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The Answering of Prayers

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February 6, 2011 Tags: Divine Action & Purpose
The Answering of Prayers

Today's entry was written by Mark Sprinkle. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

What is it we do when we pray? Is it simply a matter of asking with the hopes of getting? While that is the caricature drawn by those who mock the idea of an immortal God concerned and engaged with His mortal creatures, to most for whom prayer is a way of life, or who would like it to become so, prayer is more about learning to tune our hearts, our desires, and our aspirations to those of the Lord. While we do lift up our physical needs and the needs of others for whom we pray with the expectation of God’s responsive presence and interaction with the world, the work of prayer is also—for every one of us—about the process that God began in the Garden: forming us according to His image. Put another way, prayer is how we learn what shape He has in mind for us and begin to fit ourselves to it.

With that sense of prayer as “becoming” in mind, Poet Pattiann Rogers seems to wonder, “Does the natural world pray?” The Psalms speak of the creation worshiping the Lord, and witnessing to His Glory, certainly. But though only humankind bears the image of the Creator and has conscious awareness of Him, is it possible that all of creation “desires” to grow into the shape He has in mind for it, as well? How might God respond to such wordless entreaties?

Rogers’ careful attention to the details of the natural world for the lessons it teaches about our relationships with God often reveals that process and pattern are the hallmarks of God’s agency in both nature and human lives. But in the poem given today, there is something more startling than a version of “God works in mysterious ways,” for the image of God Rogers gives us is anything but a remote actor or clockwork deity.

No, the God who makes irises is the Lord whose love for His creation is so intimate that He prepares within Himself the space into which it can grow. Many have heard in Sunday school that we have “God-shaped holes in our hearts,” but in Rogers’ imagery, God has a creation-shaped hole into which He calls it and us to be. Prayer—nearly seamless with praise in this picture—is the natural response of going where we are called to go, living towards presence both with and in Him.

Though there are clear echoes in Rogers’ poem of the lilies that Christ commended for their trust in the Father’s providence, it does not finally propose that we give up our initiative or set aside asking for the desires of our hearts. It does, however, give us new imagery for the way our prayers are met in advance by the Creator who has always already moved towards us, even while we were yet blind and dumb. From the beginnings He made a place for us with Him, and requires no more praise from us than the giving of our very selves.

“The Answering of Prayers”

by Pattiann Rogers

Because they have neither tongue
Nor voice, the iris are thought by some
Never to pray, also because they have no hands
To press together and because, born blind,
They cannot properly direct their eyes
Heavenward and, not insignificantly,
because their god has no ears.

Rising simply from the cement
Of their bulbs, the iris have no premeditated
Motion. They never place one appendage
Deliberately before another in a series
Crossing space. How can they ever formulate, then,
A progress of thought moving from “want”
To “request,” from “delight” to “blessing”?
How can they invent what they cannot envision—
A structure of steps leading from “self”
To “beyond”?

Consequently, and some may call it prayer,
They engage themselves in one steady proclamation
Which eventually becomes arched and violet
With petals, pertinently stemmed, budded
With nuance, a subtlety of lissome blades, a sound
Undoubtedly recognized by that deaf god
Who contains within his breast, like the sky-half
Of a spring afternoon, vacancies shaped
As missing floral clusters, purple-streaked
Intimacies. As rooted in his place as April,
It is their god who, standing hollow, precedes them
With the absence of brown-wine and lavender bouquets,
Ivory flags on grey-green stalks.

And in the unfolding act of his being filled,
As he becomes weighted, suffused with blossoms
And fragrance, as he feels his heart cupped
And pressed with the intensity of ascent,
In that act of being filled (perfect
Absolution) doesn’t he surround, doesn’t
He enable, doesn’t he with fitting eloquence

from Firekeeper, Expanded and Revised Edition (Milkweed, 2005). ©Pattiann Rogers.

Pattiann Rogers is an award-winning poet and essayist, the author of fourteen books including the most recent, The Grand Array: Writings on Nature, Science, Spirit. (Trinity University Press, 2010.) Born in Joplin, Missouri, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA from the University of Missouri before receiving her Master of Arts from the University of Houston. She has taught at the University of Texas, the University of Montana, Washington University of St. Louis, and Mercer University as the Ferrol Sams Distinguished Writer-in-Residence. She is the mother of two sons and the grandmother of three grandsons and lives with her husband, a retired geophysicist, in Colorado. A complete list of her work and honors may be found here.

Mark Sprinkle is an artist and cultural historian, and was formerly Senior Web Editor and Senior Fellow of Arts and Humanities for The BioLogos Foundation. A phi beta kappa graduate of Georgetown University, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, where he studied how artworks embody complex relationships in different cultural contexts. Since 1996 he has been an independent artist and frame-maker, also regularly writing and speaking on the role of creative practices in cultural mediation and renewal, especially in the area of science and Christian faith. Mark and his wife Beth home-schooled their three boys, and are active in the local home-school community in Richmond, Virginia.

