Perfect Chaos

The Blog of Author Steven Colborne

What Prayer Reveals About God

Implicit within prayer is the acknowledgment that God is in control of our lives. If it were not the case that God is in control, it wouldn’t make sense to pray to Him.

In this article I will give a few examples of how Christians trust in God’s omnipotence and omnipresence when they pray. I will explain why such beliefs, while demonstrating the believer’s trust in God’s power, simultaneously create problems for the Christian worldview.

God is in control of our relationships.
For instance, Christians pray to meet a future spouse, or pray for God to grow and bless their friendships, or their marriage.

God is in control of our circumstances.
Christians would naturally pray for God to bless them with a new job. They might pray that God would bless their friends or relatives with a safe journey, indicating God is in control of all circumstances related to transport. Christians often pray for God to plant them in a great church, or to help them pass an exam.

God is in control of the weather.
Christians pray for rain for our crops, or for severe weather to be calmed, or for a bright and sunny wedding day.

God is in control of our bodies.
Christians pray to be healed of sicknesses and diseases.

God is in control of society.
Christians pray for God to raise up good leaders in our political parties, and for Him to protect and bless our countries. Also, Christians regularly pray for God to bless those who are living in poverty, or for those who are being persecuted.

God is in control of evil.
Christians pray for God to deliver them from evil (for instance, by reciting the Lord’s Prayer), and to protect them from the schemes of the devil, or from the wickedness of their enemies.

My argument is that on some level, Christians know that God is in control of everything that happens, and this is reflected in the way they pray to God. But if God is in control of everything that happens, this necessarily implies there is no free will. Therefore central Christian doctrines such as sin, judgment, salvation, and the fall of man, don’t make sense. To read an expansion of this argument I invite you to read my essay entitled An Almighty Predicament which is available here.

Do you believe there are things that are outside of God’s control? With reference to the argument made above, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

31 responses to “What Prayer Reveals About God”

  1. I have an analogy for you, Steven. Of course every human analogy ultimately breaks down, but this one may perhaps help you consider the other position. Of course, this venue won’t ever allow us to have true heart to heart conversation. I hate that about the internet. Would be so much better to sit down in a pub or coffee house and smile and laugh together… and to discuss all the deep questions as C.S. Lewis and Tolkien did. Sigh.

    But even so, I’ll try to express a little of what I’ve been thinking about your post about the Aseity of God and your belief that God’s sovereignty doesn’t allow for free-will. Please humor me here and patiently hear me out… But of course, you will. You are truly a thoughtful and kind person. 🙂 Yet, with all my heart, I wish for you to know that I’m expressing this in light of your invitation to open discussion, one that you so frequently express. So here goes… In you post about the aseity of God, I felt that you missed addressing something clearly… maybe, you have considered it but for the sake of your post’s length and argument, you didn’t address it there. I suspect that may be the case since you truly are a deep thinker.

    Here’s my thought, though… just in case. I believe that a creator and his work are separate. When I create a piece of art, it reflects me, but it is not me. When my husband and I chose to procreate/create life, I knew that while my son gestated in my womb, he was still a separate soul and entity to myself and to an even greater extent, he would be separate from me when he was born. Sure, he shares DNA with my husband and me, but he is a separate being. Of course, while my son lives in my household (or humanity in God’s creation), I can control aspects of my son’s life. But you would agree that if I didn’t allow my son choice and insisted on full control over every area of his life that that would not be a loving relationship; in fact, many would probably consider/argue that such unmitigated control would qualify as abuse.

    Thus, I allow my son to make choices even though I could force my will in every area of his life. He lives in my house and is dependent upon me for many of his basic necessities. Nevertheless, because I love him truly, I allow him the freedom to exercise his freedom of choice in many areas of his life. I ultimately will release him fully to live his life apart from me… but as a truly loving parent, I hope that he will continue to love, respect and follow my teaching/guidance as I know that his life will be more successful and have greater joy and purpose if he follows certain principles. Yes, by allowing for his free choice, I do know that he will suffer the natural consequences/outcomes of any poor choices. Because I know that certain things will bring such dire consequences, I do hedge his circumstances some to preserve his very life and ability to choose it. Yet, I can do this and simultaneously leave him freedom to make his own choices. Of course, at times, especially upon his request, I will intervene to protect him from the very worst that his choices might bring or, on the other hand, to help him achieve the very best outcomes for his life.

