Monday, April 18, 2011

Oh Ye of Little Faith!

I've mentioned before (long, long time ago now) that I'm not a big church-goer, but that my faith in God is nevertheless very important to me. In that same post I mentioned that I believe in the power of prayer and qualified it by saying that I don't mean that God always answers in the way we want him to.

But what happens when our prayers are answered as we hope? My friend Joe posted a link to a news article about a church that got what it prayed for (the rather spectacular demise of the beer joint nearby), then denied its prayer had any effect.

As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, “I don't know how I’m going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not.”
I've seen it happen before: heartfelt prayer is sent up; an immediate, compassionate answer is received; those who joined in the prayer pooh-pooh that the two are connected.

Man. If I were God, I'd be flipping the bird.

Let me share three personal stories with you. These are not parables or miracles, and I am not stretching the truth.

Bringing the Dead to Life

Mere days after I returned from my summer mission trip, I went to a Christian camp for a long weekend. Truth be told, I was hoping to rekindle a romance with an ex-boyfriend. It didn't work, though he was very friendly and talked about the girl he'd met who eventually became his wife. I made a few new friends, however. Somehow I had never made arrangements to get home and my parents had gone on their own summer vacation to northern Ontario. One of my new friends offered to drive two hours out of his way to get me home.

When departure time came, however, his little beater of a car would not start. Not a click, not a whine. Nada. Finally (isn't it always a last resort?), I suggested we pray. We stepped away from the lifted hood, joined hands in faith, and prayed.

The car started on the first crank.

My new friend confided that he was somewhat ashamed that he hadn't thought to pray sooner.

Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!

I was at a women's Bible study in Alabama and we were waiting for our leader to arrive. She was walking from a fair distance away, and it was night time. The later she became, the more we worried. Our host's husband went out driving to look for her. Again, I suggested we pray.

We bowed our heads and I briefly and plainly spoke our concerns and asked God not just to find her, but to find her soon.

About 30 seconds after we said amen, she walked through the door.

I said, "Who says God doesn't answer prayers?"

"Well, but she was already on her way here by the time we prayed," someone pointed out.

The Lost Sheep, Part II

Late one afternoon, I realized that Peter, then 14 years old, was nowhere to be found. He'd gone missing before (usually getting on the wrong bus or deciding to make his own way home without letting us know), but this time was different. He was depressed and had left a note saying that felt he wasn't wanted and was going to go where someone did love him. And that he felt life might not be worth living.

I printed out recent pictures of him with our phone number and drove around the neighbourhood asking if anyone had seen him. I explained that he had Asperger Syndrome. No one had seen him.

I returned home and called the police. They asked if he was capable of feeding and dressing himself. Yes, of course! Well then, they would not follow up. I mentioned his note - that he might be suicidal. That got a reaction.

I gathered Emily and Brian into my arms and asked them to pray with me as I cried sloppy, snotty tears. Again, I stressed to God the urgency of our plea: "Please, Lord, bring him home NOW!"

Seconds later - truly no more than 15 seconds - Peter stepped jauntily through the door, happy to be home, completely oblivious to our despair. I held him and told him that he was loved, that it would break my heart to lose him, that I would cry forever.

The doorbell rang. I opened the door to the man who had found him and who simply wanted to be sure that Peter was safe and that someone was home with him. He told how he'd found Peter on the highway heading north, toward Canada, and how he refused to believe Peter's lies.

I thanked him, but didn't get his name. (He was certainly our hero, but was he also an angel?) I didn't even offer him a cup of tea! I was just completely overwhelmed with joy that my son was back.

Now, I'm a pretty rational woman. I like scientific evidence as much as the next person. If someone wrote these into a script, I'd laugh. And I could write all the rational rebuttals myself (so I'll save you time):
  • The car was probably "flooded" and just needed time to rest.
  • The Bible-study leader was already "found" before you even started praying, the result of your host's husband's efforts.
  • Your son was already on your street before you prayed - a result of your driving around with all those flyers.
All that to say, "Prayer had nothing to do with it. It would have happened that way regardless."

I have three comments.

One: I believe that God does not operate in linear time the way we do. I suppose that falls under the "omnipresent" heading. Why, in heaven's name, could he not hear a prayer and retroactively set in motion the answer to that prayer?

Two: I can understand those comments coming from non-believers, but from Christians? Who profess to believe in prayer? Who were there when it happened? What does God have to do? Strike you with a lightning bolt (like a sleazy pub)?

Three: How do you know that it would have happened the same way even if I had not prayed? You have no more evidence for that position than I do for mine.

I've never considered myself a woman "of great faith," but maybe I've underestimated it.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1
By that definition, I have faith.
[Jesus]  replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
Matthew 17:20
P.S. If anyone has suggestions on how to get teenagers to move as readily as those mountains, please let me know.


  1. I have had a number of miracles in my life, too, in answer to prayer. My objection is usually, "Why would the omnipotent God be concerned at all with my insignificant problem?" So either God doesn't exist at all (and I'm very lucky) or else he does exist and loves me enough to care about my trifling troubles (so I'm even more lucky). Lucky me!

  2. I like Steve's comment! And I love this post! My favorite "trifling troubles" moment was recently on one of my long practice runs... Stacey and I were heading up a long hill and were wearing down quickly when there was a sudden gust of wind from behind. We both laughed and said "thank you, God!" which was immediately followed by a gust that practically lifted us off our feet and carried us to the top. Explain it how you will, but when you know it was God, you just know. I am definitely a believer in the power of prayer!

  3. Yup, I think Steve's comment nails it. What a wonderful experience, Diane. To think that you quite literally felt the hand of God!

  4. Just re-read this old post. Love it!


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