I’ll tell you what normally happens: I sit down at a computer with the intention of posting to this blog, or even doing something genuinely useful. Before I get started, I have “a quick look” at facebook to see what’s been going on since I last looked. And twitter. And flickr. Oh, and I always have some reading to catch up with on google reader, too. And then before I know it hours have passed and I’m out of time.
So this time, for once, I’ve logged on and the only site I have open is this one.
The only time I pray with any regularity is when I meet with two friends most weeks as part of a “prayer triplet”. We chat, we discuss what’s going on in our lives, in the world, and in the church, and then we pray. And most weeks I do pray out loud. For quite some time now I’ve had no sense of any form of communication taking place when I pray. Or more specifically no sense of communication with God. Of course my two prayer partners can hear what I’m saying, and praying out loud helps me, to some extent, organise my thoughts and think through issues in a way that I may not do otherwise. But whether prayer is actually “achieving” anything, I have very little confidence. In fact, I’d say none at all. I am not at all sure why I pray, and it feels like I’m just talking into thin air.
I suspect I am.
And having rejected the notion that the God I’ve believed in does intervene in a direct way with human lives, quite what to pray about, and how to pray, has become something of a mystery.
But as I mentioned in an earlier post, something’s cropped up that has got me praying quite specifically. My brother and his wife are expecting their second baby. At the 20-week scan, the radiographer spotted a problem with the baby’s heart. Quite a serious problem. Everything else is going fine, and there should be no problem with the pregnancy or the birth, but without serious intervention, the baby will not survive more than a couple of days. She will need open heart surgery within three days, and two more open heart surgeries before the age of five, and even with the treatment will have only a 50/50 chance of survival. And the long term-prognosis is not known; the procedures have only been around since the late 1980s, so the oldest survivors in are only in their 20s.
So my brother, who is an avowed atheist, has asked us to pray. Well, he said “I know you’re not sure about prayer and stuff at the moment, but please do pray for us if you’re praying.” (Paraphrased!) Specifically, he and his wife have asked that we pray that the left side of the heart will develop more that it currently looks like it will, as then the procedures will be smaller and less risky.
And so that is what I found myself praying when I met with my friends. But then figured if I’m asking God for a miracle, why stop there? So I’m now praying not that the hearth would just develop “a bit more” but that it would develop completely and wholly, such that the medics would be utterly confounded. In all my years in the church I’ve heard enough stories of miraculous healings. Whether I’ve ever really believed them is another matter, but what the heck – I might as well pray.
But it’s a funny prayer, as I still have no faith or expectation that God is able to do what I’m asking, but it makes a change to be praying for something so specific. And if it happens? Will I return to my faith? And if it doesn’t? Will I reject it entirely?
I have no idea.
Right: now I’ve run out of time before getting on to facebook etc. That’s a good thing, I feel.
(If you want more detail about the condition itself, it’s called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. There’s a useful explanation of the condition and the treatment on the American Heart Association website.)