Backroads

Praying to change someone's heart vs agency

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Acknowledging the fact anyone can put whatever they feel like into a prayer...

Can we pray to change another's heart? Would Heavenly Father work on that person due to our prayer?

Such seems like a good thing to pray for, but then, what of agency? What becomes of that person's agency when we pray for a change in them?

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11 minutes ago, Backroads said:

Acknowledging the fact anyone can put whatever they feel like into a prayer...

Can we pray to change another's heart? Would Heavenly Father work on that person due to our prayer?

Such seems like a good thing to pray for, but then, what of agency? What becomes of that person's agency when we pray for a change in them?

I would suppose that the nature of agency and God's role in our salvation/exaltation is a balancing act that only He knows how to navigate properly.  In the meantime, we're asked to do all sorts of things that impact others' behavior.

1) Love our neighbor.
2) Preach the Gospel.
3) Serve others.
4) Pray for others that they may receive the Holy Ghost, that they may have their hearts softened.
5) Have a functioning justice system that punishes guilt.

etc.

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The example that immediately comes to mind is Alma the Elder’s prayers for Alma the Younger; but that sort of reinforces the original question. Did being confronted with the undeniable reality of an angel of God, somehow improperly influence Alma the Younger’s agency?  (Same question vis a vis Saul of Tarsus, actually . . .)  And if it doesn’t, then why don’t we see more supernatural messengers unambiguously testifying of the Gospel to unbelievers; and why is “the veil” that makes us forget our premortal interactions with God, necessary at all?

Hmm . . .

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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1 hour ago, Backroads said:

Acknowledging the fact anyone can put whatever they feel like into a prayer...

Can we pray to change another's heart? Would Heavenly Father work on that person due to our prayer?

Such seems like a good thing to pray for, but then, what of agency? What becomes of that person's agency when we pray for a change in them?

No matter who is influencing them, they much choose to change.

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1 hour ago, Backroads said:

Acknowledging the fact anyone can put whatever they feel like into a prayer...

Can we pray to change another's heart? Would Heavenly Father work on that person due to our prayer?

Such seems like a good thing to pray for, but then, what of agency? What becomes of that person's agency when we pray for a change in them?

I see no reason to not express our true thoughts to our Father in Heaven - but this is with the caveat that the reason we pray to our Father is to change ourselves - specifically to become more like our Father.  Definitely we must be honest to ourselves as well as to our Father and express all our concerns (especially our deepest concerns) and petition his help and assistance - especially in understanding what we can do to help him with helping and assisting others as well as ourselves.

 

The Traveler

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36 minutes ago, Traveler said:

I see no reason to not express our true thoughts to our Father in Heaven - but this is with the caveat that the reason we pray to our Father is to change ourselves - specifically to become more like our Father.  Definitely we must be honest to ourselves as well as to our Father and express all our concerns (especially our deepest concerns) and petition his help and assistance - especially in understanding what we can do to help him with helping and assisting others as well as ourselves.

 

The Traveler

Very well said.  My thoughts were along this line, but I couldn't articulate them.

I still sometimes fall into the mindset of treating God like a vending machine, or maybe more like a slot machine.  I put in my prayers, put in my effort and then hold out my hands for the blessings that may or may not come.    This isn't the case, most of the time. 

Edit: I recognize that there are blessings tied to following specific commandments.  But I think those are general for everyone and we're talking more about specific blessings for individuals.

Edited by dprh

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I'm singing the same song as always, nth verse:

We do not understand how these issues affect each other. I realize that sounds like a Catholic "mystery", but it is not. Such things are unknown and unknowable to the carnal mind. The spiritual mind can understand them, however. But such sacred revelation is private.

I confess (there's that Catholicism again :)) that I don't understand how praying for God to soften an oppressor's (or a friend's) heart works with the idea of agency. Perhaps the heart-softening is simply a glimpse of a better way that the recipient is given, then left to choose for himself. Surely this happens to us all. One whose heart is sufficiently hardened will not—cannot—have his heart softened by the spirit of God. For all but the most hardened of hearts, this change can come if they (the hard-hearted) allow it. So the prayer to soften hearts is not contradictory to the principle of agency.

That's my best shot at it, anyway.

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4 hours ago, Backroads said:

Acknowledging the fact anyone can put whatever they feel like into a prayer...

Can we pray to change another's heart? Would Heavenly Father work on that person due to our prayer?

Such seems like a good thing to pray for, but then, what of agency? What becomes of that person's agency when we pray for a change in them?

Can we pray to change another's heart?

Yes, we have the agency to pray to change a person's heart. How we go about that and what we say though is more important because of the most important principle in the gospel -- agency. @Carborendum already specified the notion of "softening" the heart.

Would Heavenly Father work on that person due to our prayer?

Yes, Heavenly Father will invite/entice that person if our prayers are given by the Spirit as in this scripture, "He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh." Would the Spirit ever entice us to ask the Father to effect/break the moral agency of another? No.

Such seems like a good thing to pray for, but then, what of agency? What becomes of that person's agency when we pray for a change in them?

Agency is always intact. When the Lord seeks to soften or send an angel (as @Just_A_Guy mentioned ) our moral agency always remains intact. The example of Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah are a good example of this. I love the angel's words to Alma, "And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered."

When dealing with other people a prayer can only be answered if the "person" themselves "chooses" to listen and act upon the invitation. Alma's moral agency was intact. He could have easily -- as with Laman and Lemuel -- denied the witness from the angel and continued on in rebellion.

