cotswolds as a young adult.

This morning, already past mid-July, I notice the sky is still dark.  I can’t see my zucchini plant well enough to spot any growing squash.  Why just a month ago, on the Summer Solstice, we pointed out to each other the most easterly spot along our mountain ridge where the sun was setting.  Now four weeks later, the sunsets mark a new direction, toward mid-winter, on the other end of the distant ridge.

Conclusion?  Nothing in nature stays static.  I know this, but I feel surprised.

The larger meaning relates to God.  If the natural world which He formed is not immobile, then neither is He static. Yes, His character and nature are unchangeable.  His qualities and attributes remain 100 % pure.  But He is always at work, on the move, carrying out His eternal purposes planned long ago before the ‘Let there be’s’.

I boldly cheer my heart.  “Maria, don’t fret.  That impossible situation that looks immovable.  It’s not.  God IS on the move, as CS Lewis penned about Aslan.”

My thoughts turn toward seeing this as a logical syllogism, reassuring me:

Premise 1 – All of God’s creation, visible and invisible, is constantly changing.

Premise 2 – This particular situation with a loved one is part of God’s creation.

Conclusion – Change, visible and invisible, is happening in this need.

And besides praying and trusting and watching for God to work, I don’t have to DO anything.   The Bible gives me plenty of assurance that this is how our God acts.

King Jehosophat (870-849 BC) prayed for change in circumstances threatening the extinction of his kingdom.

2 Chronicles 20:12 For we are powerless ….We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

And God answered his plea as recorded in verses 15-17:

 And he (an inspired prophet) said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.  Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel.  You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

And God DID act, to wipe out the enemy.  In the face of certain disaster.

 

 

 

 

Prayer logic

4 Jan

You do not have, because you do not ask.  James 4:2c

I’ve been listening to archived John Piper sermons on prayer.  The Bible’s stunning truth about prayer hit me afresh this morning.

We don’t understand WHY the all-powerful God, the One who created every visible molecule in the universe as well as everything that is invisible, says He waits on us to ask. Only that He DOES…command that we pray, that we ask Him for what we need and want.

Note to Maria – Don’t spend any energy chewing on the bone of how come – just revel in it. The fact that He who created all things at His command should invite us to participate with Him should STUN us!

After we pick ourselves up off our face, we should then focus on the truth that James announces.

But an obvious question emerges if we try to formulate James’ truth claim into a syllogism in order to think it through. Do we apply James’ statement universally (ALL versus SOME) or as referring to a particular group of people?  Here’s what it looks like when I write it as a universal truth.

Premise 1: ALL people who lack something are people who don’t ask God for that item

Premise 2: You are a person who doesn’t have something

Conclusion:  Therefore, you are a person who doesn’t ask God

Hmm, does that logic square with how you have experienced reality so far?  Are there situations in which you have prayed to God and have yet to receive?  Or conversely, has God given you gifts for which you didn’t ask/pray?

I think all of us can attest to circumstances when despite LOTS of prayer God has not supplied the healing, the job, the baby, the money, the spouse or the resolution. As well as times when He ‘out of the blue’ graced us with a surprise blessing, both unanticipated and unasked.

In analyzing the above syllogism, we would say it is logically valid, that the premises are laid out in a correct order, but the conclusion is not true. Why?  because the subject in Premise 1 falsely includes ALL people in the world.

If we exchange the universal quantifier ‘ALL’ for the particular quantifier ‘SOME’, then we might get closer to the Truth.  Let me show you what that looks like and then we’ll talk about it:

Premise 1: Some people who lack are those who don’t ask God to provide what they need/want

Premise 2:  You are someone who doesn’t have what you want

Conclusion:  Therefore, you are someone who hasn’t asked God to provide

Again, that conclusion is not true in every situation.  To wit, I have repeatedly asked God to give me a different job.  And He hasn’t, YET……

So just using one circumstance in my life as a counter-example, I can prove that the conclusion in this second syllogism is not true.  It’s also not valid.  Why?  Because the conclusion overreaches the facts given in Premises 1. This first or major premise describes only one of two categories I’m going to call ‘LACKERS’ – those who haven’t prayed.  There is the category of ‘LACKERS’ who have indeed asked God for what they want.  So even though Premise 2 is true (you don’t have what you want) we can’t be sure which group of ‘LACKERS’ you fall into.

Bottom line?  I don’t know why God hasn’t answered my many prayers, YET.  But I do believe the Bible is authoritative.  I know that God commands us to pray.  I also know that He is good.  So there I rest AND I will continue to pray. What about you?

What are your questions?

10 Aug

Effective thinkers depend on the clarity of terms.  Whatever they think, speak or write must proceed and build on a foundation of precise and unambiguous language.  Unless they intentionally set out to deceive!

If this building block of good argumentation is indispensable, then next in importance I believe are one’s questions.

I know I’ve written about questions before, but I have come late in life to the value of examining what is said/written and NOT mentioned.  Some question templates are:

  • what COULD the author have said had he not said it that particular way?
  • what did he leave out?
  • if we exchange the predicate for the subject, what does that reveal? (yes, I recognize that converting  X is Y to Y is X is only valid for E & I propositions,  but what is uncovered through a brief look at the is often rich!)

Credit is not due me to have stumbled upon the value of questioning the speaker/writer.  I am being trained through the accumulated and daily posting of the sermons of pastor John Piper.  Listening daily to his teaching has helped me articulate some implicit assumptions or at least some hypothetical assumptions.

Thus schooled, yesterday as I read a bit of puritan pastor William Gurnall writing in The Christian in Complete Armor, I asked myself the obvious question and got back a very pointed poke!

