Christians frequently pray, “Almighty God, speak to me through today’s sermon so that I may be enlightened regarding Your will for my life; inspire my Sunday School teacher to deliver a message that will lighten my burden; teach my church how to meet its financial obligations; teach the pastoral search committee how to identify the right pastor for our church.” You may repeat the same sorts of prayers dozens of times as would a baby Christian who has developed no discernment, no wisdom and no ability to listen to God. In all probability, God has already answered these prayers and is waiting for you and your church to show some Christian maturity and good judgement. But, somehow, we derive a comforting spirituality from feigning ignorance and repeating the same prayers.
What if a preacher or teacher hinted, in a sermon or Sunday School message, the possibility that your source of income is unethical and that you are doing a disservice to Jesus Christ? Would you accept this message even though it doesn’t fit your financial aspirations? What if God sent multiple signals that your church is unlikely to survive continued financial mismanagement? Would your church change direction and make some hard decisions? What if the pastoral search committee grew weary of their mission and simply picked a convenient candidate in spite of many red flag warnings that they were making a mistake? Would you insist that God bless this candidate as His choice for the church? God may grow weary of repeatedly responding to the same prayers when His response is ignored and no one is growing in wisdom and judgement?
Perhaps God would prefer that we focus our prayers on the miraculous and the impossible rather than issues that we, as maturing Christians, should be able to work out for ourselves? But curiously, we don’t like to pray for the miraculous and the impossible. After all, we might be embarrassed and look like fools when the prayers are not answered.
When someone is in Hospice Care, it is easy to pray the following prayer and have some feeling of eventual certainty:
Almighty God, grant to the dying peace and a holy death and uphold, by the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit, those who are bereaved.
But what about prayer for healing? What about prayer for the impossible and the miraculous? Jesus had something to say on this subject:
Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it shall happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive (Mat 21:21-22).