A Prayer in the Storm: The Reality of the Power of Prayer – Part 2
This article is the conclusion of a story that began in my previous post. You can read part one of that story here. I now pick up where I left off.
I hate to admit it, but it is an unfortunate reality that Christians, myself included, only start “serious” prayer in times of crisis. Once the crisis passes the tendency is to not give much thought to it afterwards. I don’t think that necessarily means we have an unthankful heart. Perhaps it is the way we are naturally wired to just keep on living life as normal. Once God answered my prayer dealing with my own personal crisis, I didn’t give much thought about it either after that…until the very next day.
Ashley, Ohio is a small village of about 1,200 people, located about 30 miles north of Columbus. At the time of that storm in 2013, I was operating my concession trailer in front of a mechanic’s shop. The mechanic shared the building with his son who operated a tattoo shop. It was not unusual for me to serve lunch on a regular basis to the guys who worked there.
If you recall from part one of my story, I had prayed something very specific the night before:
“With your mighty hand right now, please reach down and move this tornado away to a safe area where it won’t bring any destruction to anyone.”
Thursday afternoon the guys in the tattoo shop came out to get lunch, and naturally we were talking about the storm from the pervious night. It had been a slow evening for them that night, so they had been outside taking a break and watching the storm as it approached. They saw those same ominous clouds I had seen, and those same clouds were now coming straight towards them. The one who was recalling the events to me said they were just getting ready to head for cover inside the building when something happened. He said that all of a sudden the cloud stopped moving towards them, changed direction, and then headed north and went around Ashley. He told me, “It was as if someone had reached down and moved it.”
Those were his exact words!
I was incredulous. The man from the tattoo shop had used the very same words to describe what had happened that I had used when I prayed to God the night before. Not only did God answer my prayer, but He answered it specifically as I had asked! I stood there dumbfounded. I had never had a prayer answered in this manner before. Immediately I thanked God for not only answering prayer but also for the way that He did it.
To this day I still do not know what to make of all this. How many times have we as believers prayed and asked God for things only to not have them work out favorably, if He even answers at all, whether it be healing for a sickness, financial situation, a choice of career, or some other life-changing event? To me, after having an experience such as the one I’ve just told you, I think it raises more questions than it answers.
We are coming out of a Protestant dark age. What we know about prayer is limited to only what we have been told according to orthodoxy. We read in our New Testaments about the great and mighty works accomplished by the apostles and others and how mightily their prayers were answered, and one should ask the question, “Why don’t those things still happen today?” Is it because, as we are told by pastors and elders, that was just a special time in church history? That God doesn’t work that way any more? Or is it because that we have bought into the notion that asking for such things is “selfish” and outside of the realm of “God’s will”.
With much boldness I will stand and pose this question here and now: Why is it so presumptuous of us to simply ask God for the things we want?
If, as Protestantism asserts, the metaphysical assumption of reality is a deterministic construct, then I will state right now that prayer is pointless, regardless of how much preaching on the power of prayer is done from the pulpit. But what if, as I believe, reality is not deterministic? What if our understanding of what is meant by “God’s will” is not what Protestant orthodoxy has told us? What if we have much more power at our disposal than we realize? What if it is as simple as the apostle James says, “you have not because you ask not?”
Does a loved one have to die of cancer simply because we were never bold enough to ask God, in the name of Jesus, to take away their cancer? Does a close friend have to suffer the remainder of his life with diminished mental capacity due to a traumatic brain injury suffered in a fall? Why do we always couch our prayers with, “…if it be Your will”? Will God actually NOT answer the desires of our heart simply because we didn’t ask for them? Do we limit the potential blessings that could be ours simply because we think it’s wrong to even ask? Are our prayers ineffective because we fail to make them specific and with the boldness of an expectation of getting what we ask for? What about the apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”? Doesn’t God sometimes want us to rely on the “sufficiency of His grace?”
These are very hard questions, and unfortunately I don’t have the answers. I do, however, believe that the answers are knowable, but it is going to take the collective effort of all of God’s people set free from the slavery of religious institutionalism who set out on a journey of discovering the answers for themselves and sharing with others what they have learned. Each one is a piece to the puzzle.
What have I learned? I know that as God’s own righteous offspring, we have a Father who wants to give good gifts to His children. I know that if we ask God for a piece of bread, He won’t give us a stone. I know that if we ask God for a fish, He won’t give us a serpent. He will give us specifically what we ask for. O that we may have the courage to ask it! Amen.