    I rejoice when he meets success, and grieve when he fails. Yet, in order to forge a true love-relationship, I allow for that. I would not want my son to be an automaton… to respond to me simply because he had no choice. I wish for a truly loving relationship and exchange with him. I acknowledge that desire by accepting that he is not me and then, by allowing him freedom of choice. I allow all of this while at the same time I know that he reflects both his father and me because we, in essence, created him. We made the choice to do so while fully anticipating what would and could result… both the good and bad. But it was worth it to us. We longed to love a child, our child.

    In a similar way, I think that humanity’s connection to God should be viewed as a relationship… and that is partially how I view the free-will and sovereignty issue. When I procreated, I knew that my son as an individual (separate from me) would rebel against my authority at times; I knew that I would at times have to correct him; and yet, the possibility of a true loving relationship with him outweighed those so-called risks.

    Dunno if this helps you understand my perspective. But for what it is worth, I thought I’d write it down. I so love that you wrestle with your faith. You demonstrate such honesty, and I believe that your quest will find great reward… Scripture says that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. And if you are not a diligent seeker, I don’t know who among us is. 🙂 God bless you, my wonderful friend!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Lynn!

      Many thanks for your thoughtful comment, which despite breaking my house rules, I will approve and respond to because you are always so kind and a good friend of the blog. I only uploaded these guidelines recently, so I don’t expect you to have read them 🙂

      I have heard the analogy you make before, but I believe that God’s nature in relation to created beings is different to that of a human parent and child. For example, your child wouldn’t pray to you to heal their disease, because you aren’t omnipresent in your child’s body the way God is. The reason why we can pray to God for healing, as discussed in the post, is because we intuitively know He is omnipresent, and pervades every part of our bodies.

      To further the anology, if you plant a seed, do you cause it to grow into a tree? No, it is God, through His omnipresent control of all events, who causes the tree to grow. Well, that’s my understanding of God’s sovereignty.

      If you believe that God is separate from creation, in the same way that you are separate from your children, what does this say about the nature of God? It would mean He is limited; that creation is outside of His moment-to-moment control. I suppose you would have to believe in a ‘clockwork universe’, where God said ‘Go!’ and then reclined back in heaven for thousands of years watching everything unfold. But I don’t believe God is like a person, He is instead a spirit that is boundless and limitless.

      Well, that’s how I would respond to your analogy, I’m not sure whether or not is will speak to you, but I have tried to be clear. I agree it would be nice to be able to sit in a pub an talk it all though over a pint! But actually, I’m much more articulate with the pen that with my mouth, so perhaps this is preferable in certain respects!

      Thank you so much for engaging with me on such a deep (and important) issue. I’m always so grateful for your comments.

      God bless!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oops… my comment was too long… i just read your house rules… so sorry… I was responding to three posts in one comment… oops 😣😣 Please forgive me.

        And yes, you are right about the analogy falling short in some ways; as I said, there are ways in which the analogy isn’t perfect. However, I don’t believe in the clockwork theory/theology… this would push things to their simple extremes and I believe there is more of a push and pull in ideas…a balance of conflicting tensions that such a view would not acknowledge. I don’t tend to embrace a it has to be one way or the other way perspective with regards to that. In logic, if I did that, I would embrace the logical fallacy of bifurcation, and I truly try to steer clear of that in my discussions and so, no… i don’t embrace the clockwork perspective. God is so much more complex than that. I will say this, I do nurture my child… feeding his soul and body… for a woman who has nursed (as I have) this is even more literal than one might first suppose.
        I do not think being separate from the creation makes God any less in control. I don’t think I understand how that would necessarily follow… I’m perplexed, Steven. Forgive me. But I do believe that my failure to understand what you mean is probably due to the limitations of the venue. Thank you for your thoughtful and kind response. While we may never come to a meeting of the minds in this, I truly value you, your friendship and I thank God for the extraordinary privilege of having met you here online! God bless you, my extraordinary friend! Warmly and with much respect and appreciation…always wishing you the very best! Lynn ☺️

        PS I hope this isn’t too long😳😉

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Hi Lynn! Please don’t worry, I understand that you were responding with a lot of thoughts from various posts, so I’m okay about it and thank you for checking out the rules! Haha.

