Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Illogical Prayer?

You know, we Christians pray this way a lot. And I'm not sure it makes any sense at all.

Basically, the writer of Psalm 77 is crying out to God for help. Pretty desperate- he seems to have some serious problem, though we're not told what it is. Then he gets super-honest, which is great:

"Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"

And then he begins to talk about what God has done for the nation of Israel in the past- bringing them out of Egypt, parting the Red Sea, sending Moses and Aaron to lead them. And he finds comfort in that. God's past actions prove him to be faithful, powerful, and loving. Fantastic.

Image source.
But... uh... here's the problem. So... God did an amazing, powerful miracle to rescue all those people... and therefore he should help me? What if he only sees people from a distance and can't see an individual's needs? I mean, yeah he loves people so he'll do these big things that benefit large groups, but what does it matter if one person here or there is suffering?

And that miracle- bringing the Israelites out of Egypt- is such a big deal precisely because it's the kind of thing that doesn't happen every day. How does it make any sense to pray "God help me like you did when you did that miracle"? It's a miracle precisely because God doesn't really ever do that for people.

But I've prayed like this so many times. Something in my life reminds me of a bible story, and I pray for God to move with power like he did in the story. As if my life is so important that it can compare to a biblical epic.

Okay, wait. What if the point of miracles, the meaning behind them, isn't "we're bending the laws of physics how cool is that" but in what they reveal about God's character? And that's why they were written down for us? The bible has these accounts of huge miracles not so we can say "something really amazing happened to a handful of people back in the day, good for them" but so we can learn about who God is- the living God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Maybe? I don't know, just throwing some ideas out here.

Because it is a leap of logic to think that something that happened to a small minority of people in the past should determine how God acts toward me right now. And that's what the writer of Psalm 77 does.

Should we pray like that or not? Why were the miracles in the bible recorded? Miracles are so rare (that's why they're miracles) so do they even matter in our lives at all? And how do we know if God's love is for people in general or actual individual people?


This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 77. To read other people's posts, click here: When We Don’t Feel Like Worshipping.


  1. I think the Psalm is based on God's covenant with Israel, and the psalmist is thinking on these evidences of God's covenant in special care for the nation, because he is a member of that nation and can also expect God in some way to help him too.

  2. I love the questions you have been raising in response to the Psalms!

    I do think there is a piece of this that becomes covenant-related when we're looking at the Old Testament. But I also think that there aren't really any "illogical" prayers, maybe only "illogical" expectations. I think prayer is a time to be honest- to say, "God this is what I really want." But then also, "Help me to see what you are doing and how you are going to act." Sometimes he does do miracles. And I think sometimes He does do them for individuals, too.

    When I think of my kids, I never get upset with them when they ask for outrageous things. I often say no, but in the asking, I see more of their heart, and an able to connect in a new way that I couldn't have if they hadn't asked.

  3. thehaleyplanet.wordpress.comNovember 3, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    I just came across your blog, and I really love it!

    I think that many times when we pray for big, miraculous things, we're praying self-centered prayers. Like, God, please work this big thing for ME. Because I want it. I don't think there's anything wrong with praying for things that you want (good for me because I'm very selfish and I pray for things I want all the time), but we need to be more focused on doing what God wants rather than trying to get God to do what we want.