Friday, August 1, 2014

Discussion Question: Do Your Prayers Change G-d?

It's interesting that 1 Sam. 15:29 indicates that G-d doesn't change His mind; yet, other passages like Gen. 6:6 indicate that He does change His mind.

Does He change or not?  

A related question could be:

Does He listen to my prayers?

It's a valid question since the act of listening involves changing.

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. I don't think G-d listening to prayers necessarily implies some sort of fundamental change in Him as a result of hearing our petitions. He can act conditionally, but those conditions of action need not be novel, or different, than they've always been. Genesis 6:6 is a common example, but is this G-d changing, really? It's entirely possible that G-d regretted making man not because He changed something about Himself, but because, from the beginning, if man behaved the way man did by Genesis 6, G-d would regret their existence. G-d's state of regret is a result of our evil, but it's not like G-d Himself is altered. It's not like we can say from that passage that G-d thought He would never have that experience. G-d's regret would always have resulted from that situation. This is perhaps change on a sort of incidental level - feeling happy to feeling sad, or something like that. Yet, this is not a change on any level beyond that triviality, such as with regard to modifying His decision, or altering His plans. That sort of "change of viewpoint on an issue" or "change of standard" seems to be the sort of thing that the context of the 1 Sam. passage implies is under discussion there..

    A more practical example: He can say, at the beginning of time, "In 5774, If Peter prays about this particular issue and asks my help, I'll do X, but if he does not, I'll do Y." Or, He can say, "If Jon does this sin, I will feel disappointed, but if he does this mitzvah, I will rejoice." Thus, He listens - and His action is different as a result of human prayer or action - but He hasn't altered His plan, His "opinions," or anything about Himself other than how He feels about His children's current behavior. Even this is tricky, because "moving" from happy to sad or disappointed to glad implies a change in time, and thus existence within time, and G-d is timeless.

    Then again, it's entirely possible that this is not the way He works in actuality, but I'm just saying that His listening to and reacting to prayer doesn't make necessary the idea that He changes.