Richard Foster in his widely regarded book Celebration of Discipline marks out the territory that Christians need to inhabit in their daily walk with God. One of his most insightful chapters is on the fundamentally important role of prayer in shaping the future of our lives. He writes:

“In our efforts to pray it is easy for us to be defeated right at the outset because we have been taught that everything in the universe is already set, and so things cannot be changed. And if things cannot be changed, why pray? We may gloomily feel this way, but the Bible does not teach that. The Bible pray-ers prayed as if their prayers could and would make an objective difference. The apostle Paul announced that we are ‘co-labourers with God;” that is, we are working with God to determine the outcome of events (1 Cor. 3:9). It is Stoicism that demands a closed universe, not the Bible.

“Many people who teach acquiescence and resignation to the way things are as the fixed ‘will of God’ are closer to Epictetus [an early Roman Stoic philosopher] than Christ. Abraham prayed boldly because he believed his prayers could change things; even once God had made up his mind (Gen. 18:16-33). Moses implored God to ‘repent’ of his planned destruction of the people, and the Bible records that the Lord “changed His mind” (Ex. 32:14).

“This may come as a shock and a genuine liberation to many of us in our prayer lives, but it also sets a tremendous responsibility before us. As Christians we are working with God to determine the outcome of future events. Certain things will happen if we pray aright. Other things will happen if we do not pray. What more motivation do we need?” (Foster 35).

Pam’s Dad is in the final phase of his preparation for surgery on Thursday. Doctors will remove part of his skull and seek to sever a cranial nerve. There are a dozen things that can go badly wrong in such a critical operation. However, if it is successful, he will be free of pain – and the debilitating pain-killers that he is on – for the first time in years. I would ask you to join me in prayer for Pam’s Dad and for those attending him this week for a positive outcome that would leave him healthy, whole, and free of pain.