          It’s a shame in a sense that you are perplexed by my perspective, but I don’t know what I can do to explain more clearly, other than to keep posting about my beliefs from a variety of different angles and maybe one will chime with you and you’ll see where I’m coming from, even if you don’t agree! But if not, no worries!

          I’m also so grateful for your kind and thoughtful comments, and I regard you as a true friend in the blogging world. So I’m happy to respectfully agree to disagree on certain matters 🙂

          God bless you and praying you have a wonderful week! 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Thank you so much for your gracious and kind response, Steven! You are a true friend! And that means so much to me. I hope you have a fantastic week! 🙂


  2. As usual, Chris, I agree with your first part, the cause, but not the last part, the effect. I agree that we pray to God for all the reasons you stated, but this doesn’t mean we have no free will. I know this is a jump in logic that you have come to, but no one I know in 31-plus years as a Christian sees it this way because this isn’t taught in the Bible. This thinking is extra-biblical. I know you are still working through these things, and I continue to pray for clarity for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi David. I don’t believe it’s a jump in logic, but rather something that logically follows. And I would say that just because something is unusual doesn’t make it incorrect. There are many places in the Bible where God’s sovereignty over all events is indicated either explicitly or implicitly (see my video on the subject), but I accept there are many doctrines, arguable from Scripture, that don’t sit comfortably with my understanding of the nature of God. Hence my problems with Christianity.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. May I seek to answer this as I see it? I do not hold to a doctrine but I am a Christian because I was at the point of extreme danger and called on Him by asking, “If You are truly there and my Savior, please save me now.” In the next 3 days a series of events removed all doubt in my mind and since then I have had joy in my life and sorrow. I have doubted and I have believed. I read the bible daily and accept it on its own terms. It is a linear narrative of a complete story of His plan. It is true God has sovereignty over all things. Yet, if we understand, he also chooses to whether or not to intervene on any particular event. Our minds are finite. His is not. We are told, “Lean not on your own understanding” for a reason. Believe me I’ve agonized over this as a parent who lost a child but I still trust and believe that I will enjoy everlasting life through Jesus. One day the questioning His reasoning stopped for me and I learned to trust. “Knock and He will answer. Seek and you shall find.” That is the true essence. I think you’re seeking. I think you will find.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. I too understand how your perception of free will could be misconstrued. The story of our fall and salvation is one we either accept or reject. At some point in all our lives we consciously decide whether our lives are better with or without belief in our Creator and his plan for us. If we decide to let go of our own control willingly it is because we realize our own control as humans most often falls woefully short of fulfillment. Paradoxically we as humans still often give God control over those things we want him to have control over, and still try to remain in control of those we don’t want him to have control over. We are a work in progress. There are no perfect humans. But Christians who truly believe Christ is our salvation know a relationship with Him and seek him through prayer for our needs. We are 100% free every day to decide which road we will travel. We can accept or reject God’s love for us daily. Fortunately He often searches us out and brings us home when we stray.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I feel your answer is in your post. If there is no free will why would God allow us to pray to Him? What would be the purpose of Him having us pray to Him? If He is controlling our every move, He, by this theory, is making us pray, asking Him for things that He is already going to do, or not do. Why would we need to, or He even allow this process? Why does He say we should love Him, if there is no other choice? All through the Bible, especially the Old Testament He tells us to obey His law, why would He tell us that if there wasn’t a choice? He says if we don’t obey, there are consequences. Why would the option of not obeying exist, if there isn’t a choice? The Bible is full of do right choices, or face the consequences. I don’t understand why God would give us the option, if He was making all the choices. God bless you and thank you Steve for this thought provoking subject.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sorry for the typo, I meant *Steven in that last sentence not Steve

