What's the Point of Intercessory Prayer?
This is something I've written about before (and has been written about by others), but it really struck me last night, so I felt like commenting on it today.
Last night, my daughter had her girl scout award ceremony. As is pretty common for these things, her troop meets at a church. The room where we had the ceremony is also a meeting room for one of the Sunday school classes, and one of the walls had a section for "Prayer Requests," where students put up little notes with things they'd like the congregation to pray for*.
One of the girl scouts, I'm assuming one who hasn't been exposed to church too much, asked what the "Prayer Requests" wall was about. The troop leader explained it to her, but I had a thought that made me smirk a bit, and bite my tongue not to say out loud - because God wouldn't know those people were having problems unless he heard about it through prayer.
When you stop and think about it, if you believe that your god is all knowing and all powerful, then intercessory prayer really is a weird thing. Sure, it makes sense if you believe in imperfect or fickle gods, who may or may not follow the daily events of our personal lives, and who may or may not care what happens to us. But that's not the type of god most Christians believe in.
Most Christians I know believe that Yahweh is omnipotent, omniscient, and that he has a perfect plan for us. If that's the case, what could you expect to achieve through prayer? Yahweh already knows what's going on - he doesn't need earthly informants. It's not as if it's a popularity contest, and Yahweh's going to count votes to determine his divine intervention. And it really is less than humble to ask the almighty to change his divine plan simply because you don't like it. The plan is supposedly perfect, after all.
I can understand other types of prayer - praise, thanksgiving, asking for strength for yourself. But when it comes to intercessory prayer, it seems a bit, well, odd.
Anyway, these aren't terribly original thoughts. But, the more and more I've been outside of Christianity, the stranger and stranger some of those old habits seem.
*I don't mean to belittle the actual topics of most of the prayer requests. There were definitely some serious issues on that wall.