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Food From Thought

Praying for Small Things

Praying For Small Things?

Reluctance to pray to God concerning our minor wants, and supposed-requirements, is ubiquitous; many of us – as I’ve often read – feel uneasy when hearing about people who, after that stressful car-ride into town, pray that there may be a convenient car-parking space just when and where they need it.

Somehow, such requests don’t seem right. After all, how pathetic is it, troubling the Almighty over such petty things, when there are victims of war and famine out there who desperately need saving, and people whose problems make one’s own seem microscopic, and induce a powerful feeling of guilt?

No wonder we’re called “God Botherers”! I suspect this feeling, however, is a bit like most of those things that immediately seem to be obviously, undeniably, true; I’m always wary of self-evident, unquestionable, certainties.

Firstly, it betrays the fact that we have been harbouring a concept of God that is not quite adequate. God is seen simply as a human institution or authority, which can only focus on a small amount of tasks simultaneously and thus “prioritises” the areas that are important enough to require, and merit, action; this God is not a god who can do very many things at once.

In a purely-human situation, demanding that a small request of mine receives attention might indeed preclude some other action much more worthy. But the god we believe in has no such limitations, nor any need to rank the merit of requests; our God does not prioritise.

Secondly, the moral thing. Our unease at receiving small gifts – when we know that others’ needs are greater – displays a reluctance to accept gifts of any kind, and we become like the ungracious person who insists on giving, but has far too much pride to accept anything in return, always retaining, in consequence, a certain moral superiority; receiving requires generosity, as well as giving.

Thirdly, there is matter of our relationship with God. Above all, we worship a god whose love and generosity towards us is limitless, and the act of refusing even the smallest gift suggests that our relationship with him is somewhat warped, being devoid of the openness and total acceptance that says Yes. Refusal is not the act of the selfless lover that God seeks, and also is.

So will I pray for the appearance of a free parking space, next time I head for town? Well, maybe …