Prayer has been on our minds here at Patheos. One of our atheist colleagues has committed himself to the 40 Day Prayer Experiment. This caused quite a bit of comment and even derision among the faithful, including, at first, me. I saw it as mocking God. When my atheist blogger friend added a request that someone tell him about any miracles they’d seen, I was even more put out. “Putting God to the test.” I huffed.
What changed my attitude was … drumroll … prayer.
I prayed and got one of those thumps on the head that I so often get. It’s not my job to strip the hide off people who make fun of faith. Even more so, it’s not my job to just automatically assume that every effort to pray and see if God is really there is, in fact, mocking Him. It’s just possible that it’s honest inquiry by someone who’s open to admitting it when God answers them.
My job … itty, bitty ahem … is to be faithful and stand for Jesus. Oh, I can shut them down if they get abusive. Nobody has to take abuse for no good reason. But I can’t turn around and attack back. As for going out and starting the fight in the first place … nu-uh.
The interesting part of all this isn’t that I am, once again, proven to be a sinner who needs God’s help to get even the smallest things right. The interesting part is that this was a small-time miracle of grace. God thumped me on the head. Because of that unsolicited head thump, I deleted an atheist-bashing post I had already written and was feeling pretty proud of.
God thumped me on the head. Think about it.
While you’re thinking, consider the witness of Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani spent 1,000 days in an Iranian prison. He faced execution. All for the crime of mistakenly being identified as a convert to Christianity from Islam when he was, in fact, born into a Christian family.
If he was faking his faith, I imagine he would have recanted and given it up at some point in this ordeal. If he was, as some of our unbelieving friends try to claim, having delusions of religious experience, these delusions must have been consistently benign and durable.
They also must have been among the most positive, life-saving, emotionally healthy delusions on record. I say that because Pastor Nadarkhani came out of prison rejoicing in the power of prayer, grace and the real presence of Christ in our darkest corners.
“I have been put to the test, the test of faith, which is, according to Scriptures ‘more precious than perishable gold.’” he said. “But I have never felt loneliness … The Lord has wonderfully provided through the trial, allowing me to face the challenges that were in front of me. As the Scriptures say, ‘He will not allow us to be tested beyond our strength. …”
All I can say is that must have been some mighty fine praying Pastor Nadarkhani and his supporters engaged in. It’s must also have been some mighty fine self-deluding.
I know that some people will disagree with me when I say this, and that is fine. But God is real, my friends. His miracles are all around us.
Read an article about Pastor Nadarkhani below.
TEHRAN (BP) — The Iranian pastor who spent more than 1,000 days in prison simply for being a Christian has written an open letter saying Christ provided for his needs while behind bars and thanking those around the world for praying for him.
“I have been put to the test, the test of faith which is, according to the Scriptures ‘more precious than perishable gold,’” the pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, wrote Sept. 8 in a letter that was translated into English. It was posted on the website of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ.org).
“But I have never felt loneliness, I was all the time aware of the fact that it wasn’t a solitary battle, for I have felt all the energy and support of those who obeyed their conscience and fought for the promotion of the justice and the rights of all human beings. … The Lord has wonderfully provided through the trial, allowing me to face the challenges that were in front of me. As the Scriptures say, ‘He will not allow us to be tested beyond our strength. …”
Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 while registering his church in Rasht, Iran, although he initially was arrested for protesting his children being taught Islam in school, according to ACLJ. He was charged with apostasy for supposedly abandoning Islam and later was given a death sentence. (Read more here.)