The Consequences of Answered Prayer
The Butterfly Effect
By Ed Sr.
Just something to think about the next time you think you have an inside track with God and all you have to do is pray and He will answer. Answered prayer may have many more consequences than you have ever thought about before.
Consider this: Everything we do has consequences. Every decision we make influences our own future and the futures of those whom our lives touch. For instance, if I hadn't been a member of the Worldwide Church of God when my first wife died, I would have never met my present wife since she would have never had anything to do with me, not wanting to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever and other such crap. Therefore we would not have been married and my youngest son would have never been born. All the people that he has interacted with would have had their lives affected in a different way because he would not have existed. The job that he is filling right now would have to be filled by someone else, thus affecting his or her life too. Any children that he will have would not exist All their future interactions with people would be different. The future for all humanity could be irrevocably changed by changing one little thing that normally should happen.
The same holds true with answered prayer. If God answers a prayer and makes something happen that normally wasn't going to happen, everything else is going to change forever after that answered prayer. People will live and die that would have died or lived in a different way. You can't change something without changing everything. That is, unless we can imagine God keeping track of all the answered prayers and continually manipulating happenings so that the answered prayer really doesn't affect anything else. This would make answered prayer infinitely more difficult than just, for instance, healing someone who was supposed to die. That person who should have died now takes up space that he shouldn't be in. He will affect other peoples lives just because he is in that space. Everything is different, infinitely.
Another example: Say a person is healed because of an answered prayer. If that person is now driving a car in front of me that, if he had died, he would not be there, he may slow me down enough, now, so that I will not make it through the traffic light but now I will be the first one through after waiting for it to change green. Then, because I am the first one through, I am hit and killed by a person running a red light.
You could take this down to even simple answered prayers. They change everything. It means different people live and die because of these interventions of answered prayer.
I mentioned this to a friend of mine who is much smarter about these kinds of things than I am and he reminded me of a Ray Bradbury short story that I had read years ago. It is called The Sound Of Thunder. I found it recently at the library in a book called The Golden Apples of the Sun. Below I have some short out-takes from the story to illustrate what I am getting at.
"A Time Machine is darn finicky business. Not knowing it, we might kill an important animal, a small bird, a roach, a flower even, thus destroying an important link in a growing species.'
"That's not clear," said Eckels.
"All right," Travis continued; "say we accidentally kill one mouse here. That means all the future families of this one particular mouse are destroyed, right?"
And all the families of the families of that one mouse! With a stamp of your foot, you annihilate first one, then a dozen, then a thousand, a million, a billion possible mice"
"So they're dead," said Eckels. "So what?"
"So what?" Travis snorted quietly. "Well, what about the foxes that'll need those mice to survive? For want of ten mice a fox dies. For want of ten foxes, a lion starves. For want of a lion, all manner of insects, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into chaos and destruction. Eventually it all boils down to this: fifty-nine million years later, a cave man, one of a dozen on the entire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-tooth tiger for food. But you, friend, have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse. So the cave man starves. And the cave man, please note, is not Just any expendable man, no! He is an entire future nation. From his loins would have sprung ten sons. From their loins one hundred sons, and thus onward to a civilization. Destroy this one man, and you destroy a race, a people, an entire history of life. It is comparable to slaying some of Adam's grandchildren. The stomp of your foot, on one mouse, could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies down through Time, to their very foundations. With the death of that one caveman, a billion others yet unborn are throttled in the womb. Perhaps Rome never rises on its seven hills. Perhaps Europe is forever a dark forest, and only Asia waxes healthy and teeming. Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and. you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity. Queen Elizabeth might never be born, Washington might not cross the Delaware, there might never be a United States at all. So be careful. Stay on the Path. Never step off"
"I see," said Eckels, Then it wouldn't pay for us even to touch the grass?"
