I was thinking about the unfortunate spiritual reflux reaction that some people have to faith-promoting stories about prayer. The pattern goes like this:
- A believer faces some problem and prays for help. The problem is minor, even trivial, on a global scale.
- A solution is found, and the believer shares the experience to express gratitude for the undeserved blessing received.
- Critics and skeptics guffaw, saying how dare someone think that God would answer a prayer about solving a trivial personal problem when thousands are dying and millions suffering all over the globe.
I thought of this frustrating pattern tonight as I was briefly contemplating the Lord’s prayer. In this prayer, the Lord teaches us to pray for big things, like the coming of the Kingdom of God, but also minor personal things like bread to eat, as well of some personal issues of a deeper spiritual nature such as forgiveness of our sins and implicitly, help in forgiving others. So I’m wondering how often, over the two thousand years since Christ taught the Lord’s prayer, have hungry believers who received God’s help in feeding their families were scoffed at when they shared their witness of God’s grace in helping them with that problem. “How can you think that God would bless you to find food or get a job when there are much bigger problems in the world?” Somehow that cynical attitude strikes me as very recent. Though I am sure it has been present in many ages, it strikes me as an especially modern result of being so easily in touch with the big ugly problems of the world coupled with the dark influence of big ugly thinkers without a spiritual foundation to understand how God can love mankind in a mortal world where all die and many suffer, a world where we have the terrible freedom to reject God and hurt or ignore one another.
Are things really different now, or has the testimony of believers who feel that God answered a personal prayer involving cosmic trivia always elicited angry reactions from others? I am just wondering if prayer has always been so offensive to non-believers? Or is my perspective overly skewed by the few loud voices one encounters on the Internet?