Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I have a dilemma

A friend here at work has a bundle of trouble going on in their life right now. He's talked to me a little, opened up a bit about things, and is in a horrible situation.

The dilemma I have is that I want to pray for him - to offer to pray for him and bring some comfort - but after recent events I just don't feel that I can do so in good conscience. From the time I heard about our friend Jo's cancer I prayed every day for her, as did many others. The answer was NO then, and I could cite other non-trivial NO instances too, so why should I raise someone's hopes and offer to pray for them when in all likelihood the exact same answer will be given?

What do you do when there's no faith left, nor any expectation that God will do anything? It's curious how, having fought traditional church for so long, suddenly I find myself there, with a faith that's barely worth the name.


  1. Because prayer isn't a simple equation of effort * faith = desired results. You can wish that their situation is resolved but perhaps prayer should start a step or two back from there?

    My home group recently looked at Daniel 10 as part of an ongoing study of that book. It is a complex passage full of prophecy that probably relates to events that happened long ago (and also covers the plot of at least three of the 'Left Behind' novels). The fresh thing I took away from that was the sequence - Daniel receives a vision from God, responds to it with three weeks of mourning, prayer and fasting and then receives understanding. That's a three legged stool, or a circle that begins and ends with God. I think 'Daniel inspired' prayer often misses the first part out.

    So perhaps pray for God to meet him in the situation if you don't feel you have grounds to pray for what seems like the ideal resolution. Or step even further back and pray that God will help you understand when and how to pray for this friend. Proceed from the solidity of God guiding you forward rather than the presumption of running ahead.

  2. Consider this to be the end result of a long-running history of seeking, praying, fasting and possibly even mourning for various 'life-changing issues', rather than an expectation of God being a holy slot machine.

    Hezekiah's experience is one that I've taken to heart - prophet turns up, says "son, God says you're going to die so get ready". H turns away, prays with tears and the prophet doesn't even get as far as the street before he's told to turn round & announce the healing. Where is God's will in this? Where is our ability to make a difference to the real world? In the example it seems that God's spoken will can actually be shaped by the prayers of His people. But yet, in the 21st century if everything carries on as if nothing is changed by our prayers and fasting and tears then one might ask why we did all that in the first place?

    Y'know, I've prayed & fasted and seen answers to prayer, but so often on the stuff that really matters, nada.

  3. I guess for me 'faith' means trusting God with things eternal.... This world is still temporal, and sometimes the eternal breaks through... Jesus established a bridgehead, but still we lose battles, even if ultimately the war will be won. So, prayer for me is an exercise in opening up a door/ window so God can either break through or the prayee can perhaps experience some peace. NT is full of people experiencing all sorts of difficulties .... I think we were lied to that all things are fixable, only believe. You and I both know that this patently is not the case. But I do believe God walks alongside us through those times. I wish it was different, but it isn't. But he is still God, and I will praise him. Godfrey Birtill wrote a very raw song about it all... 'You're still God' which I hold onto. So sorry about Jo..... Absolutely heartbreaking X

  4. I'm not questioning your experience and history and I'm working from the assumption that you aren't anywhere the name it and claim it camp. I'm just reflecting on some related thoughts from a section of the Bible I've recently been studying.

    Another question is what counts as an answer? You can read the Bible as the story of lots of amazing experiences where people prayed and things changed. However, that can be just skimming off the icing and missing the cake.

    Back to Daniel again; he is a 'superhero' of faith, from his precocious (yet humble) teens to his old age. He prays and things change. At least a few times in his life. We don't get the stories of when he faithfully prayed and things didn't turn out the way he hoped but I imagine that happened. Indeed, he lived his life in exile - one long, unresolved disappointment. Even as God speaks to him about hope for the future, he lives with sadness in the present. Sometimes the path *has* to go through wood and nail.

  5. Thanks Carol: I don't think I've been lied to, but also any student of church history can see if they want to that Christians make stuff up (stories about St. Columba is a good example) and a an extent this is what we've seen, albeit carefully parsed, rather than wildly dumb.

    Thanks Wulf: I can't do superheroes (or thin places) and either this stuff is real for ordinary people or it's not real.


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