Thoughts on Prayer
The day after Christmas, I hopped on the internet to see what's happening in the world and met the now-famous Tsunami for the for the first time. The news flash that morning claimed that 4,900 people were dead. Since then, the death toll has almost become an ugly game - each morning I wake up expecting numbers to be lumped onto the count, and each morning I'm saddened and surprised at how it keeps growing.
I'm usually a pretty unemotional guy when it comes to things like this, but for some reason the news casts that keep coming in have nearly brought me to tears a few times. I've tried to pray for these people, but I'm having a bit of trouble with the theology of it all. Maybe you guys can help with some insight.
Here's my dilemma: I know prayer works in that I know God hears me and responds. Though the exact process escapes me, I think prayer works on whole bunch of levels. One, it self-revelatory. That is, in praying sincerely you learn a lot about yourself. Two, I think it is somehow intertwined with personal agency, and God's unwillingness to take that away at any cost. In other words, by asking God for something you give Him "permission" to step in and do something that might otherwise alter your own agency. But these two thoughts only relate to petitions of your immediate personal concern.
My problem is that I can't fathom the idea that because I ask God to help suffering children, He is more willing to help them. Sure, my asking may reveal to myself something new, but I don't care about that as much as I hope these people get help. So, do you have any thoughts? What good does generalized, "I ask thee for peace in the Middle East", type prayer do? As if God says to himself, "oh yeah, peace, that's not a bad idea, I think I'll try that."