Thursday, February 25, 2010

praying for a hotel room

We were in Venice. It was the fall semester of my junior year, and I was traveling with thirty-five of my new best friends. My sister had just flown out to visit me during fall break in Salzburg, and once that was over we all reconvened at our typically European (read: tiny and with wafer-thin mattresses) hotel just a few bridges from St. Mark's.

It didn't take long for everyone's stories about fall break to tumble out . . . She cut her hair, which was jarring to the rest of us who had seen her daily for months. They went to Innsbruck and illegally rented a car, enjoying the thrill of doing something forbidden to us during these three months. He fell more in love with the girl who was also on the trip, and she continued to pretend not to notice.

She went to Ireland with her parents, and they decided to come back to Venice with her. She had always been unpredictable, so we had no idea what to expect from her parents. I don't remember, now, what they were like then. But I remember this. Apparently, all of Venice was booked. Not a pensione to be found. So they prayed. They huddled together, the three of them in a corner, and prayed that God would give them a hotel room in Venice where they could stay the night.

He did, I think, or they did, or whatever. They found a place, is what I mean.

But what does that mean? What would it mean of God that prayers for hunger to end, for a mother's life to be saved, for a family to be lifted out of poverty would all fall on deaf ears, or that the answer would be 'no, not now,' and that this family prayed and were not only heard by the Lord but were cared for? Perhaps this is all unknowable, and part of the mystery of God's character that really confuses people. Or, perhaps they just got totally lucky.

Either way, all I really know is I don't get it. I do get that we are meant to bring all that concerns us before God, so praying about a hotel room doesn't seem like a bad idea in itself. But in some ways, to me, it seems more like superstition - rubbing a lucky charm and repeating my wish over again until I believe that my efforts led to the positive outcome I wanted all along.

All of this came to mind for me because I saw that someone had written on Facebook about her iPod being found. "God is good all the time!" she said."Oh, the power of prayer!" And I just don't know how to respond to these kinds of comments. Why would God bring you back your iPod, but not get me on an earlier flight at the airport? Why would God save your child with cancer, but let your friend's child die? Is it because of prayer? Is it random? Some combination of the two, or is it how we pray, or our motivation for prayer? These aren't rhetorical questions - I would really love to know . . .

In the meantime, I'm going to pray for a nice dinner with my friend emily


emilykatz said...

well it's a good thing God answered that pray. a nice dinner was had.

Sarah said...

just caught up on all your blog entries. i am laughing. i forgot about this.

the princess said...

the vineyard movement would explain this--why some of our prayers are answered & others remain unanswered, why one person is healed of cancer, and another person isn't-- as "the Now and the Not Yet" We live in this paradox between-the Kingdom of Heaven has broken through (& there's no cancer in heaven) yet, it's not completely broken through yet (am I making sense?) Yet, when we pray, "your will as it is in heaven" --we're helping to bring *heaven to earth* which is the purpose of a Christian.

There is hope in *every situation that would not exist in heaven*, since Jesus left us with the Holy Spirit and brought us a whole new lifestyle. Now we can try to cultivate that "culture of heaven"(just even your simple prayer to have a good dinner w your friend Emily) with our prayer life. And I'll give you an insider hint: the more you're around people whose prayer lives are like: miracles, miracles, miracles...then it get's imparted to you. (and soon you're prayer life is like: miracles, miracles, miracles)

Although miracles is a spiritual gift too (some people would say it's the same as Evangelism) it's listed in 1 Cor 12:28. -Julia

the princess said...

for more info, Bill Johnson ministries