When I was in college I used to ask my friends, “Do you think you can pray for the past?” Without fail they would stare at me incredulously and blow it off as a silly question. But then I would ask again, “Seriously, do you think you can pray for the past?” At this point they usually would give in and answer in some way that reiterated the fact that it was a ridiculous question.
Now, I understand that the question seems absurd, but take a moment to think about it. If you believe in God, then you most likely believe that this God is not constrained by time. If you believe in intercessory prayer, then you believe that your prayers have power. If you believe that God is outside of time and that your prayers for the future can in some way affect the future, then I posit that it isn’t outlandish to pray for the past. In the reference frame of God there is no past present or future, everything simply is. So, why then would He be constrained to only answering prayers for the future? Do you see what I mean?
Okay, so before you write me off as a crazy person who spends his days praying for the past in his closet, let me reassure you that I do not practice this. In fact, I believe that prayer is intended to change one’s own heart not the will of some all-powerful God. I also realize that if you could pray for the past and change it you would never be able to know the difference because at the same instant the past changed so would your memory of the past. Therefore if the past was changing you would be none the wiser. Furthermore, the only way to appease the prayers of every person praying for the past would be to create alternate timelines for each and every person because, without a doubt, the prayers of people would conflict. This basically would require a version of one of the multiverse theories that is out there now to even begin to rationalize it. However, before going too far down this rabbit hole I’m just going to stop.
Yet, I still love to ask people this question. What I have found is that this question forces people to dig into their view of God, the constraints they place on Him, and how they believe He works in this world. Additionally, it allows people to be creative. By asking a question that, on the surface seems outlandish, they now have the freedom to think of answers that are possibly outlandish as well, with no fear of sounding foolish or irrational. Almost immediately this question breaks the chains of fear and releases us from the anxiety of being judged.
Some of my best conversations have come from asking this one ridiculous question. What we need in this world is not more rules to follow, more constraints on our beliefs, more chains to hold us down, but rather what we need is the courage and the freedom to think freely and creatively. Rather than closing off we need to open up with conversations, debates, and discussions that allow us to be unashamedly who we are. It is only through authentic relationship that we are able to not only learn about the other but, perhaps even more importantly, learn about ourselves through the other.
So now I ask you, can you pray for the past?
Thanks for reading.