Praying for Parking Is Evil
To pray for parking is to misunderstand what God does in our lives.
There are single moms or dads with three kids and bags of groceries, elderly men with oxygen tanks to push across icy lots, people recovering from surgery who aren’t advised to be out of doors in the first place—and maybe, just maybe, God hears their cries for parking spaces close to the front door of Target, or the P.O., or their urban dwelling. Maybe he even provides those spaces from time to time, caring for sparrows as he does.
But as supplication goes, praying for parking is, for those who pray, a mark of shame. It’s on par with praying that The Gap has the right size jeans or that your TiVo’s hard drive doesn’t crash during "Grey's Anatomy." It’s a prayer of tedium—for those too bored to pray for things that matter. It’s a prayer of luxury—for that blessed 1% whose wealth can put them in a car and give them cause to drive to the tony shopping district where parking is the only scarcity.
Worse, praying for parking is poor theology. InPhilip Yancey’s
new book on prayer, he quotes a philosophy professor on the subject: "If God can influence the course of events, then a God who is willing to cure colds and provide parking spaces but is not willing to prevent Auschwitz and Hiroshima is morally repugnant." The point is not what kind of god God is, but what kind of God we believe him to be, and what ourprayers
say about our vision of him. Can he intervene in a crowded shopping lot, but not in Darfur? Will he get me a space right next to handicapped parking, but not cure my father's cancer? Who wants to believe in such a God?
In this sense, the God who provides good parking is the God that Satan temptedJesus
to be in the wilderness. Jesus refused to turn rocks into bread and hurl himself from a cliff because he's not a magician; he’s not a Coke machine; he’s not available via remote control, anxious to address whatever tiny inconveniences we need shoved aside.
And it's not because small things don’t matter. God, like the devil, is in the details, and he’s compassionate enough and incredible enough to be concerned about the minutia of our lives. The whole point of the incarnation is that he’s suffered things big and small; he can sympathize with my father’s cancer as well as my ingrown toenail. But he does not provide a panacea, and indeed, the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke of is one that often called for killing off creature comforts: take no tunic, sell your possessions, walk the extra mile. If Jesus admonished people to walk that additional mile, what would he say to those unwilling to walk 50 additional yards?