Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Petitionary Prayer

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I’ve had a tough relationship with the spiritual gifts. The spectacular spiritual side of Christianity is really compelling and interesting to me, the miraculous, the spectacular, the charismatic… I want to be in favor of it. I want to believe.

On my least cynical days I trust that God works that way in some places with some people, and with me he has chosen (as he often does) to work through the mundane. No superpowers for me. On my more cynical days I wonder if there is not more to it than wishful thinking and confirmation bias.

I want to tell you a story.

02-17-13-group-prayerOnce upon a time I was doing some ministry with a group of honest, authentic, transparent people whose understanding of God was a bit more charismatic than my own. One fellow worker in particular had story after story of divine appointment and miraculous healing in the name of God. I’d not seen any of it, but I wanted to.

Once in a meeting, the youngest of our group fell ill. She wanted to vomit. She told us that he had been feeling sicker and sicker and she did not know why. We began to pray.

It was uncomfortable, to be honest with you. There I was, with expectations upon my shoulders to pray and pray well when it was my turn, my superstar co-worker who’s done this a million times was there, my boss was there, and all I could think about was the inherent conflict between an omniscient deity and a contingent future that is a necessity for the efficacy of petitionary prayer.

The Devil was rebuked, the sickness was banished, the lord’s name was invoked in English and Hebrew as the God of healing in this world and the world to come. When it was my turn to pray I prayed as boldly as I ever had, that god would remove whatever was causing this illness and destroy it so that It would never return and your servant, God can continue her work.

She didn’t feel better for a while, then she felt hot. She said she felt like our hands were burning. Finally after some time she said she felt a lot better and we all praised God for healing her, but also that we could finally stop

I didn’t see her again until our next monthly meeting. She was beaming. “We’re pregnant” she announced in a voice just this side of a squeal. and we all gathered around and praised God again for such great news. It was morning sickness the whole time!

But I went home severely disturbed. Did this not bother anybody else? Is it not a problem that I banished her baby to eternal destruction for doing the work of Satan? Is there not just a little hypocrisy to be identified on our side that we believed she has been “healed” of her pregnancy? Shouldn’t we, at some point, be honest with ourselfs that a mistake was made, and chalk this one up as a miss so that we can have some confidence that when we hit we really hit? And that hits happen more often than with placebo?

Here’s the thing. I don’t think my boss counts it as a miss. I don’t think the spiritual superstar who prayed next to me does. She said she felt hot, that’s proof enough, god turned a bad situation (unexplained nausea) into a good situation (planned pregnancy) thanks to our petitionary intervention.

But I just can’t not ask the logistics of that.

Was there like a burgeoning morula that would have been flushed had we not been praying? If so, wouldn’t that be more in accordance with what we asked for (return to normalcy) and not less? Was our prayerful diagnosis automatically correct because of it’s sincerity such that God turned the virus into a baby? If so was the husband unnecessary? Is there anything we might have prayed or news we might have gotten that would have made us call this a miss? What if she had dropped dead?

I don’t want to be cynical, but I can’t help but think of this and other similar stories when I hear about a friends cousin who totally saw a guy healed of a tumor in Africa.

Everyone has smartphones now. Where’s the video?

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Written by RyanGaffney

June 17, 2015 at 1:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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