Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13 (NRSV)
Prayer is something that many Christians struggle with, especially the problem of unanswered prayers. Someone suggested this week that many Christians view God like a giant vending machine. All of us have used a vending machine where we have to put in the right change, push the right button and out comes what you want. The view of God is the same. You say the prayer in the right way, or have the correct number of people saying the right prayer and God will respond in the right way. But more often than not prayers are not answered. Questions arise. Did I do something wrong (not have the right change)? Is God not working like God should? The problem is not God or us, but rather our image that we have of God. In our scripture reading for this coming Sunday (Luke 11:1-13) the disciples asked Jesus “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus begins his teaching by addressing God as Father (vs. 2). The image that we should have of God is that of a loving Father. Jesus ends by reminding us that even earthly fathers do not give children poisonous snakes or scorpions when they asked for food. Loving fathers know what their children need. Yet loving fathers are not always able to keep their children from trouble that causes them harm. It is the same for our loving Father in heaven. He is not able to keep us from doing things that harm us. Sometimes prayers are not answered because we are suffering the consequences of our bad decisions. For example, after smoking for over fifty years isn’t it expecting a little much of God to cure a person of lung cancer? I believe God could, but God is like a loving father who sometimes allows a child to suffer the consequence of his or her actions. That doesn’t mean that the parent doesn’t love the child. Another reason that prayers are sometimes not answered is that we live in an evil world where Satan still is active inflicting harm on people. The important thing to remember when it comes to prayer is that prayer joins us in a loving relationship with God. Prayer time should be as much talking to God as sitting quietly and listening to see if God has something to say to us. But most important when we pray we are to remember that we are praying to a loving and caring God who like a loving parent always wants the best for us.