Prayer aka Speaking to the Universe (Isaiah 37-39)

Mom & Dad moved to Arizona in May 2008.  His cancer had miraculously disappeared, which honestly didn’t make much sense to us.  They rented a house directly across the street from us.  Things were going to be good.

Within ten days of his arrival he went to the hospital for pain in his side.  The following day, the doctors reported that his cancer had filled his body.  No one understands why the doctor in Indiana thought the cancer was gone, even though Mom & Dad remembered it was in response to specific test results following his last round of chemo.  He was told he had between a few weeks and maybe three months to live.  No treatments could possibly be effective.

My son was thirteen and an atheist.  I heard him praying and asking that Dad should live the three months.  Not asking for a cure, but asking that Dad live to the outside edge of the prognosis.

We left King Hezekiah with the expanding Assyrian empire at his doorstep. The king claiming that YHWH himself had ordered the King of Assyria to conquer Jerusalem.  This is Hezekiah’s Prayer:

“It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.

Isaiah 37:18-20.  According to the rest of the passage, and as foretold by Isaiah, the King was called away to another battle.  But not until an angel of the YHWH put to death 185,000 Assyrians.  Isaiah 37:36.  In that other battle the Assyrian King would be killed.  Judah was delivered from his hand in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer.

Dad died a few days after my son’s prayer.  Earlier than the earliest prognosis–although I suspect saying someone can die in a few weeks really means any time.

I don’t believe in intercessory prayer.  I don’t believe the Universe will answer my requests either–the spiritual but not religious version of prayer.  This didn’t happen because of my son’s experience; it really didn’t.  But the event surely seems to reinforce my world view that God is not a wish giver on a cloud.  I’ve shared before what I think God is, but today I really am interested in what others think about prayer, or looking to the universe for answers.

Do you believe that the natural world can be altered by prayer?  Have you experienced the Universe moving within you in a way other than via your own thoughts?  

Many people I respect greatly and care about deeply feel differently than I do on this topic.  I honestly don’t know if my feelings on intercessory prayer are a virtue or a shortcoming.  I would love to read responses.

Last proviso–I believe in lots of kinds of prayer.  I give prayers of thanksgiving almost everything morning. I participate in weekly communal prayer of joys and concerns.  Prayer as a way to open your heart to enable you to do what must be done and to discern the will of God.  There are probably others I’m forgetting.  This post concerns asking God to deliver someone and God either sending an angel to kill 180,000 Assyrians, or letting a cancer patient die earlier than expected.

33 replies on “Prayer aka Speaking to the Universe (Isaiah 37-39)”

To put more fine a point on it, in Chapter 38, Hezekiah literally prays for longer life. "Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life." Isaiah 38:4-5.

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