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Should we pray for trivial things? 

Yes, but there is a but, writes Colin Sedgwick. In fact, there are three of them


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“Lord, give me a parking space!”... “Lord, where did I put my mobile!”

Have you ever prayed a prayer like that? A trivial prayer. You could say, a selfish prayer. Perhaps even an irresponsible prayer (especially if, regarding the parking place, it’s your own stupid fault that you’re running late in the first place). I heard somebody once testify in a meeting to how wonderful and kind God was on the basis of that very prayer being answered.
And it made me feel uncomfortable.

In a world awash with pain, sorrows and terrors, is a Christian ever justified in asking such a prayer? (I’ll drop that rather loaded word trivial and just call them “unimportant” prayers.) My answer is simple: Yes, but...

First, the Yes.

God is our Father, a loving heavenly Father. And surely for any loving father nothing is too small to care about when it comes to his children. If it matters to your child then it matters also to you, as a father or mother. So why shouldn’t we assume that anything that matters to us matters also to God? And why then shouldn’t we bring it to him in prayer? That reasoning seems fine to me. So - Yes.

But there is also the But. In fact my But is threefold.

First, the Bible contains very few, if any, such prayers. Can you think of one? You could say, I suppose, that “Give us today our daily bread” is rather selfish, even though Jesus teaches us to pray it. But praying for the basic necessities of life is hardly unimportant or trivial, especially if you are one of the millions in our world who are starving.

So for want of any better examples, I would tend to be hesitant about praying such prayers, though I certainly don’t rule it out. There are times I do so myself, and God seems to answer them.

Second, if you do feel you want to pray a prayer like this, fine, go right ahead, but don’t build too much on it, don’t make too much of it. God is very gracious, and may sometimes even be willing to bail us out of our own folly. But if he does, let’s not take it for granted. The next time, he may not be so co-operative. Perhaps he will want to help us grow up a little by teaching us an unwelcome lesson. Such an answer really doesn’t prove anything - certainly not what great faith we have! - beyond the fact that God is gracious. And we knew that already, didn’t we?

The third But is the big one.

If you want to pray such a prayer, fine - but please keep it to yourself! I think that this is what made me feel most uncomfortable about that person in the meeting. I don’t doubt her sincerity in how she prayed. And I don’t doubt that the answer, while of course it could have just been coincidence, may well have been truly from God. But why make it public? Wouldn’t it have been better kept as just a kind of private love token between her and her God?

My difficulty is this. Suppose there is someone in that meeting who is not a Christian, or is perhaps a Christian passing through a tough and stressful time? Mightn’t such a story make them feel even more hurt than they already were, perhaps even bitter...?

“So this God these people worship is happy to find someone a parking space when they need one - but he didn’t heal my little boy of terminal illness when I cried out to him with all my heart!”... “This God gave that person a nice sunny day when they planned a walk in the park - well, great! But he didn’t save my marriage when my heart was breaking.”... “If God really is so caring, why does he do so much to make his people’s lives comfortable and pleasant - but doesn’t lift a finger for those poor people swept away in the earthquake?”

In a word, going public about such answers to prayer could have the effect of putting up a barrier to someone searching for God, or of bruising an already tender faith, or of stirring up cynicism. (And quite apart from that, it raises all sorts of genuine questions which we need to be prepared to face up to.)

I would repeat - there is nothing wrong with “unimportant” prayers; God is indeed our gracious Father, and if it’s important to you, then it’s important to him. But when he chooses to answer such a prayer, my plea would be: let’s treat it not only with gratitude and gladness, but also with maturity and sensitivity.


Picture: Freely
 

Colin Sedgwick is a Baptist minister with many years’ experience in the ministry.

He is also a freelance journalist, and has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, and various Christian publications. He blogs at sedgonline.wordpress.com



 



 

Baptist Times, 02/09/2016
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