I have a question, when did you last experience something miraculous? I ask not as a sceptic but someone who believes in an active Divine God, and who has experienced what I think are miracles in my own life. A good friend asked me that question the other day and I could not remember seeing or hearing about anything miraculous in the last couple of years. So how about you?
Itâ€™s not even like I have given up asking God for his intervention in my life and in the life of my friends. I have prayed and prayed and prayed and still see marriages falling apart, people sliding deeper into depression, childless couples still unable to conceive and all the hurt, pain, confusion and questioning that comes with it.
I am part of church stream that sees signs and wonders as a normal part of Christians advancing the Kingdom of God â€“ the words and the works of Jesus being done at the same time. I have seen a lot of sighs and wonderings of late (including a few examples of it is that God or just coincidence) but few signs and wonders. I have felt the disillusionment of why bother praying, what is prayer going to accomplish other than another unfulfilled expectation. I have heard apologetics for prayer, like itâ€™s not a case of all or nothing itâ€™s a case of more/less healing, that itâ€™s our job to pray and Godâ€™s to respond â€“ and although I agree with them after awhile they sound like an excuse.
I am never likely to be a poster boy for prayer but then again I donâ€™t what to be post-prayer either. So why do I still pray then even if it is with sighs and wonderings, for me it is two things:
1. Being part of a caring community of God: being able to pray and be prayed for means that I am living a life which is open with people who care/love me enough to bother. It means I am involved in loving people, in caring for people to pray and to be involved in their lives â€“ one of my favourite questions is what can I pray for/practically do for you? Iâ€™m also learning to let people ask that of me and to even accept their practical help rather than just their prayers. I am inspired for example by the early Christian Church in Rome who though persecuted and unable to escape the city themselves when plague broke out cared not only for their own but for those who had been abandoned and left behind as the city fled. They didn't pray for a miracle that they would be spared at the rest of the city's expense and thousands of christians died from the plague. However, the miracle as the author of this article describing those events in the Roman Empire puts it was that:
â€œin the midst of intermittent persecution and colossal misunderstanding, and in an era when serving others was thought to be demeaning, the â€œfollowers of the wayâ€â€”instead of fleeing disease and deathâ€”went about ministering to the sick and helping the poor, the widowed, the crippled, the blind, the orphaned, and the aged. The people of the Roman Empire were forced to admire their works and dedication. â€œLook how they love one another,â€ was heard on the streets.â€
2. A normal part of an honest faith: I look at examples like Jesus and even Paul and how they are examples of people whose prayers were not answered to avoid pain, struggle with life and even death. I see rather than a â€œtrinket God and a magic show religionâ€ their honesty before God, their grief and their acceptance of moving from this is what I want to let your will be done in me â€“ and the grace that comes with that. As my friend Tim reminded me recently, the only persons free will we can surrender is ours. How many of our prayers for miracles contravene this and therefore ask God to rescind the free will of someone else?
The miracle of incanational involvementâ€¦
Yes I agree that the words and works of Christ can bring healing and hope but the bible also reveals that it is also through his wounds that we are healed". I believe that it is an incarnational God who saves us, one who involved himself in the sufferings of the world â€“ a man of sorrows as well as a party going friend of us sinners. Jesusâ€™ modus operandi was involvement and his motivation seemed to be compassionate service, even in the face of his own suffering and death.
I will continue to hope and pray for miracles but whether thatâ€™s the miracle of a lasting peace in the middle east, a break through in the treatment of the AIDS epidemic, ending poverty or just being a friend who cares enough to get involved... I think the answer to those miracle will come through God inspiring and equipping us to be peace makers, to love our brothers and sisters, to be involved and to care. Maybe that is miraculous enough in itselfâ€¦maybe it isn't -I'd love to hear your thoughts?