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s totally fine, many people call me Steve! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Margaret! All excellent questions, and questions I have thought about and covered in my writing on this blog, in my essays, and in my books. So please forgive me for not giving a long answer here, you did ask many questions and I don’t like to go into too much depth in the comments. God bless you as well, I appreciate your engagement!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do apologise Steven 🙂 I haven’t been reading your blog long, and although I’ve tried to download your essays, several times after my first visit to you blog, to see if the answer was there but wasn’t able to do so.. Pretty sure it’s my internet connection. The joys of living in the boonies hahaha. I also didn’t mean it to seem like a lot of questions, it’s really one. Why would God tell us to make choices, He is making them? I guess that one question was bogged down in all of my examples. I’m always looking for information to help me understand others points of view. God bless you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Margaret! No need to apologise! I’m grateful that you tried to download my essays and I’m sorry that for whatever reason you weren’t able to. I know other people have been able to download them so unfortunately, it could be a problem your end.

          I’ll try to give a brief answer to your question about prayer. I believe that the whole of creation is like a game, or play, or theatre production, with God as the animator. I believe He unfolds the story of creation as a means of self-expression – to glorify Himself. As part of the ‘game’, we are sometimes given the illusion of free will, but this is really just a mode of mind under God’s control. As part of the illusion, we make decisions that might feel free, but really God is in control of them. Prayer is just one aspect of this great cosmic animation that God is unfolding.

          Well, that’s my understanding, whether you agree or not I hope I have expressed that in a way that you can get your head around! Thank you and God bless you!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I am sure it’s on my end, Steven. I live where internet is ok at best 🙂

            I appreciate you giving me a brief synopsis of your feelings on this matter. I am always interested in others beliefs. If this makes sense it helps strengthen my faith, so for me it is a blessing. I appreciate anyone who loves God, and is willing to stand behind that love. I am interested in what you think about Jesus but I will wait until it comes up in your blog, as this isn’t the topic at hand.

            Thank you, Steven, for your patience, kind responses, and taking my curiosity with the love, and interest that I intended. As my intentions are not to prove you wrong or change your views but with pure curiosity :):)

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I finished your book! How wonderful it was. It is so joyful to explore all possibilities! I find nothing in your philosophy which contradicts my beliefs. You have a very high IQ of that I’m sure. To not question everything would be denying the natural for you. I’m glad to be following your posts. I will be reading your second book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let me clarify. As a Christian I of course still hold that belief and always will, but I totally respect your unbelief.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Phyllis, don’t worry, I understand! It’s not that I don’t believe in Christianity – it’s an ongoing struggle for me. I believe so much about the Christian message but there are certain doctrines that cause me a lot of problems! God bless and have a great week 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Phyllis! Wow, that was quick! Thank you so much for taking the time to read it, I’m so grateful and really appreciate your kind comments 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You will go far, Steven. You definitely have the mind and spirit for it, I believe.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I view prayer as communion with God. My choice didn’t end when I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Everyday I get to choose to spend time with God. When I do, my relationship with him deepens and I learn more about Him and his character. I learn how to listen closely to His voice and His will for my life. Yes, God is in control of all things, but the choice still remains with me to seek Him and His righteousness. Good thought provoking post Steven.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. These are all things that I’ve thought about as well. On the subject of prayer, I think we tend to use it as a tool to ask God to do this or that for us or for others and that’s not bad, but I believe that tendency alone leads to discussions like these. I think in reality, prayer is communication with God, not giving him a list of things to do. Of course, you can ask what you will as scripture says, but sometimes we should tell Him how thankful we are and praise Him or ask Him for guidance on what to do next. The bible says that evil communication corrupts good manners. If that’s the case, then the opposite must be true and if we’re communicating with a holy God, we become more and more like Him. Therefore, we find that our hearts and our will begins to align with His. When this happens we more easily accept His control because we want what He wants. I have more to say because I don’t think I addressed everything, but I don’t want this comment to be too long lol. Romans 9:14-33 is a good read for this.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I think probably my communication of the analogy wasn’t quite clear… sorry ‘bout that. Let me clarify a bit. I believe God puts a hedge around us in this world while simultaneously allowing us freedom of choice… to choose Him or not. He preserves the world and currently restrains evil (defined as that which is not in keeping with God’s character and that which rebels against God) as a parent places perimeters around a child yet still allowing that child to make choices within those perimeters. Can you image how evil things or inhumane humanity could become if there were no restraint of evil? (I think of boundaries like those between land and sea) Ultimately, in human relationships, a child grows into full understanding and can accept or reject his/her parents. If the child rejects his/her parents and character, then that child chooses not to live in communion with his/her parents. That is separation. And we ultimately have the choice of eternal communion with God or eternal separation from God and all that He is. Of course, there are aspects of the analogy that don’t work perfectly because we are discussing the infinite with our finite terms and understanding. But God/Jesus does reference the parent relationship in order to help us better comprehend God. On another note, I was of the understanding that you believed but simply had questions. Another blogger that commented here suggests that you don’t believe. If that is the case, that would answer my perplexities. Anyway, I’m so sorry for taking so much of your time with this. Forgive me. I just got thinking and I felt bad that I may have unintentionally confused you about my beliefs. And because I respect you, I wouldn’t wish to do that. You are thoughtful and encouraging, and so it would break my heart if I were to say anything or had I said anything that confused or offended you. Anyway, all of this to say, please forgive me if I have confused or offended you. Thank you for your friendship. I truly appreciate you and wish you all the very best! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lynn,

