The Problem of Prayer

My first Sunday back from holiday, I feel strangely nervous, as if I’ve time travelled and ended up where I began and the week between seems to have been and gone is a nanosecond.


For those who have had a general unaesthetic you will know what I mean, the moment when someone in a crisp uniform holding you hand and a sharp needle says “ now just count from ten backwards” and as they say that someone is asking you “to wake up, it’s all over “.


What happened to the 3 hours ? It felt like it never was or rather like a continual NOW moment


Time is strange I begin to wonder if it really exists and if it does how to understand it.?


I discovered on holiday TIME  it is amazingly interesting  when a physicist explains what time is using child language!!

Trouble is as soon as he stopped fascinating me with the information I immediately forgot the key thoughts. Brain is too small


My aim this morning is a simple one, and has bothered me for years, I am very ignorant about this and I trust I shall not confuse you.

 It’s about prayer.


The problem I have is ;

How is God able to hear all our prayers?


It started with it not being as sunny as we had hoped it would be in Portugal, and I wanted to pray for constant blazing sunshine, then I thought of all those praying at the same time for rain to sustain their crops.


I argued; let me have their sunshine and them have my rain!


Then the same old question arose 100’s of thousands of millions of people praying to God all asking for something different.


Maybe asking for the very opposite to my needs BUT  they are all praying  at the same TIME, actually at the very same MOMENT  the very nanosecond that I am praying AND in hundreds of different languages !!


Reminded me of the times when I wanted to say something at table when my sister was speaking. I was told to be quite until she had finished because my mother could NOT listen to both of us as talking at the same moment!


The same thing happens at school we are taught from a very early age to “put your hand up and wait to be invited to speak and do not interrupt it’s rude “ !


OR I don’t know if you noticed, but that sound of swarms of angry bees about to attack every football player in South Africa world Cup!! VuVuZela….


Does it sound like that to God when we all start praying at the same moment ?


Imagine what it must be like for God to listen to all our prayers in thousands of different languages every nanosecond of every day for thousands of years without stop !


Have you not wondered how it is possible for God to hear all of us ALL at the same time?

To actually listen to us?


I doubt that  even Deep Blue could manage it.

Or the new  i phone 4


So how am I to believe that God, one person can listen to everyone, several hundred million people all speaking  in their own language at the very same MOMENT?


Lots of people find this concept of prayer very hard to understand.


With the help of my physicist friend and of course C S Lewis it seems that the problem lies with TIME!


Most of us could cope with the idea that provided we all prayed in some consecutive order, one following on from another , each of us having just say 5 mins  with God, and with an eternity of time for God to be able to give attention to our pleadings and process our requests.


So the problem is how can God fit so many things into one moment of time?

Especially when I know my mum could not and nor can I, and we all live within the constraints of  one thing at a time, a TIME process of PAST PRESENT and FUTURE


It is normal for us as our life passes one moment disappears as the next arrives, not like busses ..

there is always a present a past and a future.

That’s what time is like, this time series is what we are used to this is normal for us, it’s how life is really is ..



We assume it is the same for God.

We assume He too always moves from a past to a present towards a future!


That God is working within the same rules as we live in!!


The theory, that time moves in this line of a past present and future is not universally agreed.

Theologians, Philosophers  and Scientists believe there are some things out side time.


Of course they are in the excellent company of the Good Doctor Who and Harry Potter etc.


God is NOT in TIME. God is outside time.


God’s life does NOT consist of one moment following another, at one moment say 10.30 am on a Sunday morning God does not have to listen to us all in that one little snippet of time we call 10.30.

Every moment form the beginning of creation is a constant NOW for God a constant PRESENT for Him.


The concept I think is difficult , but I wonder if this idea of what it might be like for God might be helpful

Not a great example of what I mean but here goes Harry Potter The Philosophers Stone page 148  “……………..”


Between writing the first half of the sentence and the last JKRowling took a break for a couple of hours .. sat and thought what might happen to Harry next..

In those few hours Harry was the only person  present for Rowling, Harry had all her attention.. and as far as the story is concerned you would not have known there was any gap ..

it is a constant now as you read it..


This I believe to be the truth


God is not hurried along in the TIME STREAM of this universe any more than JK Rowling or any other author is when writing a story

God like the author can spend as much time as is needed to listen to our prayers.


God has an infinite time to deal with us.


You are as much alone with God as if you were the only person ever created.


When Jesus died, He died for you individually just as if you had been the only person in the world.


If you can imagine that there is a TIME LINE,

One straight line from A… Z this line represents 70 years, it’s divided equally into 70 spaces, and each of us here move along the one space at a time as each arrives in front of us, one at a time till our time is up at 70!


God actually sees the whole life line in one go. He actually sees the beginning and the end, the full 70 spaces / years in one as if it were a continual NOW. Life does not dribble out moment by moment for God.

(It is if you like 1946 and 2010 )


For God tomorrow is just as visible to him as what we call today .. All days are NOW for God He does not REMEMBER you doing something yesterday He simply sees you doing them.


He does not FORESEE  you doing things tomorrow He simply sees you doing them now


Some would say if God knows all then we have no freedom!!


Can you believe that your actions are any less free because God knows what you are doing NOW?.


God does not know what you are going to do He just sees you doing them, because the moment you do something it is now for God.


Hence the argument that if God knows all things before they happen then He would stop things happening!! He does not, all things happen in the PRESENT NOW


I hope that this has helped you in the thoughts you may have had about prayer and eternity and even about predestination!!


If however it makes no sense to you, then OK it’s not very important, it’s not in the Bible and it’s not essential to your Salvation, it just helped me not to moan about not enough sunshine!!


Rick Gates