"Correct. Crushing certain plants could add up infinitesimally. A little error here would multiply in sixty million years, all out of proportion. Of course, maybe our theory is wrong. Maybe Time can't be changed by us. Or maybe it can be changed only in little subtle ways. A dead mouse here makes an insect imbalance there, a population disproportion later, a bad harvest further on, a depression, mass starvation, and, finally, a change m social temperament in far-flung countries. Something much more subtle, like that. Perhaps only a soft breath, a whisper, a hair, pollen on the air, such a slight, slight change that unless you looked close you wouldn't see it. Who knows? Who really can say he knows? We don't know. We're guessing. But until we do know for certain whether our messing around in Time can make a big roar or a little rustle in history, we're being darned careful."
Later in the story a man steps on a butterfly in the past and changes the future. So in the same way, an answered prayer can change everything into the future. Its the butterfly effect future-wise from that point forward.
There is a movie currently out on Video Tape called "Sliding Doors" staring Gwyneth Paltrow that addresses this subject somewhat. The point of the movie is to show how this lady's life would be different if she had gotten on the subway instead of the sliding doors of the subway car closing and keeping her off. The whole movie shows the two different worlds she lives in depending on whether she makes in on the subway or not.
So, does God answer prayer? I've always thought so; now I don't.
Or, does God manipulate us into praying so that He can answer and do what He was planning on doing anyhow? Are we just sophisticated puppets then?
Is there such a thing as Fate? Are we destined to do things and meet people and marry certain people and have certain children? Then some people are destined to be mugged, raped or killed. Do we think that we can pray and God will turn a Tornado away from our house? It has to go somewhere so it may be going off and killing someone else so that we could live. Is this really fair to those other people that are killed in our place? What kind of God would do such a thing?
Are we predestined to pray for a healing? If so, then we do not have free will and we are puppets. We think we are in control but we really aren't.
Well, that's it. I don't have any answers to the questions. I do feel that people who think they can influence God to change whatever He has planned for us (if there is a plan) have got a lot to learn. There are consequences to answered prayer that go far beyond the simple answered prayer. The answered prayer, which would be a miracle in itself, may be the simplest part of the whole equation.
Any comments or ideas?
No scriptures please. Thinking, not parroting, desired here.
Comments From Readers Below
I would like to add some thoughts to "Consequences of Answered Prayer."
Assuming there is a God, he is not physical, he is obviously of other dimension(s). Our four dimensions (three in space and one in time) are all that we know and trying to describe or imagine something without using them is virtually impossible. I think this is a key to attempting an explanation of the paradoxes you point out in your essay. It is my opinion that you are making God conform to our dimension rather than allow him to inhabit his own. Lets look at what we know about our dimensional universe first.
We know that time has not always existed. Before the big-bang, there was no space, not even empty space, because there was no matter. To put it simply, the sudden existence of matter created both space and time. Our dimension came into being at that moment. There was no before the big bang because "before" is an element of time and there wasn't any. You can only say it was something else. Maybe that "else" was simply God.
Space is also known not to be infinite. Space it finite but without a boundary or edge (a concept that is very hard for me to grasp). As the universe expands like a balloon, space gets bigger. There is nothing outside the balloon, because the matter of the universe curves space in upon itself. Actually you cannot say "nothing" because nothing is the absence of something. There is no "outside" the universe. There is perhaps only another dimension(s) or other universes, may be parallel to our own. Physicist Fred Wolf's book Parallel Universes addresses the issue far better than my cryptic explanations of these complexities.
What I am getting at is that perhaps the dimension God inhabits does not include time (something we can begin to comprehend abstractly but not imagine). His dimension could be more sophisticated than ours, or maybe less, if "less is more." His universe could function with dimensions (physicists have theorized of 10 dimensional worlds) far different than ours. Maybe he is aware of everything that has ever happened and ever will happen in our dimension from his. If so, then he would not ever have to "fix things" to work out because the conception and conclusion are not separated temporally for him, the are one and the same.
This is not the same as predestination. Predestination posits that the sequence of events (i.e. time) is a foregone conclusion that cannot be changed, so why bother. What I posit is that his existence is outside of a linear temporal progression, where sequence of events simply does not apply. Time is not an issue for him.
If this is so, God is not eternal because "eternal" is a time based description meaning forever. When you remove time from the equation, forever goes with it because forever means an infinite temporal period. Forever can only be where there is time.
