Miracle Story: Selfless Prayers are Also the Best

It’s become fashionable to demand that God perform a miracle, “prove” Himself to you, as a condition of your belief. 

I have to be honest, I find this offensive.

I’m not talking about Bob Seidensticker and his request. I am referring to those “show me or else” lugs who seem to regard being offensive to Christians as their reason for living.

I can not lose the idea that no matter how ignorant these people undoubtedly are, they are still arrogant beyond comprehension.

I love Jesus. The idea that anyone would treat Him as a sort a divine trained seal appalls me.

Of course, I have to confess that did I try this kind of thing once, myself.

If I remember correctly, I was in the third grade. I sat at my desk in school and stared down at a sheet of math problems that I did not want to answer. Did I want to go play? Or did I just hate math? I don’t remember that part. But I do remember closing my eyes and praying; asking/telling God that when I opened my eyes, I wanted the math problems answered and ready to turn in.

I opened my eyes. The spaces for the answers would were still blank.

This wasn’t a faith-shattering experience for me. Even in the third grade, I knew that what I was demanding was a cheat. But it did teach me a small lesson about God.

Based on the thinking of some professional atheists, my unanswered math questions prayer would be a “proof” of a sort that there is no god. What they want is to put God in a test tube of their devising and then demand that He turn straw to gold or water to wine or some such while they time Him with a stop watch and tape it for future reference. They probably would also like for God to repeat this trick a few times just to be sure.

I have a feeling that if God actually did come through with a few tricks for them, they wouldn’t even so much as toss Him a fish. If your whole social structure is built on not believing in something, it’s going to take more than a few flaps of the celestial flippers to change your mind. Of course, I think I can make that assumption without testing it since I doubt that the Almighty is going to treat their demands for “proof” any differently than he did my demands for answers to math questions.

You see, while the comparison between the two events may seem a trifle extreme, they really are of a type. There isn’t much difference between an 8-year-old praying to be exempted from doing her math and a 40-year-old demanding a miracle or else he’ll keep on disbelieving.

Based on my walk with Christ, I am fairly certain that God doesn’t do parlor tricks for the enrichment and amusement of the jeering section. I doubt very much that you will ever be able to stand on a stage and perform answered prayers for a paying audience. I know that some people have pretended to do this down through the years, but deliberate frauds are … well … deliberate frauds.

What God does do, and rather consistently, is answer the humble prayers of true believers who are asking for things that contribute to the greater good rather than their own benefit. As a for-instance, I offer my friend Linda Cavanah.

I’ve written about Linda a couple of times before, and I expect I will write about her again in the future. God rescued her from the pit and she has followed through by rescuing others from the same pit where she was trapped. Her ministry, All Things New, rescues women and children from sex trafficking and prostitution.

The part of her story I find relevant to the discussion of prayer and miracles is the way she has raised money and put this ministry together. To be honest, she confounds me. I thought I had faith until I started working with her.

Here’s one example. Her car broke down. Linda drives many thousands of miles each month starting shelters for women and managing them. You have no idea how much work goes into this. She runs the wheels off her cars. This time, her car was irrevocably broken.

I asked her what she was going to do. She said, “I’m going to pray for another car.” A couple of days later, she called me and said that a family (who she did not previously know) had called her and said that while they were praying, it came into their heads to call her and offer to donate their car to her ministry.

Another time, she was trying to help a woman who had just been rescued and who needed a lot of medical care. There was no money for this kind of extensive care. I didn’t even ask her where she was going to get the money. I knew if I did, she’d tell me she was going to pray.

I can’t remember exactly how long it was; just a few days later, that we were talking and she said that she going to have lunch with a woman the next day. Just a networking meeting, the kind of thing she does all the time. No big deal. She called me after the lunch and said the woman just wrote out a check (without knowing how much was needed) that would exactly cover the medical expenses. Linda told her, “You just saved someone’s life.”

I could go on. I mean I could go on and on and on and on with these stories. Each one of these answered prayers might easily be a coincidence. But taken together (and I’m talking about years of examples like these) you start getting into a preponderance of the evidence type situation. One coincidence is a coincidence. Repeated, reliable coincidences begin to seem like they are most likely something else, especially when they seem so absolutely intentional.

God answers prayers when He wants to do so. He doesn’t appear to give a care about answering prayer as a performance art. I think this is because God isn’t a blind, unthinking and unfeeling force. He is a personality. He doesn’t just react. He chooses.

Notice, God didn’t set up a printing press and print off the money Linda needed. He didn’t erect a factory and build the car. He didn’t even go abracadabra poof! and conjure these things up. He sent another person. His gift of love was, to paraphrase Shakespeare, twice blessed in that it blessed both the women who are struggling to escape prostitution, and it blessed the person who wrote the check or donated the car. Like any loving and wise parent, God lets us do our part.

