Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Putting the Screws on God

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Last year, my poet/blogger/cultural-critic/brain-trust behind “Popthought” friend Alex Ness, ran an interview he did reviewing “Six Prayers God Always Answers” the book I wrote last year with Jennifer Schuchmann. Alex has a poignant way of cutting through the “c” to get to the heart of matters of things “spiritual.” Over the next couple days I’ll post some excerpts from this interview. Toss in your comments as well… You can read more of Alex at “deadtomyflesh”.

Alex: You seem to imply that we can “test” prayer. Really? Under what conditions can we test prayer without putting the screws to God?

Mark: What’s wrong with testing, or as you say, “putting the screws to” God? The Bible is full of stories of people who put his promises on the line, stepped out and forced God’s hand. He seems to like that kind of boldness. He respects it and often responds. Look at Jesus. He’s at his best when people get desperate and impose on him – the men who tear the roof off Peter’s house to get their sick friend in front of Jesus, the sick woman who crawls on her hands and knees to touch Jesus. That touch secured her healing but as a sick woman she had no right to impose like that. It was audacious and rude. She was testing Jesus. It worked.

“Testing” crosses the line only when it becomes “testy” – an presumptuous provocation. If I take God up on something he’s already said, something he’s promised to do or said he prefers, he respects that immensely. He’s already said he hates injustice. I’m not “testy” if I put God on the line with a prayer about feeding the hungry and oppressed in Darfur. That’s a test God would love to take, and pass.

Testiness is different. In the Gospels the Devil tempts Jesus to jump off the roof of the temple so God can rescue him. This is showy manipulation and God won’t have any part of that. That’s a test he won’t take. If I fall off a roof, I can cry out and expect his help, of some kind, though perhaps in a surprise way. If I jump off a roof just to force God’s hand I’ll likely end up a pancake. God doesn’t take to the circus bit.

Thoughts? Do you ever “test” God? How has God responded? 

  • Andrea

    So I’m agree on what you have been saying, but how would you explain test & suffering??? Many times you can see that we suffer when God test us…
    Can we choose not to be test, even when we knowledge not to recive the promess or blessing that comes from God??

  • Baby

    Test and suffering is oftenly used in all kinds of situation and in all walks of life.We all know about getting tested about our faithfulness in receiving God’s provisions if we are proved worthy
    and faithful to His promises.If i have suffered so much in my life,i shall be full of wisdom and understanding and have gained so much lessons in life and shall be able to be more compassionate to other’s
    issues in their life’s battles.but to tolerate a wrong action is not right,we can’t correct wrong by concealing.

  • JM

    In response to Andrea’s comment, I’d like to suggest the idea that God doesn’t necessarily place those tests on our shoulders – just living life does that.
    I think the ‘test’ is what we do with those things. Do we turn to God? Do we call on Him? Do we stamp our feet and throw ‘it’s not fair!’ tantrums at Him, and want to know why? They’re all valid interactions with our Father, even throwing our anger at Him, because it’s part of reconnecting to our Creator.
    Did God give me health issues as a test? I don’t believe so. I think it’s much more likely to be a natural consequence of us living outside God’s perfection, which is essentially what Eden is. Have I made some of those issues worse all by myself, by not listening to the little voice telling me I should see someone about it? Most definitely. I don’t think that one lies at God’s feet, either.
    Does He refuse to heal me? Well, no, but He may not give me the healing I think is necessary. His healing might be something quite different. But if I’m turning to Him during those difficult times, I’ll find I have hope, and acceptance, and purpose, and love. In God I can find strength, encouragement, and my inner spirit becomes lifted up above the difficulties. That’s a healing all in itself.
    I’m reminded of this bit in Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…”
    To me, that suggests God isn’t out to test us, but that God – “in all things” – uses our harder experiences to perfect us – “works for the good of those who love Him” – but it’s only if we allow Him to.
    Which is not exactly the subject of this article, but was something I felt important to say nonetheless.
    So, have I tested God? Yes, yes I have. His response? I was very kindly but firmly told He had things to work through with someone I dearly loved before she was ready to move on, so my time table for her was really not the best one. I’ve learnt to listen, now. ;)

  • rick

    In response to part of the article, sometimes God fulfills the test by causing a strong desire or a burning desire in our hearts to help resolve a matter, like mentioned regarding plight of peoples in Darfur. He will instigate us to feel strongly about a cause and it drives us to react and do something about it. It could be in this case, He wants you to get involve and do what ever it takes to help the people there. Gathering food, medicines and taking them there, working with some organization already trying to help them, get involve in the politics and help to changes others hearts to help in the plight of the people. By doing these things, not only does it help God to pass the so- called test but also it helps you to past his test for you, “Do you hear and respond to His will for you.” If you properly see Him as the source for your involvement, acting, and declaring it, that His grace and mercy has helped you and the peoples of Darfur, thus glorifying Him,.
    Yes, we should test things we perceive to come from God, by using the word of God and does it line up with His Will and desire for us and in this case, it very well might be your calling.
    It is through the faith that we believe God will do what He has promised us in His word. When we lean on Him in faith to deliver, help, heal, or forgive us as He says He will do for those that keep His commandments and those that do His will and follow in their walk in Jesus Christ. God tells us; we are to test spirits and things that are god-like to see if it is truly Gods spirit or of the evil type like in 1John chapter 4. Yes, we can and are expected to test God from time to time, but it is more testing our faith in Him; by what we do, not what He does, it is through our faith that His promises for us are fulfilled. It needs to be done with true faith and with no doubting our minds. However, this does not mean we will always like the answer. He gives us the answer sometimes we have to wait and wait is a proper answer at those times. God is using that time for two things developing a positive outcome to the request or situation and developing deeper faith in us.

  • Dan

    I think God can be a real jerk sometimes. All this “testing” seems to be just senseless games and barbaric. I am glad I made the list, but this whole bit about “testing” God so that he will actually keep him promises that he has made in the bible just seems like a little too much ego to me.
    A real father wouldn’t sit there and torture his own child just to he could “pass the test” to prove to the kid he’s his dad. No, he just is his dad all the time.
    But, in the end he has the right to do things the way he wants to…he is God afterall. I just want to hurry this thing along and be done with all this crap…this is really a pitiful place and I think school should be out soon so we can get rid of all these childlike “tests”.

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