The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

How Does God Confer Dignity on Us?

Posted on: January 17, 2017


I was struggling with the Lord a while back over an issue in my life that I wanted to have resolved. It has gone on so long that some time ago I had concluded that I either needed to stop praying about it and let it go (because it has gone on for years, and it doesn’t seem – on the surface – that God is committed to answering it), or else determine whether or not I needed to “importune” God for the answer.

  • Importune: ask (someone) pressingly and persistently for or to do something.

Importuning is taught in Scriptures. I’m not good at importuning, however. I’m a bottom-line kind of person. By nature, it seems to me that I should ask for something, and God should either grant it or not grant it, and we move on.

The major hitch with that perspective is that it’s not biblical.

Scripture teaches that we are to pray and keep praying, until we get our answer, or until God somehow lets us know that it is time to stop praying. The instruction to “ask and you will receive” is in present tense: ask and keep on asking (Matthew 7:7).

Beyond that, in Luke 11 and 18, Jesus gives parables teaching that we should persist in prayer… keep praying and praying… hammering on heaven’s door, as it were.

So, one day as I was doing my best to importune the Lord concerning my vexing issue, I thought, “why in the world does God instruct us to importune Him? Why doesn’t He either grant or deny?”

There are several good answers, but the one that exploded in my mind at the time was that God was giving me the “dignity of causality.”

  • Dignity: the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect
  • Causality: the ability to cause something to happen

God confers honor and respect on us by giving us the ability to cause things to happen through prayer and action… things that He could do faster and better Himself.

This phrase – the dignity of causality – is a quote from Blaise Pascal, a 16th century mathematician and philosopher: God instituted prayer in order to lend His creatures the dignity of causality.”

C. S. Lewis, after quoting Pascal, went on to say, “But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so …

For He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. He allows us to neglect what He would have us do, or to fail. Perhaps we do not fully realize the problem, so to call it, of enabling finite free wills to coexist with Omnipotence … This is how (no light matter) God makes something—indeed, makes gods—out of nothing.”

For the first time, it finally began to sink in. God did not want to be my heavenly vending machine: prayer in – answer out.

One does not have an intimate relationship with a vending machine. Nor does one experience a soaring sense of purpose and meaning in life from feeding an automated-response system.

Rather, he wanted to be my Heavenly Father grooming me for greater things. In Lewis’s words, He’s prepared to make “gods” out of us, if we’ll let Him… if we’ll cooperate with the process.

It finally began to occur to me that God was giving me a remarkable gift: the gift of working with him, of being an agent through which he accomplishes His will. He was delaying His answer, bringing me into the decision-making process. Through importuning, I might alter my request, or drop it altogether after realizing the inappropriateness of it… or I might specify and intensify my request, more convinced than ever of its appropriateness.

As an example, a father who owns a highly profitable business could set up a trust fund out of which he could meet every financial need of his son and daughter. Or, he could bring them into his confidence, mentoring and grooming them so that they could run the business with him.

This would not only meet their financial needs, but also allow them to develop a close relationship with their father, and to experience the great sense of life satisfaction in accomplishing something important with him.

The first option risks creating shallow individuals of little gratitude and small accomplishment. The second option can create deep individuals of great accomplishment. To say nothing of the relationship with the father that it creates.

So, I have taken up the challenge of shrinking my perception of God’s being merely an “answering machine” for my prayers. And I have taken up the challenge of growing my perception of God as a Heavenly Father who wants to take me into the family business and allow me the dignity of causing things to happen, through action and through prayer.

If that is a challenge that you, too, need to take up, today’s the day!

Join God in the family business; let Him give you the “dignity of causality.”


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