God loves us from death to life. Then He inspires us to do the same for one another. I think that is the most important miracle of all.

Honest Prayer and Saying Yes to God

Bob Seidensticker, one of our friendly atheists here at Patheos, writes at Cross Examined.

Bob has been posting about his participation in a 40 Day Prayer Experiment.

I often tell people who doubt God’s existence to do something very similar.

What I tell them is to pray honestly for five minutes each day for 30 days. I don’t think it will take 30 days. I choose that number because it sounds good — serious — to them.

The key is honesty. It’s fine, in fact it’s good, to pray “I’m doing this because Rebecca and I have a bet and I don’t believe in you at all.” If that’s the truth, pray it.

Then, at the end of the 30 days, you come back and tell me that God is not real.

The reason I do this is because I know from personal experience that if you open yourself up to God with honesty, He will reach out to you. If Bob Seidensticker prays honestly for 40 days, he’ll know.

The question for each of us is not whether or not God is there, or if He’ll answer an honest prayer. The question is, do we have the courage to admit it and to follow through with it when God answers us? When we meet God, it’s not just a cocktail party introduction that means nothing. An encounter with the living God means everything, and I mean everything. 

Once you know, not only that God is real, but that He loves you with an ecstatic and all encompassing love, nothing that you thought or believed or have done is off limits to the transforming power of His presence in your heart. That’s the scary part. It’s also where most Christians set limits on their faith, or even where they turn back altogether.

If you really reach out and let Jesus take hold of your hand, you have to let go of all the worldly ideas and relationships you were holding in that hand. You will be, in Jesus’ words, “born again” into a new and fuller self than you ever were before. But like all births, this one can be painful. The life you’ve lived will not longer fit you. The people you’ve known will often no longer like you. It’s a big step from what you’ve made of yourself to what God wants you to be. It would be impossible if you had to do it alone.

However, once you open your heart to the living God, you will never face any challenge alone and unaided again. As the old hymn says, “He will go with you until the end.”

Prayer, entered into honestly, is an open doorway into the divine. My advice to anyone taking up the 40 Day Prayer Experiment or something of its type is not to over-think it. Don’t sit there analyzing every twitch and itch. Don’t worry about how to pray or what to say. God knows everything about you already. Just be honest. Talk to God honestly. My prayer for you is that when He answers — and He will — that you will have the courage to answer Him with a life-changing, soul-saving yes.

My Heart Aches for America

America suffered another tragic shooting today.

The Reverend Billy Graham published a letter to America a few weeks ago that seems almost to speak of it when he says, “My heart aches for America.”  Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote:

Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).

I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle. 

Just a few weeks ago in a prominent city in the South, Christian chaplains who serve the police department were ordered to no longer mention the Name of Jesus in prayer. It was reported that during a recent police-sponsored event, the only person allowed to pray was someone who addressed “the being in the room.” Similar scenarios are now commonplace in towns across America. Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone—except God.

Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control. 

My heart aches for America and its deceived people. The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was the lone world superpower—wealthy, unconcerned, and self-centered. When the Prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, people heard and repented.

I believe the same thing can happen once again, this time in our nation. 

I believe that Rev Graham is right. Revival can come to our nation. But we need to stop waiting for a politician or a preacher on a white horse to bring it. It’s up to us, Jesus’ followers, no matter who we are or where we live, to do our part in bringing the Kingdom. We know the antidote to evil. It isn’t something we can “give” to other people like a dose of medicine. We have to live it out in front of them so that they will “catch” it from us. 

We can do that by living our faith in the simple dailiness of our lives. We can do it by not cutting corners, not cheating, lying, stealing, hurting others. We can do it by keeping our promises, including the ones we made when we said “I do.” We can do it by being there with our children in the dailiness of their lives.

We can do it by holding our heads up and being proud, not of ourselves, but of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. No American Christian should ever stand idly by while Jesus is insulted and degraded in front of them. Unlike many of our brothers and sisters, we do not face death for standing up for Jesus. We may be ridiculed or lose a few of the people we pal around with, but we won’t be burned alive or beheaded. 

Don’t let anyone bully you into behaving as if you are ashamed of Jesus. Be civil. Be courteous. But also be resolute. Uncomfortable silence in the face of deliberate mockery of Our Lord is a form of assent. 

We bring the Kingdom to those around us when we live it. Make no mistake about it; courage attracts, faithfulness slowly changes mockery into respect, and love heals. We should live our lives in such a way that other people know without being told that Jesus Christ is our Lord. That is our calling. 


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