It is my personal belief that there are a few reasons why these don't happen or do happen more:

1 - Promise or Covenant (i.e. Like @Traveler mentions often) -- what are the promises/covenants given to the father or individuals involved by the Lord? If there is no other way for the promise/covenant to be maintained -- God will intervene (i.e. send an angel) to keep his promise. Easiest example is the promise given to Lehi which would have only be kept through Nephi, and if the angel did not intervene what would have happened to Nephi?

2 - Faith - Grace - and all we can do -- In the sense with Alma the younger. This tells me Alma the Elder did everything he could to reclaim his son.

There are others but these two always enter my mind when it deals with a stronger (i.e. ministering angels) invitation

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4 hours ago, Backroads said:

Acknowledging the fact anyone can put whatever they feel like into a prayer...

Can we pray to change another's heart? Would Heavenly Father work on that person due to our prayer?

Such seems like a good thing to pray for, but then, what of agency? What becomes of that person's agency when we pray for a change in them?

I think it’s always always always a good thing to pray for someone. It’s a great question you are asking @Backroads, though I don’t think it interferes with their agency. 

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5 hours ago, Backroads said:

Acknowledging the fact anyone can put whatever they feel like into a prayer...

Can we pray to change another's heart? Would Heavenly Father work on that person due to our prayer?

Such seems like a good thing to pray for, but then, what of agency? What becomes of that person's agency when we pray for a change in them?

I don’t understand prayer. Nor do so understand priesthood blessings or fasting. I try to rationalize how it all works all the time and I find myself running the mental circles.

Here is what I do understand: Praying in faith for good things and being specific with those prayers brings miracles.

Whether the thing is worthy or not worthy of taking to to pray for… I don’t know… if it’s good, pray for it 

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1 hour ago, Vort said:

I confess (there's that Catholicism again :)) that I don't understand how praying for God to soften an oppressor's (or a friend's) heart works with the idea of agency.

Well how do you understand the idea of how walking up to someone else and punching them in the mouth works with agency? How is asking God to do that for you any different? (Assuming that getting punched in the mouth is what "softens" their heart/resolve).

I think it's pretty straightforward if we look at agency as what it is instead of the convoluted ideas that seem to be out there. Agency is choice and accountability. It's that we are accountable for the choices we make.

Therefore, if we aren't able to make a choice (aka, I didn't choose to get punched in the mouth by Vort), then we aren't accountable.

God softening someone's heart doesn't have anything more to do with agency than God sending one person down to be born in poverty outside the gospel and another to be born into wealth inside the gospel. Both individuals stand accountable for the choices they make. If God interferes in choices (like killing people in a flood, commanding one to kill another, etc.) then the people affected by that lack of choice aren't accountable for it. Nor are they rewarded for it.

Now how this idea plays into the original question isn't quite as straight forward. But I think @Traveler hit the nail on the head in his reply.

Edit: I understand that I'm oversimplifying. That's intentional. There are, indeed, clearly mysteries in how this will all work out.

Edited by The Folk Prophet

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22 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

Well how do you understand the idea of how walking up to someone else and punching them in the mouth works with agency?

How does a person get this calling? (Asking for a friend (who needs a good mouth-punch))

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DISCLAIMER: I'm about to go far into the field of speculation and a Star Trek multiverse mentality.  This is in no way a declaration of doctrine, nor can I back this up with any doctrine I'm aware of.  But if this were true, it would explain an awful lot.

Postulates:

  • God can see the perfect outcome of our lives provided all the variables at the moment of our birth.
  • God can see multiple outcomes based on certain interventions by man or Divinity or seemingly random acts of nature.
  • Given infinite initial variables and infinite interventions, He is able so see just how far anyone can go because of their initial nature as pre-spirit-embodied intelligences.

I would then theorize/hypothesize that in some multiverse setting,

  • There are some people who will only be able to go so far even given the most favorable conditions.
  • There are some people who will only fall so far even given the worst possible conditions.
  • In some universe, everyone is given the opportunity to go as far as they can possibly go given the right circumstances.
  • In some other universe(s), everyone also knows just how far they can fall given the wrong circumstances.
  • Because of these infinite experiences, we all know our eternal destiny is perfectly justified.
  • Those who are exalted can know how best to succor future generations in the eternities.

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Ah, praying for something to happen to someone else, because you figure they deserve it or need it.    I mean, don't get me wrong, I pray for my kids all the time.  That they will be able to find their path through their challenges, that they can come to the wisdom they need, stuff like that.  That's about as nice and charitable as I can find to ask God to help them grow the crap up and stop being so [whatever brought me to prayer at the time].

I just understand go away from those prayers with the understanding that if God doesn't give them the kick in the pants I figure they need, it's not a problem with God.

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On 7/15/2021 at 11:08 PM, Backroads said:

Such seems like a good thing to pray for, but then, what of agency? What becomes of that person's agency when we pray for a change in them?

I suspect that the impact of such a prayer, if acted upon by divine powers, would be, at the most, nothing more than one influence on the subject's decision making process, and not an elmination or overthrow of their agency. Influence on a person's agency is not the same as a nullification of that agency. 

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I don't think God can or at least is willing to change a person's heart. That would severely encroach upon a person's agency. What he can and does do is entice them to have a change of heart. This not only does not encroach upon a person's agency but makes agency possible.

2 Nephi 2:16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.

I think often these enticements come in the form of experiences that help us see more clearly what he is offering and then leaving it up to that person to choose to accept or reject it. 

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