Thursday, May 14, 2009

Prayer; does it make any difference?

Reading the first chapter, I am reminded that "doubt" and "questioning" are cherished values among many Christians--liberals, evangelicals and fundamentalists. I like Philip Yancey's writing--he's an editor of Christianity Today. In His Image that he wrote with Brand is one of the most wonderful titles I've ever read. But he is so tortured with doubts and questions from minutiae to mountains from his early upbringing in a fundamentalist church, that I really have to slog through his, "is it this," "is it that," "dare I be dogmatic, and make a final judgement" style. I'm reading his book on prayer because I'm in a group, and . . . well, I like the group.

For example, in Chapter One he grabs me immediately with the first sentence--"I chose the wrong time to visit St. Petersburg, Russia. I went in November of 2002 just as the city was reconstructing itself to prepare . . . " You see, I was there in 2006 and it seemed it was reconstructing itself for the G-8--in fact, our tour had been cancelled for fear of problems and the take over of our hotel, so we were reassigned to another group of six--we called ourselves the G-6. Yancey goes on to tell of a chain of events that led to a prayer of last resort. Even as I'm reading I'm thinking, "How dumb is this American--jogging in a construction zone, in the dark, in a city controlled by the Russian mafia, during the Chechen rebellion, in a country where it's not safe to go to the hospital?" In desperation, after doing a string of really stupid, unsafe things, including taking aspirin and sleeping after a head injury, he struggled to an Internet cafe where he figured out the Cyrillic alphabet before the time runs out so he can send an e-mail to friends. . . "We need help. Please pray."

Do you know what the footnote on that page says? "Everything healed fine. And the request for prayer had one very practical benefit. The wife of my dentist, who was on the prayer team and received the message, immediately reserved an appointment for me so that the day after my return from Russia I had a root canal procedure!"

Here's a famous Christian author, beginning a book with an incredible story of answered prayer, and he makes the whole thing sound like a happy coincidence in the dentist office! I haven't finished the book, so maybe he has a follow-up somewhere else in the book.

That's what bothers me about doubting, questioning, faithless (in prayer, in service, in politics) Christians. It's not that God can't handle the doubts, just read the Psalms or Job, but it sure doesn't do much for those bystanders watching and listening who have no faith at all to read about those who have faith and still question how God is going to get them through the messes they create.

No comments: