What do we do with a God who answers prayers?
Maria Von Trapp dealt with him by rejecting grace and claiming that ‘nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could’, she reasoned that ‘somewhere in her youth or childhood she must have done something good’ to get such a catch as the Captain and be as happy as she was. I think we all have a bit of this thinking in our lives. That we need to deserve the good things that come our way. As a pessimist I can all too easily fall into this trap and if good stuff happens I’m immediately looking for what is going to go wrong rather than resting in the grace of being grateful.
I think I would find it easier to deal with a God who never answers prayer in the way we want. And in day to day life I probably do think like that. I can deal with the silence, the working through God being mysterious, far off and distant, the explaining of times he doesn’t do what I want as his ways not being ours, his desire for my character over comfort. That may well be true but it’s not the whole picture.
What about when he does answer prayers in exactly the way I want and expect? Is that because I’m finally praying in line with his will? Is that because actually it’s all just coincidence and God is still working on my character and life has just worked out well? Is God in charge of all the stuff going on in this world? Can he change it? Is God able to answer real physical prayers rather than just the internal stuff?
I think the internal stuff matters more in some ways – praying for godliness when we don’t get the parking space we want might be more important than us getting the parking space. But can God provide the parking space? And what does it mean for all the stuff going wrong in the world if he can and does move the physical world? Why doesn’t he do more to change things?
Anyway let’s move this away from the hypothetical parking space. This time I’m talking about labour.
I wrestled with God all last week, I didn’t want my booked induction on Friday, I wanted so much to give birth at home with my boy placed wriggling and squirming and naked and gooey on my chest straight away. I wanted a better experience than last time. I wanted to go into labour without drugs and I wanted my toddler to be safely away, not confused more than necessary. I didn’t want to ask for all this because I knew it wasn’t my right, that others don’t get this so why should I ask for it? It didn’t happen last time and things were ok (ish) I know God isn’t a slot machine and so I didn’t want to ask.
I wrestled. And then I asked. I knew he could do it and I prayed he would, all the time trying not to get my hopes up. Others had more faith and prayed confidently. I threw my toys around in anger and fear like my own toddler and raged against a God I don’t get.
And then all our prayers were answered. Physically answered. This wasn’t a lesson in trust, in learning to be out of control or patient endurance, lessons I know so well and think are my default. This was wham bam here you go. Labour, a straightforward one, a boy who woke at the right time and was whisked away by his godmum and family for fun safe times. My flat full of fairy lights and familiarity. My bed. My body doing crazy things it was made to do and at the end a beautiful gooey boy placed on my naked chest, feeding off me and then lying blissed out asleep. I keep thinking something should go wrong to make up for all these good things.
I don’t know what to do with a God who actually sometimes gives us what we want. Others seem more deserving. Why doesn’t he do more? Why this world? Why not end all the pain? Questions I’ll never have the answer to. For now I think I’ll have to come to terms with a God who sometimes says yes. Here you go. Have this simple good thing. Mental.