Daily Devotionals

April 14th, 2024


It’s a miracle.

It’s the only possible outcome.

Those two statements are true of everything in our lives. The very existence of life on earth is a miracle. The seemingly impossible series of events that led to you and me and Hamlet and hamburgers is at once both a miracle and the only possible outcome. On the one hand, we are creatures with an unprecedented ability to shape our own lives and destinies with unique thoughts and a sense of self-identity that gives us the extraordinarily human trait of personality. Where animals behave according to instinct, we decide, and ponder, and reflect, and analyze, and create with intellect. We seemingly have mastery over the earth and our souls. 

On the other hand, our very existence is predicated on a series of almost impossible odds. Even if you don’t subscribe to the idea that ancient single-celled organisms slowly evolved over millions of years to complex, perfectly adapted animals, you can even look back to the moment of your conception to realize that the random combination of materials that eventually formed a fetus could have been reorganized in a million other ways and produced an entirely different person. If our very existence depended on a series of random chances, how much free will do we really have?

So what are we, in the grand scheme? Are we a miracle species with free will, governing our own fate and captaining our own souls? Or are we simply a body set in motion, following a predetermined orbit from which we can never stray? 

All of these questions are worth asking when we think about prayer. If we believe that prayer achieves something, then we must consider our role in the prayer. Are we providing God with a petition he hasn’t heard or an argument he needs clarified? If our prayers are answered, is it a miracle or the only possible outcome? 

In other words: do we have free will?

Rather than answer that question today, I will end with this passage from the Psalms as a way of preparing our thoughts for the rest of the week.

Read: Psalm 139:1-6 NRSV

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

    you discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path and my lying down,

    and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

    O Lord, you know it completely.

You hem me in, behind and before,

    and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

    it is so high that I cannot attain it.