We are so messed up as human beings and as a society that even something as simple as prayer is made complicated by our real nastiness. The newspaper headline that we talked about is an example of a real messed up idea about what prayer is and what it does and if it even “works”. The idea behind the headline seems to be that we pray and offer up meaningless platitudes but God isn’t listening and He is not going to fix anything. The implication is of course is that there is no God and even if there were He obviously doesn’t care.
From this point of view, God’s none action makes Him appear as if He is angry at the prayer. Professor David Scaer has written. “Luther’s favorable views on God’s apparent negative attitude to the prayer of the Christian comes from his understanding of God and man. Divine wisdom is superior. Humanity is so sinful that each in- dividual must be torn down to remove what is objectionable to God.” God’s ways are simply far above ours. When He begins to work for our benefit, He does it in a way which we simply cannot understand or recognize. Luther’s attitude to unanswered prayer reflects his major themes of grace and faith. God works effectively in the life of the Christian by His grace, but before this grace can become operative, the Christian must become passive. He can no longer rely on himself. When the Christian is in a state of helplessness, God Himself begins to adjust our prayers and starts answering them. The Holy Spirit Himself prays and makes it possible for us to tolerate God’s working in us. Luther writes: Therefore, when everything is hopeless for us and all things begin to go against our prayers and desires, then those unutter- able groans begin. And then “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom. 8:26). For unless the Spirit were helping, it would be impossible for us to bear this action of God by which He hears us and accomplishes what we pray for. ” With the aid of the Spirit, Christians do not give up hope and confidence even when it appears at first that God is ignoring them.”