Tuesday, August 20, 2002

'Oh God, Not Today!'

I am often troubled when I hear someone say, "I know God saved me!" because that would imply that God chose not to save some other person. One can look at the evacuation of the WTC as a miracle, because "only" 2,800 some people were killed (no final number has been reported, and the total shrunk by four yesterday). But one can also say "Why didn't God hear the prayers of the 2,800 who did not get out?"

At the same time, there are double blind studies that suggest prayer does have a measurable influence on medical outcomes. I linked to them any number of times when I first started this blog. (I have yet to hear an atheist address them, by the way.)

What makes me uncomfortable is the certainty with which a person proclaims God's salvation. For this certainty, that the Hand of God interfered in my life in such a tangible way, holds many dangers in it. When a prayer is answered in the negative, the outcome for the person may be fearsome. The tendency to say "My spouse was saved because he goes to church. Look what happened to your spouse, who does not go!" is a constant temptation.

For myself, the compromise I have struck with such "flare prayers" is to ask for a specific outcome, but periodically to insert the phrase "if it is in accord with Your will." This reminds me of the idea that God sometimes says "no" to prayers, and that His reasons may appear inscrutable.


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