A strange thing happened some years ago, which I would like to recall briefly. Rosalind and I were enjoying fellowship with two young men, David and Michael. Shortly before leaving for lunch, David asked that we should remember him particularly at 3 p.m. as he was to attend an important meeting concerning his future. Of course, we were only too glad to do so. But when the time arrived just three hours later, we completely forgot, and only remembered at tea time, when pangs of remorse set in. We asked the Lord’s forgiveness, and prayed for David, even though it was too late. However, we had hardly opened our eyes, when the Lord spoke through Michael. “Fear not, your prayer has stabilised your friend at his interview.”
We were obviously very pleased to hear that word, but at the same time perplexed. How could our prayer at six o’clock have helped David at three o’clock? Time marches on, and we had “missed the bus” by three hours. Realising we had little knowledge of such matters,we left it there and didn’t struggle further to understand. But the event has stayed in our minds throughout these many years.
I was recently alerted to an article by C.S.Lewis, in which he spoke into this situation so pointedly that I must reproduce it here.
(Taken from Miracles, Appendix B)
“When we are praying about the result, say, of a battle or a medical consultation the thought will often cross our minds that (if only we knew it) the event is already decided one way or the other. I believe this to be no good reason for ceasing our prayers. The event certainly has been decided – in a sense it was decided ‘before all worlds’. But one of the things taken into account in deciding it, and therefore one of the things that really cause it to happen, may be this very prayer that we are now offering. Thus, shocking as it may sound, I conclude that we can at noon become part causes of an event occurring atten o’clock. (Some scientists would find this easier than popular thought does.)
The imagination will, no doubt, try to play all sorts of tricks on us at this point. It will ask,‘Then if I stop praying can God go back and alter what has already happened?’ No. The event has already happened and one of its causes has been the fact that you are asking such questions instead of praying.
It will ask, ‘Then if I begin to pray can God go back and alter what has already happened?’ No. The event has already happened and one of its causes is your present prayer.
Thus something really does depend on my choice. My free act contributes to the cosmic shape. That contribution is made in eternity ‘before all worlds’; but my consciousness of contributing reaches me at a particular point in the time series.” [Bold type added]
As a result of this amazing piece of spiritual wisdom and logic, we have been able at last to see some sense in what took place years ago. Believers’ prayers break through the Time Barrier into what can only be called the Eternal Realm. Our prayers ascend into a wholly different set of dimensional coordinates, where earth-time has no bearing. This comes about because at New Birth we ourselves have been transported into this same higher dimensional realm. That is why our Lord said that we have Eternal Life, not we shall haveEternal Life. But although it is our new birthright, we cannot see into this realm. We cannot hear what is happening there, but just occasionally the Lord speaks to us within that realm, and sometimes we have visions or dreams that allow us a brief foretaste of the Higher Life.
This is why it is possible for retroactive prayer to operate, even though it is self-contradictory when viewed within our present four-dimensional world. It opens up a whole new understanding of the power of prayer. Let the mind dwell on the time factors mentioned above, in our experience, and also in Lewis’s article. If it was possible for a prayer retroactively to impact an event a few hours earlier, then why not a few weeks, or months, or years, or even millennia before the present time in our dimension? How do we know whether the prayers of recent saints have been able to sustain and undergird Abraham as he was going through his greatest test at Mount Moriah? And how do we know whether Abraham’s obedience at that time has been the means of undergirding others who have been through similarly trying circumstances in recent days?
Are we not the Body of Christ? If so, then the Body is a Spiritual Organism. It is alive and working right across the time line of our present existences. But in the Eternal Realm, the Body of Christ is not stretched out through time, but operates as an organic whole, past, present, and future to us. Hence all prayer is the Voice of the Body of Christ, and is answered according to needs, regardless of the time in which it is uttered on earth. As Lewis said, many will find this difficult to grasp, but to those who catch the vision, whether they can understand it or not, it opens up a whole new vista of meaning to prayer. Many apparently unanswered prayers have dropped into the Eternal Reservoir of Prayer, and have, or will, become part of a far greater answer for the needs of the Whole Body. When the Body is complete, the Reservoir will be emptied into the needs of the rest of the world.
Some of us are able to speak in tongues. The gift is not given to all, as Paul explained, but he declared that he spoke in tongues “more than you all.” He would not use this gift in the assembly unless an interpreter was present, but clearly he used his gift liberally in his own private prayer life. What happens in circumstances like this? We are not aware of what we are praying, but sometimes we feel driven to pour out our prayers in tongues until the Holy Spirit raises a hand to say “Enough!” What have we been saying? To what has this prayer been directed? Has it occurred that you might have been helping Noah withstand the mockery of those who watched him build the Ark? Or Elijah as he was running away from the evil cries of Jezebel? Or Daniel as he sat in the den of lions? I find this a wonderful new revelation.
Then again, one is able to read about certain men and women who have had a gift of prevailing prayer, who can spend hours on their knees pouring out their deepest longings to the Lord. This has often happened before times of Revival. Regardless whether such people can pray in tongues, their burdens have had the deepest effect on people’s lives. Stories abound where such prayers have triggered events shortly to take place. But at the same time, we can now say that these prayers have also had a timeless, eternal influence, that one day we shall be able to watch as the panorama of the ages unfolds before our eyes in that Higher Dimension, when we go to be with the Lord, or in resurrection. We shall be able to see the greater vista of power generated by such prayers.
These are our preliminary findings on this subject, and we share them with you for your further comments and understanding. Please write back so that we can prepare a further edition of this topic, which we believe to be an “eye opener”. If it helps just one other person to catch an urgency to pray beyond anything they’ve uttered before, then it will have been worth while. Thank you.