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?