Ask the Giver of life for this?

A California Planned Parenthood affiliate recently launched a “40 Days of Prayer” campaign which has raised some eyebrows among those who identify as pro-life, including mine. My brows went up and then they furrowed as I pondered the seeming anomaly of purveyors of what I and others see as murder asking God’s blessing for what they do.

The prayers are titled “40 Days of Prayer to Keep Abortion Safe and Legal” and were written by a pro-abortion organization called Faith Aloud. They include, “Day 1: Today we pray for women for whom pregnancy is not good news, that they know they have choices.” And “Day 3: Today we pray for our daughters and granddaughters, that they will always know the power of making their own good decisions.” Day 7 states, “Today we pray for the 45 million American women who have had safe, legal abortions. May they stand tall and refuse shame.”

So this got me thinking about what’s involved in prayer and what kinds of prayers are pleasing to God and will be heard and answered by Him.

Now, I’m just a sinner saved by grace on a lifelong journey to know God better and serve Him more faithfully, and I am well aware that I do not have all the answers. But there are a few things I can say about prayer, starting from Jesus’ teaching in what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”1 In the faith tradition I grew up in, this prayer was often called the “Our Father.” Jesus begins with the assumption of relationship, but not everyone can call God “Father” in truth. I realize this sounds arrogant to some, but please hear me out. Jesus said no one will see the kingdom of God unless he or she is “born again” or born “from above.”2 So even though we are all God’s children in a sense because He created us all, we do not exist in His spiritual family until and unless we are born into it. Jesus then goes on in John Chapter 3 to explain that we are born again by faith in Him.

So not only are we God’s children by faith, but we recognize that He is hallowed, holy, sacred. We have a proper estimation of His “otherness.” We do not approach Him as if He lives to serve us, but on the contrary, we say, “Your will be done.” And this, I believe, is the attitude that separates those who have God’s ear, if you will, from those who are praying in vain.

“Everyone, in any situation, can turn to God and pray,” says Rebecca Turner, executive director of Faith Aloud and a United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister. And that is certainly true, but it’s no guarantee that God will look favorably on our request. Those He hears and answers are those who believe in Him and submit their will to His.

And from the whole of Scripture I think I can safely say that abortion is not God’s will. It’s interesting that Day 29’s prayer is: “Today we pray that all women will know that they are created in the image of God, good and holy, moral and wise.” Yet according to the prayer for Day 7, at least 45 million babies “created in the image of God” have been killed by the will of their own mothers, overriding God’s will in creating them.

There are a few prayers I can join my heart with, such as “Today we pray for all discrimination against women to cease.” And “Today we pray for Christians everywhere to embrace the loving model of Jesus in the way he refused to shame women.” Jesus treated women in a radically affirming and loving way and His followers need to do the same. But the real discrimination in this issue is against the little, defenseless babes in the womb, the ones whose right to life is not deemed of equal value to their mothers’ and is being outrightly denied.

It is always good to “turn to God and pray.” But if we expect to receive what we ask for, we have to come to Him on His terms. He’s not a cosmic vending machine but the sovereign Lord of the universe. He loves us but He cannot deny His holiness or overlook sin and rebellion. And disregarding His word and His will so that we can assert our own is rebellion, plain and simple.

1 Matthew 6:9   2 John 3:3