Just so you know, I’m an American missionary working in Brazil. I’m a Baptist. Oh, and tele-evangelists give me the willies.
With that out of the way, I can get down to business. Your last post broadens the whole discussion, and I find myself disagreeing with the majority.
First, prayer is not only for the benefit of the one who prays. It obviously affects the outcome of things. In other words, the outcome would have been different in a situation in which nobody had prayed. Nevertheless, that does not make God putty in man’s hands. That is the way God ordained things.
I happen to believe that God unconditionally, before the foundation of the earth, chose whom He was going to save (Eph. 1:4-5). Nevertheless, I also believe He chose the means to that end (i.e., preaching–see 1 Cor. 1:21). In other words, although God chose who was going to be saved, they will only be saved if someone preaches. So the God who ordained the end (the salvation of the elect), also ordained the means (the preaching of the gospel).
Likewise, God determined to do certain things, but He determined to do them in answer to prayer (the means). You already gave us the example of Abraham and Moses. But if Moses hadn’t interceded on behalf of Israel, today we would not be talking about Jews, but about Moseans (or whatever they would have been called).
Second, for some reason, God takes pleasure in seeing a large number of His people beseeching Him regarding something of importance. I believe this impulse to pray in large numbers comes ultimately from Him. But, if He didn’t, why, for instance, did the apostle Paul repeatedly request prayer for himself of all who read his letters (see, e.g., Eph. 6:18-19)? If one prayer was as good as 1000, Paul could have prayed for his own needs.
Third, that does not mean that all prayers are warranted, nor that they will all be answered. In fact, I suspect that most of our prayers today are seriously off base. They look nothing like the prayers of the apostle Paul, for example. One problem is that we are not allowed to serve God for his gifts, but must serve Him for his personality. Speaking of James 3:3-4, author John Piper writes: “James criticizes the motives of prayer that treats God like a cuckold: ‘You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?’ Why does he call these praying people ‘adulteresses’? Because, even though praying, they are forsaking their husband (God) and going after a paramour (the world), and to make matters worse, they are asking their husband (in prayer) to fund the adultery.” I think that sums up many of the prayers proffered to God quite nicely, and it explains why God doesn’t answer.
This is an interesting discussion. Thanks for bringing it up.