21 December 2009

An Omniscient God and Making Ourselves Known To Him

People often object to praying-usually, it seems, because they think an omniscient God ought to “know” and somehow either it’s lazy of Him to want a “field report” or perhaps they are in denial of His power and see His handling of situations as “proof” of His interest in them. There is a ring of illogic here. Ife we take for a fact that God is omniscient, and yet still asks us to pray, then perhaps He’s got, not an information gap, but some other situation. Perhaps, instead, there exists a faith-gap on our side. That is, for us to pray is an exhibition of not only inner faith, but an exercise in faith. We all know that it’s not only planning your new exercise regime, but actually carrying it out that does any good. Exercise is not abstract thought, nor is faith.

CS Lewis addresses this here:
"[People who attack Christian prayer-if they know the Bible-could begin in Philippians] about ‘making your request known to God.’ I mean, the words making known bring out most clearly the apparent absurdity [which Christians are charged with.] We say we believe God to be omniscient; yet a great deal of prayer seems to consist of giving Him information. …we have been reminded by Our Lord [Jesus]…not to pray as if we forgot the omniscience-‘for your heavenly Father knows you need all these things.’ …
…. To confess our sins before God is certainly to tell Him what He knows much better than we. [Besides,] any petition is a kind of telling. [And] ..it at least seems to solicit His attention. Some traditional formulae make that implication clear: “Hear us, good Lord.” “O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint.” As if, though God does not need to be informed, He does need..to be reminded.

But we cannot really believe that degrees of attention and therefore inattention, and therefore of something like forgetfulness, exist in the Absolute Mind.       
I presume that only God’s attention keeps me (or anything else) in existence at all. [So], what then are we really doing? Our whole conception of..the prayer-situation depends on the answer.

We are always completely, and therefore equally, known to God. That is our destiny whether we like it or not.

But though this knowledge never varies, the quality of our being known can. [Borrowing from the school of thought that says ‘freedom is willed necessity’ to use this idea only] as an analogy. Ordinarily, to be known by God is to be, for this purpose, in the category of things. We are like earthworms, cabbages and nebulae, objects of divine knowledge. But when we (a) become aware of the fact… and (b) assent with all our will to be so known, then we treat ourselves, in relation to God, not as things, but as persons.
We have unveiled. Not that any veil could have baffled this sight. The change is in us. The passive changes to the active. Instead of merely being known, we show, we tell, we offer ourselves to view.
…[Indeed] it is by the Holy Spirit that we cry “Father.” By unveiling, by confessing our sins and ‘making knon’ our requests we assume the high rank of persons [rather than things] before Him. And He, descending…a Person to us."
  • CS Lewis, Letters to Malcolm