Despite everything I know and everything I’ve experienced, I am growing more and more aware that my default setting with God is still to think I can earn or lose his care for me and mine. When I slip into prayer for someone I am close to there is still a sliver of assessment that goes on, some mental bookkeeping, to see if I stand a good chance of getting this one answered.

C.S. Lewis described our situation with God by talking about children borrowing money from their Dad to buy him a present. The end result, “sixpence none the richer”, was a warm way of saying that all we have is from God, comes from God, is already God’s. It’s an illusion he allows us to have when we think we’ve got anything to offer God that didn’t come from him in the first place.

So why do I still default to “making his list, checking it twice…”? I know that that’s not how God relates to us. I know the rain falls on the just and unjust, the sun rises and sets for all of us, gravity isn’t random or based on good behaviour.



I wasn’t raised this way. I didn’t have one of those fathers who base their care, affection or approval on performance. Definitely there were expectations but I lived down to most of those and I never felt unloved. No question we had arguments about what I was or was not capable of and usually my bar was set much lower than my father’s and still I was looked after, given gifts, made to feel safe.

And I have history with God as well. He’s loved me when I’ve been a major ratbag and he’s loved me when I’ve yelled at him. He’s given me good things and never once turned off oxygen in my personal atmosphere. He’s been playful with me, kind, faithful, generous and patient.

Yet. Not every prayer I’ve prayed gets answered as asked. Some have. That’s what confuses me sometimes. Was it the wording? Something I did or didn’t do? That’s where I go to. If he never answered I suppose it would be easier. But to sometimes see miracles or massive coincidences, to hear a quick reply or for things to come together better than asked for should leave me confident or o.k. for the other times. But if I’m honest…and that’s an easier way to live…I have to admit that it leaves me confused at times and wondering if I should’ve done something different.


Why does God answer your prayers? What’s your explanation for why one person gets better and another person gets worse? What’s your default setting?


About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Confession, discipleship, faith, God, questions, Reflective, Relationship, religion, theology, truth. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Default

  1. Steve says:

    I believe that God answers some of my prayers, because that’s His plan. But I have to admit that some of my prayers are mine and not His. The times I hear of someone having a hard time and my empathy steps in and I start to pray, but these are not centered on His plan.

    Long before I became a Christian, and my father was laying in a hospital bed, I could not pray for God to take him. To me it sounded too much like asking God to kill someone. The prayer I found was for God to end his suffering, I knew in my heart that what I really wanted was for God to heal my father and bring him back to me. But I could also see that my fathers life was ending and could God please take away all his pain.

    ” I love you Dad and I sure do miss you” 😦

    Then a few years ago I was praying for a women who was having problems with her pregnancy. God woke me everyday at 3:00am with her heavy on my heart and I prayed… and prayed…and prayed for three weeks solid, 7 days a week I prayed. The final outcome was not what I was praying for… or was it? The end of my prayer for her was always “….God let Your will be done”

    I always try to remember that this is His world, His people and His plan.

    Do I get mad when some of my prayers are not answered… You Betcha! Have I screamed at God…oh yeah, have I begged… on many occassions. Does He love us any less? No. If possible I think He loves us more, just seeing that we love one another enough to pray for each other.

    God Bless

  2. I just heard a rather blatant platitude – I used to say it too – “God answers all our prayers. Sometimes He says no.”
    More and more, I really think that the whole concept of “prayers” is misunderstood. People are stuck in this religious clap-trap of praying “for” something and forget they’re praying “to” someone. The primary purpose of prayer – as I’ve come to understand it – is not to engage in celestial arm-twisting but to enter into and deepen a spiritual relationship with the Divine. Part of that is talking to God about what concerns us, of course. It wouldn’t be a relationship if it wasn’t. But this whole religious notion that we can influence God’s decisions about what happens by what we say or don’t say – wow! How arrogant to think that we can have any say in what the Creator of the universe does or doesn’t do. Or that His answers depend on what we do or don’t do – Hm. Kind of takes the “un” out of “unconditional.”
    I’m more inclined to think that He looks into our hearts in His unconditional love, mercy and grace when we ‘pray’ for someone… or for ourselves. He answers the heart behind the words – enters the relational aspects of our dealings with each other and with Him – and works all things toward His definition of the ultimate good (not necessarily ours). The “always” answer – if one can call it that – is His presence.
    Since I’m not Him I don’t need to know why some of the things I still pray for are not granted (notice I didn’t say answered) right away. He’s got everything under control, sees the end from the beginning and isn’t bound by time. If He chooses not to answer my prayers then it could be that He’s purposely not listening (which would be a total affront to anyone who’s been brought up to believe that He answers every prayer because yes, we’re just that important) or … perhaps they’re not real prayers. Perhaps they’re just me dancing around on Mount Carmel like the prophets of Baal, trying to get God to conform to my agenda. Trying to get people to see how devout I am.
    I wonder if I just got more in line with His agenda… how my “prayers” would change.

  3. Michelle says:

    Oh boy, I’m really trying to wrap my head around this stuff lately. I have a post coming up on the topic of prayer one of these days. It’s such a deep mystery.

  4. Neil says:

    When I think of prayer to God for things, I’m reminded of tobogganing with my friends when I was 6 or 7 on the Eastern Promenade Hill leading down to the main harbor in Portland, Maine.

    My friend, Danny, who owned the toboggan would start it off slowly from the very top of the hill and we would all be waiting at various points down the hill. The idea was to jump on as the toboggan went by and try to stay on all the way down to the end of the run. I recall many times jumping on the toboggan and falling off after a few seconds when things took an unexpected swerve, or being knocked off as another body caromed into mine and we both fell off, or just jumping and miscalculating entirely where the toboggan would be where I was and seeing it full of other kids, leaving me behind on the snow wondering how I made the mistake of missing it.

    Prayer is like that. God slowly moves in a certain direction, with numerous twists and turns, stops and starts. We have the option of jumping on board and going voluntarily in the inevitable direction that He is taking. But sometimes we fall off and lag behind if people get in our way, or misdirect us. Sometimes we feel we know where He is going with something, only to remain in our one spot wondering what happened and where He is, or trying to figure out why we’re not moving when everyone else is.

    But most of the time, we make the mistake of feeling that it is because of our efforts, our prayers that the “toboggan” is moving at all. We petition God and pray hard, night and day, beat our chest, do the Christian voodoo thing and when the petition is “answered”, we dance and sing and testify to the goodness of God (and our persistence in prayer). In reality, God was going that way and allowed us to hop on for a while.

    When it comes to relationship with God, I find that being with God is much like going to a chiropractor. I’ve been going to one now for about two weeks to take care of a problem that happened when I shoveled the driveway a bit too vigorously. I go in to his office and get somewhat close to him. We don’t talk too much..we know the drill. I get on his table and he goes to work. A poke here..a prod there..a tweak somewhere else, with me being patient, motionless, willing to be used and abused. At the end, there is usually a point where I lie quiet and still; there is a big upheaval and I walk out. Normally at that point, I’m in a lot more pain than I came in with.

    Why do I allow this? Because I’ve learned over the years that he really does know what he’s doing. Each time I allow him his way with me, over time, I wind up feeling much better. I’ve learned, in spite of all the pain he causes me, to really trust him, even when I can’t seem to figure out what he’s doing to me.

    My relationship with God is like that. He pokes, prods, wrenches and generally leaves me in a lot more pain than I was when I went to Him. Sometimes, I see what God is trying to accomplish with all this. Most of the time, I don’t. But over many many years, I’ve noticed that when I cease all, when I allow Him, when I just get out of the way, most of the time, things improve.

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