Praying Outside Time
In May 1989, I knew someone who died unexpectedly at a young age. He was Jewish and his parents were close friends of my parents. I was very worried if he knew Christ before he died and I never shared my faith with him. I remember praying for him in our dining room and the Holy Spirit immediately shot this verse from the Bible into my soul:
"And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:27).
I have wondered that since God is outside of time, knows everything, and knew I would pray that prayer for my friend, if God could have arranged someone to share their faith with him or maybe Jesus or the Holy Spirit could draw Him into a relationship with Christ. God can surely affect the future in answer to prayer. Even our causal activity can bring about the future. I can decide that I will do something and do it.
"Praying outside time" or "retroactive prayer" is referring to the belief that God is omniscient and outside of time, therefore He knows what we are going to pray from the beginning of time, and can therefore answer our prayers before we actually pray them. He doesn't have to hear our prayers after time began because He existed and knew our prayer before time began, and could therefore act on it before time began, or from outside time. This has far reaching implications including that we can pray for the past and God takes our prayers into account as He exercises His will. It also doesn't require God to act when we pray, He can act from the beginning of time with the neccesary causes. God is eternal and doesn't have a beginning, yet time, at least for us, had a beginning. However, God doesn't neccesarily have to be inside time. Now you may say God can't change something if we know what happened, but what difference should it make whether or not someone knows what had happened? Why does this matter to God if someone knows when he has foreknowledge and knows everything? Regardless, what if we don't know what happened, does that change anything? I also believe that in Christ we have the ability for our spirits to leave this dimension and enter the heavenly dimensions which are outside of time. Many believers have been able to engage time and see it stretched out, even going back and forth in time while in the spirit.
"Medieval theologians wondered whether it makes sense to ask if God's omnipotence extends to changing the past. A negative answer would seem to impose a rather severe restriction on God's power. After all, if the past lies outside the scope of an omnipotent being's power, than a situation that might lie within his power today would be beyond his power tomorrow." This is especially troubling if He is omniscient and knows the future. Yet, "The position of Thomas Aquinas on this subject has been widely accepted by Christian theologians. To claim that God can change the past, he believed, asserts a contradiction." And as David Hume noted, we still have "cause and effect," it would obliterate the difference between earlier and later, and it would destroy the difference between past and future, where the past would be open (like the future) rather than closed.A SCIENTIFIC STUDY
Published "in 2001, Leonard Leibovici, professor of medicine at Israel's Rabin Medical Center, tested this possibility. He performed a randomized, double-blind experiment in which prayer was offered in the present for adult patients who had been hospitalized for sepsis (bloodstream infection) four to ten years after they had been hospitalized. Roughly half the 3,393 patients were retroactively prayed for and half were not. On examining their hospital records after the prayer was offered, he found that the length of hospital stay in the prayed-for patients was significantly shorter, as was the duration of fever, compared to the patients for whom prayer was not offered in the present."WHAT I BELIEVE
I believe the truth of the matter is that we would like to have the ability to change the past through prayer but because we are inside of time and bound by the laws of God/the universe, we cannot change the past. I have never heard of anyone being able to do this. Can God, who is outside of time, change the past? There is no evidence for this in the Bible and we know that God limits Himself in various ways, so He may be following the laws of the universe on that one. However, I do believe that believers have been able to engage time, and even go back and forward in time in their spirits, but are not able to change the past of the future, only observe without interacting with it. I believe this is only because God has limited us, as well as voluntarily limiting Himself. I believe God and Satan have an agreement as to what they can each do to influence us and both sides are limited to some degree. First of all, God is limited by the fact that He has granted free will to us, so He can't make us all Christians or force us all to go to heaven. Secondly, as a perfect God who is eternally worthy of our praise He requires justice, so when those who rejected God their whole life are cursing and sinning eternally apart from God, there has to be justice and judgment for that eternal sin. I don't believe that is covered by the blood of Jesus because if it was, people wouldn't end up in hell.
I also believe that we are going to see people raised from the dead in increasing frequency until Jesus comes back. We may be able to keep the dead from going to hell by resurrecting their bodies and helping them to receive Christ. This is a way we can change the past and should continue to be taught and practiced. An evangelical group called the Dead Raising Team (DRT) has been doing this for years and it is gaining popularity. What a wonderful way to have a revival, huh?
By the way, as far as that scientific study, "Mortality was 28.1% (475/1691) in the intervention group and 30.2% (514/1702) in the control group (P for difference=0.4). Length of stay in hospital and duration of fever were significantly shorter in the intervention group than in the control group (P=0.01 and P=0.04, respectively)." According to the study, "A list of the first names of the patients in the intervention group was given to a person who said a short prayer for the well being and full recovery of the group as a whole." We do not know anything about the prayer, what God it was directed to, or the person who said it.FOOTNOTES:
1. Nash, Ronald H. The Concept of God, Zonervan, 1983, pg. 44
2. Ibid 3. Kenny, Anthony. The God of the Philosophers, pp. 107-108.
4. Dossey, Larry. The Science of Premonitions: How Knowing the Future Can Help Us Avoid Danger, Maximize Opportunities, and Create a Better Life. Plume (May 4, 2010)
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