Saturday, September 1, 2012

"It would have happened anyway."

All right, we're gonna bring this small group meeting to a close now- time for prayer requests!

"My family's traveling to Chicago- pray that we have a safe flight."
"My sister is sick today- pray that God heals her."
"Pray that we all get through final exams!"

And sometimes I roll my eyes at this. Do you know how many hundreds of planes take off from every airport in the United States every day? And ALL OF THEM are fine? And okay, your sister has the common cold. God better intervene on this one or she might miss a whopping 2 days of school! Also, guess what- no matter what happens, a week from now all the finals will be over.

You have access to the power that created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead, and all you can think to ask is that your luggage doesn't get lost? Image source.

(So, in other words, perfectnumber likes to judge other people's prayer requests...)

But that's not what I want to write about today. I want to write about when we pray for something and then it happens.

Suppose I prayed for the safe flight to Chicago. And then I had a safe flight to Chicago.

If I don't stop and thank God, I'm kind of a jerk.

Ah come on, thousands of people have "a safe flight to Chicago" every day. (67 million passengers came through O'Hare International Airport in 2011. Oh dude, I just realized I'm one of them!)  Regardless of whether they prayed for it. God didn't do anything- it would have happened anyway.

All right, if you're so sure "it would have happened anyway," then why did you pray for it?

Sometimes I pray for stuff, and it's stuff that I totally expect to happen, so I don't even remember that I prayed about it- I definitely don't remember to thank God.

And I wish I remembered more.

But it's not big epic stuff. It's not "oh look at the awesome power of God answering prayer." It's just a plane and a clear sky and a pilot who has done this exact same route for the past 10 years. It's just me not getting sick on the first day of school. It's just a good grade on an easy physics test.

"Thank you, God, that I didn't have to draw an elephant on my exam." Image source.

When I pray, do I really think I'm talking to God? Because if I'm not gonna take him seriously when he does what I asked, why should he take me seriously when I pray?

Yes, we could debate whether "it would have happened anyway." But the fact is that I prayed for it and then it happened, and it's a slap in the face to decide that "nope, that wasn't God, that would have happened anyway."

Because either I was not certain that "it would have happened anyway", so that's why I prayed, or I just pray things that I don't mean at all. I just say the stuff you're supposed to say. Yeah God, help us be safe, help us have fun, thank you for the food and the hands that made it.

(Actually I personally never use the "hands that made it" line because I take everything literally and it sounds like some disembodied hands made pasta for us...)

Dig in! Image source.

What to do? What if I completely forget I prayed for something? How to remind myself to check later and see if God did it and then thank him?

Realizing my tendency to be kind of a jerk in this area (by not remembering to thank God) has caused me to focus more on prayer lately. To dedicate time to pray every day with no distractions (with my computer off). To think about people I know- friends and family- by name, and pray for them. To be thankful for everything God has given me, and lay out all my concerns about my future in front of him.

And I pray that God keeps reminding me to do that.

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