According to the Theory of Relativity, time is integral to the other dimensions, so we can assume our other spatial dimensions do not apply to him either. Hence, it becomes even harder to describe God's dimension(s), whatever they may be. Rather than say what his dimension is, it is much easier to say what it is not. It is not our dimension and other than that we can only guess.
Of course, to say God's universe is unknowable from ours and just stop is a chicken way out because this way you have to blindly accept the inconsistencies you pointed out so well, e.g. a person God heals later kills us in a car wreck. Some answered prayer!
I guess this is where a "leap of faith" comes in, where you either accept there is a God, he does things that make absolutely no rational sense whatsoever, or you conclude that if there is a God, he lets things run by chance and does indeed "play dice with the universe," contrary to Einstein's famous quote. Quantum physics (which Einstein never fully accepted) tends to favor the latter. I personally cannot make up my mind.
I always found it absurd to think of God as looking like a man, as Herbert decreed. Since light, form, shape and image are all dependent on our four dimensional world, to assign God tangible qualities is pretty lame. To assign his intangible emotional attributes (love, acceptance, loyalty, etc.) is the best we can do in describing God.
At our moment of death, maybe we transport to this other dimension and time will cease to be an issue for us too. Since our universe has not always existed, maybe it will cease to exist in the future (although the expanding universe currently shows no sign it will ever collapse again and appears it will be here for infinity). Then there will be only God again and hopefully us.
P.S. I do not know what the hell I am talking about. See Fred Wolf's book Parallel Universes for a far better explanation.
Interesting point of view. There is a certain amount of Fate for people (good things & bad things). What can change your life is choices you make (adulteress affair, killing someone, cheating badly on your IRS taxes...), then Fate isn't involved in that.
Prayers are really mediation, humans need to turn to a higher source (or sometimes tune into their own enlightened inner self). I don't think anyone intentionally wants the tornado to take out their neighbors and not them. But sometimes that is what happens. I think it's ridiculous to pray only when you need something and "ask" for "things".
Pray for wisdom (so you can see that next job offer coming to you), pray for patience (with your 3 year old son), pray for protection (but really, when it's your time to go...it's your time to go). It's sometimes comforting, not always answered.....but so is having a friend listen to your problems and not judge you.
No bible verses here, buddy. That rhetoric babble all sounds the same to me and I get no comfort from it.
Sorry about your first wife. If my Mom would have sought medical care when she first went into her deep depression (mild schizophrenia), our lives would all be different today. Joe Sr. came over to the house...prayed, anointed her, hid the knives (cause that's what he had to do with his catatonic wife) and left. All she needed was an injection of mild medication to make her fully functional. That did not happen for years. Oh well.
My brother and I enjoy your site. We laugh and laugh at some of the articles and the "Christian" email you get from the brethren. We especially love your responses. Thanks for the amusement.
Hello again Ed:
In reading the site about God theories, please let me throw a couple of things that I've learned over the years into the arena of discussion. My previous background is in science and engineering. I wasn't always a minister. I really did have a good education. Since E-mails are limited, here are a few brief thoughts.
1)Any concept of God is NOT God other than a fumbling idea of "Infinity."
2)We can have no real concept of Infinity.
3) The best we can do with Infinity is to know two things: a) Infinity is singular as there cannot be two infinities, and b) Infinity must be growing at an infinite rate forever otherwise it could be measured, and consequently, it would not be infinite.
4) That puts any concept of God, as an Earthling type being, out of the question. God (if we want to refer to He/She/It as that) belongs in another realm . . . and thinking.
5) In time space, we're limited by those factors. Since God is NOT limited, God then belongs in a realm where time/space does not exist.
6) Science has concluded that behind all energy (the universe, etc.) there is the projection of eternal "thought" energy of a form that now unknown to us.
7) To put it in a clumsy way, God IS that realm of thought.
8) This explains all creation and how (for example) the end is known from the beginning, and creation is manifested as energy projection as a product of thought. Whatever is thought, for example, becomes. Whenever is thought, also becomes. All energy it eternal, as science has now discovered, and can neither be created or destroyed. It can only change form. That includes us.
So . . .
9) If there is one continuum (like Time/Space) then there must be an infinite number of them . . . to be consistent the God's infinite growth.
