Dear Dr. Heller,
I have two questions.
When we discussed Abraham sacrificing his son in class you said they both were confident Isaac would return with Abraham. I feel that this shows trust in God and a total faith, however in today's world we often hear of people praying to preserve life (for themselves or others). They pray to preserve human life not spiritual life. If a person truly believes and trusts in God why do we pray for this? Why do we pray to stay in this sinful world?
Second, you have also mentioned the “candy theory” of “I'm a good girl or boy, so, please God, give me…” It seems there isn't really a way around this when asking God for things. Does this mean we can never genuinely ask God for help in life without this sense of bargaining?
Thank you for your insightful two questions. Here are my answers.
We pray to stay in this sinful world because that’s what we know. We don’t really know who God is and if his kingdom really exists and so forth. We want to be secure. That’s why we have to learn to be God’s “nomad people” — we have to learn to move on in life and leave our securities and trust that God provides. This is a long learning process,which takes sometimes our entire life!
Yes, we can truly pray and ask without “the candy” in mind. There are people who ask Jesus to heal them and Jesus gives them a positive answer. This happens very often when we are in a low situation, when we have nothing to offer as a bargain. When we are really poor, which is a situation where we are too weak to receive, then we are led to ask for the right things in the right way.
Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years. Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question for her leave it in the comment section below.