01 December 2012

magic eight balls and chichés

This may not come as a surprise to you but I love technology. I could talk for hours about the pros and cons of social media for hours or the wonders of Facetime and Skype or how technology has changed the way we interact.

However, I have something specific on my heart.

"God only gives three answers to prayer: 1. 'Yes!' 2. 'Not yet.' 3. 'I have something better in mind."

This anonymous inspirational quote  has floated around this week in my Pinterest and Twitter circles. At first glance, it looks great: God doesn't say no to our prayers but sometimes has something else planned.

But I probably wouldn't be writing about it if I loved everything about it.

I have a problem with the fact that this quote implies that prayer is like a letter to santa: i want a princess pony and an A in chemistry and my grandma healed and the buffs to get a good coach and a boyfriend for the holidays and... No. Prayer isn't just listing off problems in your life that you want fixed. Prayer is so much more than that! Prayer is a conversation with the God of the universe. Which brings me to another underlying issue with the quote: it assumes that God is like a magic 8 ball with only three possible answers.

News flash: God isn't a magic 8 ball. He has so many different ways to answer prayer requests. We're limiting a limitless God when we say that he has three answers to requests.

Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone who only responds with three different phrases? It doesn't go well. It isn't enjoyable to talk with someone who doesn't respond back. So why are we willing to limit our God to three responses?

Life is complex. As much as we would try to simplify it with simple clichés about answers to prayer and how good always comes from tragedy, our efforts don't make the complicated nature of life disappear. We need to learn to live life IN the complexities: to not give the pat response but instead admit that life is messy.

The only truth that I see weaved throughout all of the mysteries of life is that God is here. I don't have everything figured out and I probably never will but I choose not to hide the ugliness or paint over it with the happy brush of clichés.

May we discover the joy of being in conversation with God and the complexities of that relationship. May we discover limitless ways that God chooses to answer prayer requests. And may we learn to live within the complexities and see Truth weaved through it all.