A theology of prayer: from (The Matrix and Shakespeare’s Macbeth) to (beyond)

Recently I was reading a blogpost of a person who experienced an amazing answer to prayer. He then asked the question whether he would still believe in prayer if he didn’t get the answer. Which is couched in a subsidiary question; why did God answer His prayer and not another persons’. He subsequently asked readers for responses. My response to him became longer than I anticipated and I felt, to be accountable, and to be seen in context, the comment must also be included on this blog. Where I can not only edit it, but extend it (after having more time to rethink/develop).

To answer whether prayer determines belief in prayer, my answer is more that our belief is in God (who causes us to prayer) and not in the power of prayer (which we falsely think causes God to work). And I argue it in the following way.


Not to diminish the argument but in the “Matrix” (yes the movie), the Oracle tells Neo, “and don’t worry about the vase” and then Neo breaks the vase. The oracle tells Neo (and here’s my point) that what will bother Neo is not how did the Oracle know, but whether Neo would have broken the vase if the Oracle had not said anything about it. We see, in subsequent movies, that the Oracle actually orchestrates a lot of what’s happening in the Matrix so indeed she causes things to happen.

A similar thing happens in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (I’m sorry for digressing). Where the three witches prophesy that Macbeth is going to be king, and then Macbeth kills Duncan to become king. The question any student is forced to ask; Would Macbeth have killed Duncan if he had not heard the prophecy that he would become king?

Both examples show us that while prophecy is initially appealing in that it supposedly helps PREDICT the future, we see eventually are most troubled (or uncertain) about the way that prophecy actually helps DETERMINE/SHAPE the (our) future.

I see the situation of prayer like that. But I’m changing the categories. I portray God as the prophesier (pardon the association, but like the Oracle or the ‘witches’) and prayer as the action (dropping/breaking the vase, or killing Duncan) and the event as the effect that includes our participation and yet is not solely caused by it (vase breaks, duncan dies and Macbeth becomes king).

The initial ‘action’ lies not in our act of prayer, but rather in God’s promise that He will act on our behalf (for example Romans 8:28). God promises (prophesies) that He will be with us, and do the best for us, and take care of us. So, some people (I think falsely) even argue that we don’t need to pray. And yet, the fact that God promise becomes like a prophesy and it INFLUENCES us to act, to take the course of life in our own hands, and in Christian terms the only way we can do that is to PRAY.

Then, when God fulfills His promise (His prophecy) that He will take care of us, he often shows us how we participate in his plan as we pray and intercede. Yet often like Shakespearean scholars, or like Neo, we wonder, would God would have acted (taken care of us) if we hadn’t prayed. When we sometimes forget that the prophesier is actually more in control of the situation than we think. In effect God has influenced us to ACT (to pray) and that initiative of God in our lives is actually the greater miracle (event) than the work He fulfilled on our behalf (and sometimes with our participation).

Now moving towards the subsidiary question; why does God ‘answer’ one prayer and not another. I think if we reconsider prayer as the cause, and think of God as the cause of blessing in our lives and prayers as a consequence of our understanding of God’s involvement in our lives, then the question no longer can be; how did God ANSWER my prayer and NOT another person’s prayer. Rather, how did God influence me AND how did God influence the other.

We don’t all have to pray to be influenced by God, and God affects us in many ways. God is not bound by our prayers, but certainly our prayers bind us to Him. So God is constantly influencing us to depend on Him, in all circumstances, both good and bad. Hence, when we pray, we are actually praying because God influenced us to pray, rather than “starting” a chain of events that influences the hand of God.

I know this may be controversial for a few, but I think conservative Christianity would agree that the positive initiative always lies with God, (even for our faith) and hence this makes sense, even for prayer. Like the Oracle, we are influenced to pray, and that influence leads to further ripples and consequences, that sometimes work in our favour (as we understand it) and sometimes not (as we understand it). However, trusting in the sovereign initiative of God, and his sovereign bringing our history into His fulfillment, we express our trust in Him through prayer.


1 Response to “A theology of prayer: from (The Matrix and Shakespeare’s Macbeth) to (beyond)”

  1. 1 PressPosts / User / -Miles- / Submitted Trackback on June 6, 2007 at 6:00 am

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Passage for this Season

Philippians 2:11-13 (NIV) (12)Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13)for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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