We talked about prayer again at LOFT on Sunday, and it always seems to force me to wrestle with the deepest issues of the faith. We are supposed to pray because God has revealed himself to be faithful and trustworthy and he wants his children to come to him so he can give them what he has promised them. We all wrote down prayers that were our deepest biggest longings for the world. You know what I wrote down? "Lord, come quickly." It was the only prayer that seemed earth-shattering enough to encompass everything that so desperately needs God's healing hand.
But the thing is, people have been praying this prayer for 2000 years and Christ has yet to come back to earth and make all things new. It sort of feels like I'm being stood up; I've been seated in our booth for a while and I'm on my third Coke thinking, "is he coming or what?" So I give him a few more minutes...trying calling...try texting...still no answer. Then I start feeling a little pissed and a little embarrassed and leave thinking, "what the hell, I didn't want to go out with him anyway."
De-conversion.com has lots of stories from Christians-turned-atheists, and many of them have to do with unanswered prayer. One poster described the practice of prayer as "The Unsinkable Rubber Duckie."
"...those who believe in the paranormal will just go on believing because the belief meets a need. They are like unsinkable rubber ducks. Whenever you think you have sunk them, they just bob back up again." "If I prayed for someone to get well and they did, it was a miracle. If they didn’t, it was God’s will that they didn’t - or perhaps I didn’t have enough faith, or perhaps my own sins were getting in the way, or perhaps I wasn’t being persistent enough. There was always a good reason. 'If they win, they win. If they lose, they win!'"
His point being, I guess, that we're just buoyant with blind faith and the need to believe in something so we just keep bobbing right back up even when God doesn't show up.
I have my days where I trust in God, but the other half of the time I feel like that duckie bobbing in an ocean of hopelessness or the girl that got excited about a date only to be stood up. Even on my best days, there's always this little part of me that says, "I must be kidding myself to believe this. The universe is upheld by triune perichoretic love? There's a loving God that wants to redeem this mess?" Looking at our broken world and our fractured church, sometimes the thought of the return of Christ, or the existence of Christ , for that matter, seems like (to borrow from Shawshank), "a shitty pipe dream."
BUT, the shitty pipe was, ironically, what ended up getting Andy out of Shawshank. And the miserable bloody cross, the most paradoxical place for an all-powerful God to reveal himself, is finally what nudges me back from doubt. If Christ did indeed come to earth, humble himself, and swallow death for us, he is entirely trustworthy. And we can be assured that we are not being stood up, and that our cries and our pleas are not bobbing around uselessly, but being brought before the Father by the Incarnate Son who ever lives to pray for us. The One who bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, and felt our anguish...and is coming back. Soon.