      You have said nothing that has confused or offended me 🙂

      In terms of my beliefs, there have been spells when I have been a committed Christian, but it always seems that as much as I am immersed in Christian living, my problems with the faith keep coming to the surface. I wouldn’t say I reject the Christian faith, it’s just that there are certain areas (important areas) that seem illogical to me. I’m still reading the Bible each day and who knows what God will do in the future.

      The comment that mentioned my ‘unbelief’ didn’t sit well with me either.

      Peace and blessings,


      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, I’m so very, very glad and relieved, Steven! I’m thankful because I truly value you and your friendship! Thank you for demonstrating such kindness and grace toward me! Peace and blessing to you as well! Very thankful for you.


  9. Steven, your examples of why Christians pray appear to show an appropriately broad smattering of the reasons. I think, however, that there is a large element that will tend to be overlooked. At first, you say, “Implicit within prayer is the acknowledgment that God is in control of our lives,” and I want to note not the supposed control but the acknowledgment. When some acknowledge, or assume, or rely in some way on that notion, that acknowledgment does not guarantee that it is fact.

    Then at the end, you say, “On some level, Christians know …” I think “know” is a bit stronger than “acknowledge.” Something in me wants to replace both “acknowledge” and “know” with “strongly suspect” or “earnestly believe.” I’d say that none of us knows these things per se. And I’d also absent myself from a group of Christians who believes/”knows”/suspects God is in control of every aspect of life, but my intent here is not to debate your strong, articulate belief of the lack of free will.

    I read most of Lynn’s comment and appreciated (and tend to affirm) her viewpoints. Thanks to both of you for the thoughtful, kind interchange. I scanned a few other comments and did not see anyone explicitly deal with your final statement — which struck me as abrupt, but that might be because I’ve not seen certain other key things you’ve written. Just briefly, are you really saying there is no such thing as sin or deliverance/salvation from its effects? (I don’t care for certain ramifications of an extended doctrine of the “fall” myself, and “judgment” might open too big a can of worms, so I’ll leave my question there.) Perhaps you are rather acknowledging the intellectual tension between a belief in God’s absolute control and the presence of sin, for instance?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Brian!

      Yes, your last point captures it, really. I believe that the ideas of sin and judgment are tied very much to the idea that we are able to act freely and independently of the will of God. You see, if God is in control of all (all I strongly believe), that control extends to anything He might judge us for. So He would be judging us for decisions and actions that are ultimately His.

