Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

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Job 39:26-30

“Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars, and spreads its wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes its nest on high? It lives on the rock and makes its home in the fastness of the rocky crag. From there it spies the prey; its eyes see it from far away. Its young ones suck up blood; and where the slain are, there it is.”

Every now and then I spend some time in the book of Job as part of a "reality check" in terms of my expectations vs. God's relationship with me. I am in the season in the Daily Office in my regular prayer time that our Old Testament readings are from Job, and I've been spending a little extra time in that book. Job is a good reminder that although God is in relationship with us, a relationship that we understand in the frame of our own minds as best we can, what God DOES is not in response to our desires and expectations of him.

I've had an interesting phenomenon begin to take place as it becomes more openly obvious that I am a person of regular prayer. A few people I know will request me to pray for them. But as I listen to their request, as they reveal their intentions, it becomes clear that they are asking me to pray for a specific outcome to a dilemma, a situation, or a condition in their lives. In short, they are asking me to participate in their concept that God is a Cosmic Coke Machine, and we'll all put our prayer quarters in and a Coke will appear, just as we ordered it.

Sometimes these people come across to me in a way that sounds to me like, "The more people I have praying for them, the more likely this request will be granted,"--or that my being asked this request puts "weight" into it. I become concerned that I am being asked because, although I am a lay person, I have a regular and open prayer life. It might connote to some that I possess some minor degree of shamanic power.

This is VERY uncomfortable to me. As we've discussed before on this blog, I've got some serious problems with intercessory prayer as it is used so often in the modern Christian vernacular. Even the simplest ones. Take, for instance, if a friend asked me to pray for her on an upcoming job interview--that she gets the job.

Well, I have no problem praying for that person--but I have a MAJOR problem praying "that they get the job." It feels like an attempt for us all to manipulate God. That we have all decided what's best and it's God's job to comply. Maybe it is not in that person's best interest overall to get THAT job. I have no way of knowing that. So my prayer would be like (and I'm going to use the hypothetical fictional name Suzie here)..."Lord, be with Suzie as she searches in earnest for a job. Help her to be calm and prepared and comfortable as she goes on each interview, including this one she has coming up. Let her have a discerning heart as she tries to find the job that both best suits her needs and your desires for her. Let those who interview her also have a discerning heart so, when that right job comes along, that they feel as called to hire her as she feels to work for them. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen."

In short, I avoided the "that I get THIS job" part entirely. I figure they might see that in my prayer, they might not. If they do, and ask about it or challenge it, to consider it an opportunity to explain prayer as I sort of see it. If they don't, I leave it alone.

But I'm going to admit, if I was asked to go off on my own and pray for them, I would avoid my issues with intercession entirely with that person--and often do. Perhaps I am a bit of a coward because I don't challenge their request before I go off on my own. But I also realize that, chances are, when I say nothing, that person is thinking I went off and actually prayed for them to get that job.

It's a bit of a clash in my interactions with others. I am at a place in my prayer life where I request fewer and fewer of the specifics with God, and more of the generalities. Oh, it's not that I don't slip and make a few attempts of my own to get God to hear that I think I have my needs figured out. But as time goes on and those situations evolve, it becomes pretty clear that God had better timing and better things in mind than what I did. Many times, my prayers have started with, "God, I was dead sure I needed XYZ to do ABC...but you know, it's worked out pretty well the way it worked out. I guess you knew more about this than I did, din'cha? I'm grateful it was done the way it was done."

But it still begs the question--when others attempt to have us put God in their box, how do we explain what they asked of us in their prayer request feels somehow "wrong?" Should we explain it at all, and simply go off and do as we feel more comfortable? Is it our place to teach, to explain our discomfort in their request? My guess is, probably not at the time they are stressed. It's just going to create more strain. But perhaps when we have the chance to look at the situation through the retrospectoscope we should. I realize I don't do that enough. But I am never sure if it is my place to provide "the teaching moment." I also know that even though I might be at a little different level of understanding about this, I slip and do it too--just in more subtle ways.

Well...gee. I guess that's something else I ought to pray about, huh?


Well put, sir ... that's always Job's message for me: that God will not fit in ANY box we make for Him--a thrilling and terrifying thought!

I entirely agree... open ended prayer is healthiest. which leads me to my other really really difficult thang which is when something happens and folks say it must just be God's will.... (Like recently, someone said Juan's arrest was so that I could focus on Joel).... I firmly believe God is NOT a micro-manager....

Thanks for the wonderful insights.

@Joshua: Yes, the combination of thrill/terror is part of the power of it all for me!

@Margaret: You're hitting on "We don't worship a tame God, part 3," for me there--as in, "We don't have a crystal ball to interpret the mind of God, and most of our attempts at it are annoying to mortals and laughable to God."

I look forward to your that post!!!

I have been going over maps around Kirksville most of this evening seeing if I can find any remnant of my mother's family there. She was born in New Boston. When I was there (1980's?) last her house was at the corner where there was a bend in the road. It was falling down then. But the cemetary is full of my ancestors.Go to my blog and send me an email.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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