As a Christian (who is a) journalist, my spiritual gift is one that the New Testament writers carelessly omitted: sanctified nosiness. But every charism has its counterpart, its counterfeit, and for me it’s allowing what I believe can be healthy and holy skepticism to slide into cynicism.
Nowhere is this tendency being more challenged right now than in the area of prayer. It’s dawning on me that small prayers can really be a waste of breath, because if they don’t get answered it doesn’t really matter, and if they do you’re never quite sure whether things would have just gone that way anyhoo.
So that leaves me with big prayers, the stuff of miracles. The problem is that I’ve quietly seen this kind of divine intervention as something that you manage to wrest from God’s hands only if you can put together a compelling enough case. You know, serious business. Emergencies, dire straits, that sort of stuff.
But a closer look at two familiar Bible accounts is challenging this notion.
Jesus’ first recorded miracle is at the wedding in Cana (John 3), and I’m piqued by the idea that He tells His mom He doesn’t really want to get into all this doing-the-impossible stuff yet (maybe she knew He could because He’d practiced a bit at home while growing up? “Hey, Jesus, we’re out of sugar. Could you go next door and ask to borrow a cup? Or, hang on a minute, what about…”).
But He doesn’t answer Mary’s request grudgingly: “OK, here’s a couple of glasses of house red to tide things over.” Considering that some of the guests are already pretty well lubricated, apparently, His turning water into the equivalent of around six hundred bottles of five-star wine seems to be rather generous.
Then there’s the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6), and I’m not even referring to His repeated over-abundance, with all those doggy bag leftovers after everyone has stuffed themselves. I’m thinking of the motive in the first place.
There was no famine. People weren’t fainting from hunger. Judging by the disciples’ suggestion, there were places nearby the crowd could go and find something to eat. This was just inconvenience—though it became one through which Jesus demonstrated His care and His power. A miracle in a minor moment.
James 4:2 says: “You do not have because you do not ask God.” He doesn’t mention a lack of qualifying circumstances, or the absence of adequate references.
Seems like God may be more ready to answer big prayers than I am to offer them. Not necessarily because there is a Big Need. But because He has a Big Heart.