Two representative emails:
Boy, did you ask for it.
From what I can gather, sheer numbers don’t matter. One verse of the NT “promises” that when two or more are gathered together in prayer, ask what ye will and it be done. (paraphrased, but close).
But then again, in another place the Book says the prayers of a righteous man avails much.
The concept of agreeance (sorry!) is pushed heavily in evangelical circles. The BIG HOWEVER, however, is that those praying must be in accordance with the will of God.
In my experience, it is folly to rest one’s theology on any of the above. Sometimes God makes you wait a hell of a long time before answering (if at all).
It is very, very difficult to know the mind of God, and anyone who tells you they can, is a presumptuous fool.
I am currently reading, CS Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. His approach to difficult questions is usually spot-on. He’s a great apologist for a reasoned faith, who never took himself too seriously.
One last thing: The importance of brokenness cannot be overstated. I think it is only then that we can begin to see the invisible hand of God in everyday life, and, begin to understand the paradox of living beyond ourselves.
How fortunate you are to have this forum, and the blessing of so many who care about you! Hope you find the answers you seek.
I come closer to thinking your second answer is the more likely.
Personally, I go with C.S. Lewis’s approach which was fairly well put in the movie Shadowlands. I’ll paraphrase:
“I don’t pray to change God. I pray because I have to. I pray because I can’t help myself. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
For the record, I adopted this philosophy later in life. I held a decidedly different view during my little league and dating periods where I was all too eager to seek divine intervention.
One thing that I have always thought particularly curious is the practice of having one individual lead others in prayer. For if prayer is our method of discourse with the almighty, why is it that so many seem to be so willing to subordinate such an important matter to another?