“Whatever is the object of a saint’s (Christian’s) hope is the subject of his prayer.”

I swapped the predicate for the subject and stated the premise this way:

What I pray about reveals what I’m hoping in. 

God immediately convicted me of the nature of multitudes of past prayers over the years. Many have been of this variety:

  • Give us a nice day, Lord!

That’s pretty lame AND it reveals that my hope is effectively that I have a pleasant life with no hardship and minor problems easy to resolve, few interruptions and plenty of time and money to do what I want.

Reassuring to me IS the fact that as I take in God’s Word through daily study and God-centered prayer, my prayers are changing to reflect biblical truth.  I’m moving away from God as butler to my life to God as CENTER of my life and me as His redeemed child and servant.

My plea THIS morning was based on Colossians 1:9, 10

Father, fill me with the knowledge of your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding SO THAT I may live a life worthy of Christ, pleasing him fully.

Looking at the blanks, what is not said or written often reveals startling insights!  But that’s the fun of clear thinking.

Which question have you posed recently that has revealed something new or startling?

 

 

Logical Gal – speaking causes confusion

26 Jul

confused

Words are meant to clarify….often they confuse or divide!

Last time we mentioned that even the name/personage of Jesus was unclear by itself.  Saying you rely on Jesus doesn’t communicate who this Jesus is. Is he the Mormon Jesus or the Muslim Jesus or in fact the Biblical Jesus of Christianity?

This shouldn’t surprise us.  My husband Michael is completely different from any of a number of other Michaels in the world.

So the existence of more than one concept called ‘pray’ should come as no shock.

Early in my logic learning I vowed to practice ASKING questions before MAKING my points.  One afternoon I was enjoying a massage.  The gal who was working out six months worth of knots in my neck mentioned that her mom was undergoing surgery and that she was ‘praying’ for her recovery.  My first thought was:

  • Is she actually a Christian?  After all, she just admitted that she prayed!

Praying gal

When I asked her just what praying entailed, she described:

  • sending loving, healing thoughts through the air all the way to her mom in California

Good thing I asked what she meant!  Her clarification opened up a safe place for me to describe what I do when I pray.  I explained  how I make my request to the One who has created the entire universe and now sustains it.  I ask Him to heal a loved one because I know that He is real, alive and present as well as the powerful God of love.  She didn’t say much in return, but at least she HEARD a description of theistic prayer. I didn’t explain the gospel or say anything about Jesus. My goal was modest: to make the distinction between ‘new-agey’ practices and prayer to a real deity.

*

Unfortunately, I am NOT consistent in carrying out my resolve first to ask questions! I still succumb to my desire to make my point before I understand someone’s position.  It’s not only senseless on my part, but often a waste of time. Many times I am wrong in my assumptions drawn from someone’s cursory statement about their position on a topic. Why do I rush to get my ‘voice in edgewise’?  Probably because I’m impressed with my thinking!

Pride goes before a fall!

 

Question: When were you last wrong in your assessment of someone’s view?

 

Logical Gal and Confirmation Bias

24 Jan

Confirmation Bias – “the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses” Wikipedia link

I ran across this term the other day in a dissection of what Jesus taught about faith.   Instead of analyzing the content of the explanation on its own merits, it apparently was easier to accuse the author of having committed confirmation bias.   This form of bias seems to say that people look for evidence to support their already-formulated position INSTEAD of following the evidence wherever it leads.

Looking at the variety of contexts that employ this term, it’s easy to spot how people from all sides of any issue assume and accuse others  of this practice.

Let’s look at the first of two images: 

In this poster, the conclusion is that a Christian is someone who has an explanation for the NOs or non-responses from God when he prays.  In other words, Christians always give God an ‘out’.

The above global warming baseball bat suggests that global warming advocates don’t follow reason, but they just beat the so-called ‘deniers’ over the head with forceful rhetoric.  Being closed to evidence, they surround themselves with those who share their views.

So, can we escape this faulty way of thinking? Can one actually, objectively, follow the evidence wherever it leads?  Can facts, evidence or proof be neutral?

Two incubators of bias come to mind.  There might very well be more, but these are a start:

  • the words we choose for a term describing a concept
  • the context we place an issue, the way we ‘frame’ it, the story we build around it to offer explanations

Terms do carry baggage.  I can describe someone either as ‘poor’ or as  ‘constrained by resources’.

And since we value our time and that of our listener/reader, we often use the shortcut of borrowing an accepted analogy or context that we assume all will understand.  For example, terms such as ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’ bring to mind real-life people or situations.  We then just cobble information onto that picture to flesh it out, reenforcing what we WANT to think about the issue.

For a help in understanding our lack of neutrality, you might like to read the hyperlinked blog below where the author distinguishes between INFERRING from evidence and seeking to RATIONALIZE an already held position.

Blog about how we treat evidence

So what can we do to mitigate this Confirmation Bias?  One technique that takes EFFORT might help. When we communicate with others, we could choose to use a fresh analogy to explain what we believe about something.  That would help us and the other person to think originally.  It’s like not allowing someone to always slip on their Birkenstock sandals.   You know – those German shoes that have a ‘Fussbett ‘or foodbed that eventually conforms to the wearer’s particular foot shape?

If you shaped them when you had a growth on your foot and still wear them long after the growth has been removed, they wouldn’t fit you so well any more.

Likewise, you might be misinformed about an issue and need to start fresh without prior assumptions.

Question:  where do you see how you might be suffering from Confirmation Bias?