Great piece on God answering prayer this morning on Facebook by Pete Greig. so good I’ve copied it in full here:
When Jimmy Carter was president he also ran The White House tennis rota. God, in my experience, is not like that. He refuses to micromanage the universe. You simply don’t find him tinkering around with the tennis rota or fiddling with the laws of science every time a dissatisfied customer quotes a bible verse in prayer.
When you drop a brick on your toe it hurts your toe. Yes, the Father loves you. Yes he knows the number of hairs on your head and therefore presumably by extension also values the state of your toes. No, he doesn’t want you to suffer unnecessary pain. But he will sit back and let gravity do its thing. Bricks do not hover above the feet of cherished believers.
I have learned from the bible and from my own, personal experience that the Creator remains engaged and in ultimate control of life’s chaos. Bad things can become good things. Eventually. Dictators do get deposed. In the end. Tears get dried. Toes heal. The tennis rota improves.
The bible also describes miracles. Lots of them. Jesus repeatedly broke the laws of science. By turning water into wine he broke the laws of chemistry. By walking on water, he defied the law of gravity. He even broke the Second Law of Thermodynamics by rising from the dead. You get the idea.
This biblical catalogue of miraculous intervention resonates with my own experience. In the words of the soul band ‘Hot Chocolate’, ‘I believe in miracles’ (before they continue, less helpfully, ‘since you came along you sexy thing’). In seventeen years of 24-7 Prayer we have experienced many phenomenal moments of answered prayer (and if you want to read about these you’ll find ‘Dirty Glory’ comes pre-loaded!)
But the mind-bending, noodle-frying stories I recount in Dirty Glory took years to accumulate. I’ve condensed them together because, well, I didn’t want to bore you senseless with all the tedious, underwhelming stuff that happened in between. As C.S. Lewis said, miracles must, almost by definition, be rare! The Creator is not a cosmic slot machine, glowing passively in the corner, waiting to oblige our prayers with a can of Coke or peace in the Middle East. Neither is he a mad inventor continually tinkering with his inventions. And he certainly isn’t one of those ghastly helicopter parents, pouncing from the sky every time we might possibly make a mistake or get ourselves hurt. He is entirely relaxed about who plays who on the tennis courts next Thursday.
It’s not that God’s too busy with the world’s problems to arrange tennis matches. One of the good things about being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent is presumably that you can knock up a tennis rota fairly easily whilst also keeping an eye on Kim Jong-un and attending the latest Willow Creek conference. But God has intricately designed the Laws of Science to work for the best for the majority most of the time. If every bride had a sunny wedding day, every farmer would be praying for rain. The Laws of Science are explanations of the ways in which God mostly chooses to act.
And there’s another thing. God has also, it seems, chosen to leave space in life for humanity to play, to imagine, to create, to innovate, and even to make mistakes. The Creator of orchids appreciates our childish paintings enough to stick one or two of them on his ethereal fridge. As for the tennis rota, he would much rather sit back and let the Leader of the Free World (or Mrs Smith from Shamley Green), have a stab at it instead.
This week we discovered seven planets perfectly orbiting a star some forty light-years away. It seems to me that if God can organise solar systems he can certainly be trusted with the patterns of our lives.
But his guidance, when it comes, generally seems to speak more to matters of identity than destiny. Occasionally he intervenes dramatically but for the most part when I ask him sensible, objective, important questions like ‘where?’, ‘when?’ and ‘what?’, he replies with annoyingly subjective answers about ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘who’. I am transactional but he is infuriatingly, resolutely relational. I pray about some big decision and he merely says ‘I love you!’ I ask what I should do and he suggests ‘Let’s hang out’. I ask for a little help and he ventures ‘Be my friend’.
Time and time again the Great Choreographer and Friend of this tiny, frenetic soul, chooses to ignore the substance of my most urgent prayers in order to answer the deepest cries of my heart.