      You’re quite right that my conclusion was quite abrupt, and that was for the simple reason (as you rightly suspect) that I have covered the arguments in depth elsewhere. Perhaps I should have noted that in the article, but I thought it best to keep things concise and not point to other articles / essays / books as I have been doing that a lot recently.

      I suppose this post was merely a look at a specific aspect (Christian prayer) of my more general argument that we don’t have free will.

      I hope this response is helpful in some way, but if you’d like further clarifications I’d be happy to discuss them.

      Many thanks for engaging with me!

      Blessings upon you,



  10. Steven, I understand your writing “strategy.” I get that it feels monotonous to keep saying the same things. Personally, not having read previous writings, I would have found it helpful to have a succinct encapsulation — or, failing that, an pointer elsewhere. Just a thought.

    Speaking frankly now … while I can see the connections you have made, starting as you do from a vantage point that says God controls eery aspect of everything, I find a massive disconnect between the faith(s) described and depicted in people and communities from times of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Peter and John, Paul, and the rest. That disconnect is something in which I simply cannot rest.

    I would suggest earnestly to you that the notion that there is no such thing as sin or judgment is foreign to scriptural writings. And while this observation would not appear to be a crucial one for you, I believe it should be. This doesn’t by any stretch mean that traditional notions of sin and judgment (or trinity or ecclesiology or soteriology or anything else) are always on track. It is quite impossible, though, to read the Hebrew Bible or the Christian scriptures and come out with the idea that sin and judgment and not real parts of the way humans relate to God.

    [As a side note: your recent post on textual criticism is a curiosity now. Any interest in text and text criticism, text provenance, scripture narrative, prophecy, etc., would seem to be a useless exercise. Or perhaps — and here’s what I hope — you are continuing honestly to struggle in connecting what you sense subjectively about God on the one hand with the attested writings on the other.]

    Calvinism has run amok in order to be consistent with itself, and in a logical sense, that is admirable. I would say, though, that in certain aspects it has gone in the wrong direction. It rather should have reevaluated and corrected some basic flaws in its fundamentals. I would say something similar about your notions of sovereignty, as I understand them, but I don’t have any illusions of convincing you. (I have kindness, not judgment, in my heart as I say this. And I say it as one who takes other unpopular and/or iconoclastic positions that most of the Christian world will never accept. In other words, I know how it feels to stand virtually alone.) Based on my relatively brief time reading some things you write, I think you have admirably worked through and retro-fit some things back onto a philosophy that was flawed to begin with. This speaks well of your ability to “logic” through! However, if I could ever convince you to do a major backtrack in your philosophy on “control,” I would start here. If you regroup and begin with a more open view of the nature of God’s control and sovereignty — one that takes into account scriptural narrative and precedent, and teachings/examples found in the various literature types– I suggest that you will not need to move in the directions in which you’ve moved.

    I sincerely thank you for reading, and I’ll probably stay out of future discussions on this topic on your blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Brian,

      You said this:

      Or perhaps — and here’s what I hope — you are continuing honestly to struggle in connecting what you sense subjectively about God on the one hand with the attested writings on the other.

      This encapsulates something of the predicament I have. I am reading the Bible again this year, but I have been over the arguments for and against God’s sovereignty so often, and thought the matter through so deeply over so many years, that I don’t feel I’m learning anything that’s going to change my perspective. However, God is infinitely powerful and awesome, so you never know.

      Bet yes, I totally understand the Christian worldview around areas such as sin and judgment. But (to repeat myself) they only make sense if we have free will, which I’m quite sure we don’t.

      I totally respect that you might not want to comment further, because I would only be reiterating my arguments in response.

      My essay An Almighty Predicament sets out in depth my views on both sides of the argument for and against Christianity, so that’s where I’m directing people at the moment if they have a genuine interest in understanding my worldview.

      I’m grateful for all your thoughtful comments, Brian. God bless you moving forward!



Steven Colborne

About Me

Hello, I’m Steven and I’m a philosopher and author based in London. My main purpose as a writer is to encourage discussion about God. I write about a wide variety of subjects related to philosophical theology, including divine sovereignty, the nature of God, suffering, interfaith dialogue and more. My mantra: Truth heals.

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