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Cal - #50297

February 6th 2011

Prayer is such an interesting phenomenon and something we will never fully comprehend. We have accounts such as in Daniel 9, where Daniel having prayed for 21 days finally hears a word from God, from the mouth of an angel. The angel tells him quickly that God had answered it but there was a Spiritual war over Persia and the angel was captured until Michael released him to speak to Daniel, but he had not much time because he needed to get back to the fight

The Apostle Paul speaks about men not even knowing what or how to pray (so much for the prayer-nazis with their definitions of what is and isn’t prayer!) and it is the Holy Spirit that speaks unspeakable words to the Father

Jesus tells us how to pray, using very casual and friendly language (the idea of God as Father or personal was unknown to the world!) laying out our needs plainly before Him

I think a lot of what we do as Christians in regards to prayer must seem something silly to God. He doesn’t want formality or ritual, He wants us to speak plainly and frankly to Him, He knows us better than we know ourselves! The imagery some promote as “entering the throne room” is non-sensical, we as Christians are in His presence always, children of the King

The mystery endures!

R Hampton - #50378

February 7th 2011

we as Christians are in His presence always

Very true. There is not a thought nor word nor action that we can initiate that God hasn’t known of from the beginning. We can’t inform nor surprise God.

Prayer, as I see it, is a way to teach us this simple fact - we are always in constant communication with him - and learn how to live every moment of our lives as such.

Cal - #50489

February 8th 2011


There are many different thoughts on Prayer. The one described in the video is a very simple and Pagan understanding. A cursory reading through the Bible gives all sorts of strange thoughts on it (even out of the same mouth of the same book!).

While what exactly occurs is not revealed nor understood, Prayer is, simply and broadly put , ‘speaking’ to God. This is not in words, nor forms, nor rituals but in Spirit (or perhaps more clearly understood, essence). So as a man walks down the streets and sees a woman drop her phone and instead of ignoring it, for the sake of good, calls her to attention and tells her of the dropped phone, that is prayer.

Again, it is strange but God asks us, in the Scriptures, to speak to Him, even though it says He knows all our thoughts.

Now I know you’re not too interested in an actual investigation of this topic as you find it silly like leprechauns and fairies, but I’d exhort you, no matter how futile it may be, to dig into a topic such as this and really explore its strange, mysterious nuances and try to grasp for the shadow of the Invisible God who is fully and finally expressed in Jesus of Nazareth. The worn cliche, truth is stranger than fiction, applies in this.

Papalinton - #50510

February 8th 2011

Hi Cal
Thanks for your thoughts. 
I equally implore you to read widely of the tremendous amount of formidable work that the various sciences is beginning to develop an emerging,  consistent and testable narrative about the origins of belief and our propensity to invoke teleological intentionality on even the most mundane of natural occurrences. The notion that God made humans with the express purpose of carrying out individual ‘divine purposes’, is a laudable idea, but it cannot be separated from its origins, in that it is what our most ancient of forebears believed in their first attempt at explaining the environment, the world and the cosmos, and our relationships to them. We have moved on a great deal since then.  I would urge you ‘to dig into a topic such as this and really explore the strange’,  yet wonderful nuances created in the minds of humans.  The notion of socially engaging beyond the human world, to a [putative] realm of non-human agents who also interact with us socially, is one such outcome of the exquisitely beautiful and creative capacity of the human brain, and is almost indistinguishable with reality to the untutored mind.  The act of prayer is a manifest consequence of the mind-body link.


Papalinton - #50511

February 8th 2011

Yes, truth is stranger than fiction.


Cal - #50597

February 9th 2011


I do very much dive into the world of investigating the Human Mind and there is some truth to your statements. Yet do you not find it wildly bizarre that Man is so driven by a sense for purpose and meaning, calling for a world that does not exist. The argument “If you build a big enough brain then,...” never explained or satiated such a strange human function.

And so you know, I don’t argue for the validity of any basic God. I think that is an unknowable prima facia, you can’t concretely find Him in nature or in reason; all one finds is shadows. The crux of it all is the man Jesus. And yet I suppose that’s an argument of another page or another board. Yet He commands us to speak freely to our Father and so I follow His word; unveiling the mystery of it all as I go!

Papalinton - #50684

February 10th 2011

This video looks at the efficacy of prayer:

BennYachov - #51447

February 17th 2011

According to the CATHOLIC ENCYLOPEDA PRAYER is defined as:

“An act of the virtue of religion which consists in asking proper gifts or graces from God. In a more general sense it is the application of the mind to Divine things, not merely to acquire a knowledge of them but to make use of such knowledge as a means of union with God. This may be done by acts of praise and thanksgiving, but petition is the principal act of prayer.

The youtube video seems to equate the Judeo-Christian concept of prayer with the base idea of “Ask the Djinnii and make a wish!”.

How vulgar!  As a criticism of the validity & value of prayer this video is a none starter?

Can anyone off better?

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