On Prayer #1: Prayer Baffles Me

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Prayer baffles me. I know it’s important, and I find myself drawn to pray. But I don’t get it. Here’s why.

A few years back I went to a midweek prayer group in a somewhat agitated state. My very old Apple laptop had just frozen for the umpteenth time and I’d lost a couple of hours work. Yes this was back in the days when even Apple laptops crashed! When the members of my prayer group heard what had happened they enthusiastically announced they would pray about it. This made me even more agitated. “Please don’t. I’m sure there are much more important things for God to handle than my frozen computer.” But they would not be deterred. Much to my annoyance pray they did.

“Lord, you know Scott’s frustration. Please resolve these computer problems.”

“Lord, you know the service Scott gives as pastor of our church. We don’t want anything to hinder that, not even computer crashes. Please fix these problems”

“Lord, please spare me from these crazy prayers” I muttered under my breath.

The prayer meeting finished and I went home. As I walked in the front door the phone was ringing. On the line was a guy I knew from another church, someone I hadn’t had much contact with for a year or two. “This might sound strange” he said, “but I’ve got a computer for you in the boot of my car. Can I drop it off tonight? The only hitch is it’s an Apple, so you may not have the software you’ll need.”

I stood rebuked. I had a need. My friends had prayed. God had answered.

Nonetheless prayer baffles me. Episodes like this convince me that God does answer prayer. What baffles me is why he chooses to answer prayers like this one, yet appears silent on things that are much more important. Why answer those prayers about a computer but remain silent as the same group pray for healing for chronically ill members of the congregation? Why spectacularly answer my father’s prayer for healing from his addiction to nicotine, yet leave unanswered the prayers of others for the same?

If God is capricious or fickle it would make perverted sense. But the God revealed by Jesus is loving, wise and good.

So it bugs me to say it because I like to have things figured out, but I just don’t get it. All I can do is trust that my loving, wise and good God will do what is loving, wise and good. And in a strange way prayer reminds me of that. As I pray “your kingdom come, your will be done” I am reminded that all the pain, suffering and trouble of this life are not the way it’s supposed to be and will be overcome when God’s reign is one day made universal. In the meantime, amidst the world’s messiness, violence, and dysfunction, which have no underlying rhyme or reason, I see glimpses of God’s reign in the small ways God answers prayer even if I am baffled by those times he appears silent. And maybe that’s enough to help me navigate life.

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4 Comments on "On Prayer #1: Prayer Baffles Me"

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Mick Fairlie
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Hi Scott, This is for me the whole point,- faith/trust vs understanding(albeit limited). We are told to work out our own salvation, so that implies to me a responsability to critically examine what motivates me, and to try to choose (often unsuccesfully) that which leads to a life that has meaning beyond consumerism, or dogma. Hindsight is sometimes a bitter vista, but one I am compelled to view, and give reluctant thanks for the lesson it now gives. Even though I still pray, I am uncomfortable with the form of language that seems stuck in 19th century war idioms, is… Read more »
Dave Richards
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Yes, prayer baffles me as well. I remember a time where I made it a condition of my kids that they ask me any other sort of question before one that started with “will you” or “can I”. Of course prayer is a lot broader and deeper than getting God to ‘meet our needs’, but it is certainly a point where the rubber hits the road (or knees hit the floor); compatible with a loving-father God. I too have had many instances where amazing things have happened – and not happened – as a ‘result’ of prayer. To be honest… Read more »
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