10) If there is one dimension (e.g., our dimension with its molecules vibrating at around 186,000 miles per second), then there must also be higher and higher frequency dimensions . . . ad infinitum. Einstein knew our source of energy to be the speed of light squared. E=MCsquared. And that's only the beginning. To be consistent here, there must therefore be intelligent beings living in these higher dimensions (all parallel to ours) and with each upper bandwidth of dimensional frequencies (or new worlds), we'd have higher and higher levels of civilizations.
11) Since we live in our own universe in our time space continuum, then (to be consistent with God thinking) there must also be an infinite number of universes (or parallel ones) in our own particular time space continuum. That also extends to all sorts of different types of beings living in each universe, as the number of galaxies within each would be incalculable. We have a minimum of 100 billion known galaxies in our own universe, and the scientists say that there's no end to them all.
12) This is not even the tip of the iceberg, as "thought" goes on ad infinitum. And we have NOT even gone in the energy patterns and maths of the "micro" worlds. To paraphrase Stephen Hawking and his work: "The more we look into the atomic worlds, the more we find." The particle physicists now think that the atoms could be the solar systems of micro worlds, and the molecule strands form the galaxies.
All this, takes "God" out of the realm of religion's petty concept of some powerful being, and places It where it belongs . . . into the concept of ultimate thought and the realm of infinity.
For wot it's worth, Ed.
Best and blessings.
On the subject "The Consequence of Answered Prayer" I read a book some time ago that told a interesting story. The book "Prayer is Good Medicine" by Larry Dossey, MD tells a story about a man who was injured in a automobile accident. It goes like this: "Stephen was involved in a near fatal auto accident and sustained serious injuries. We immediately marshaled several prayer chains in our church and the other churches as well. His surgeons were astonished that he survived the operations to save his life, calling his response a miracle. As the man's recuperation continued, so did our prayers. But, although he had been a successful businessman and ideal father and community leader, things were not the same. He seemed to have lost his vitality and zest for life. He was apathetic, as if he didn't care. He was argumentative, grouchy, and hard to tolerate. This was a complete change from his previous jovial self. He was indifferent to his wife and children. Nothing seemed right. Ten years latter he died of natural causes. By the time he died, I had developed a practice of sitting in meditation for twenty minutes each morning. Several days after Stephen's death I was startled in my meditation by his presence. He stood in front of me laughinghis previous happy demeanorand said, "I finally won out over all of you." And then he was gone. As I pondered this, I could come to only one conclusion. Stephen hadn't wanted to live or perhaps hadn't been meant to live. But the power of all those prayers for his recovery had bought him back."
The book offers some interesting insight's of what prayer may be and goes on to explore the evolutionary biology link, that is, prayer was a trait and a behavior that allowed an organism to survive and reproduce. The author points out that for the practice of prayer to afford an advantage to the individual, and survive to this day, it must have results. These results may be our own efforts being reinforced (and, or) encourages us to make the desired thing happen.
My personal experience on this subject is when I recalled sending off my "Dear Wayne" letter earlier this year to the armstongite minister that baptized me (ten years ago Oct 5). After some time I really felt a deep feeling that others were praying for me. It really is difficult to explain, but it was a feeling of well being, of being loved, of being influenced, perhaps to forgive this minister of Herbies. Although this minister is thoroughly brainwashed, along with many others, the force of prayer may be just the influence of thought on others.
This would explain how somebody that is sooo wrong can believe with his entire mind and body in such a way as to affect their "brain-wave" on others. Why if God is the "answer of prayers," would he listen to these others and then effect a change on the recipient, either good or bad, that would influence him or her to some change in mind (in this case the desired effect of repentance) and then happily rejoin the tkach cult?
I believe that both possibilities, mind influence on others, and self, along with a Deity that looks out for the good of mankind, therein may lie the answer. I must admit that in my experience, prayer has had a major effect in my personal life. Too many things that have happened to me that were out of my control, and some days latter an answer to prayer corrected the problem in a way that I never would have even thought. Perhaps the power of the subconscious mind, (or many minds together) perhaps God, who can really say..
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