Is it okay to pray for Christmas presence?

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 22, 2004

For the past three weeks we have talked about prayer as connection and conversation. But is it ever okay to pray for help, health and wealth (as Jeff Perkins put it in the first of this series)?

It would take a book to run all the stories and comments you folks have sent me on this topic, but for now let me share just a few:

Ken Fast, media producer from Derwent, Alta., wrote about the Christmas when, as a young graduate student, he was sick, broke, and hungry. Bedridden and alone, and believing that God would supply his needs, he prayed for provision of a meal a day. But by the end of the first day when no miraculous provision had arrived, Ken got angry with God.

"I ransacked the kitchen again for the umpteenth time," he said, but this time he found a hidden bag of rice. "I promptly and thankfully devoured it – a bit humbler." The next day, still sick, but now with greater faith, he asked God "for one meal. Not three, but just one." To his amazement, his usually grumpy landlord arrived at the door with a hot meal. The following day, the landlord's wife dropped off a sandwich, and the day after that, a fellow student treated him unexpectedly to a hamburger.

"So, the lesson?" Ken wrote. "I couldn't do anything to labour for those meals. I just got mad, tried to exercise some childlike (childish?) faith, and I did get fed."

Ken Fast was given his daily bread, but what about praying for health?

Ken Harder, one-time local pizza producer and now media producer, shared several stories of answered prayer for healing. One of them was about his young Cochrane grandson Eli.

Eli had his mouth banged up pretty badly in a bike accident. His lower lip was torn from his jaw, Ken said, and several teeth were loose. While Ken's daughter Kerry Johnsen rushed her son to the hospital, Eli's older brother, Christopher, stayed at Grandma and Grandpa's and prayed that God would comfort Eli and help the doctors know what to do.

After checking Eli over at the hospital, the doctors sent him home with instructions to have a dentist check out his teeth in the morning. When the dentist looked him over, he could find nothing wrong.

When Christopher heard the good news, he wasn't at all surprised. "I knew he'd be healed. I prayed for him," Christopher said, according to Ken.

Ken added: "There's something to be said for the faith of a child. They pray and then they truly expect the Lord to answer – and they aren't at all surprised when the answer comes."

Kerry, Eli's mother, sent me a further note to the effect that prayer isn't always so simple. She had been praying about a business matter. As time passed with no answer, she felt she was "hitting a stone wall, and that maybe prayer is empty wishes spoken and not heard," she wrote.

"As I prayed with my children when they went to bed the other night, my son prayed something that really hit home. He said, 'God, help us to give thanks when we don't know what to do.' I realized these were words from God, straight from holy Scripture: 'In all things give thanks.' I thanked my son for praying with such insight, and I have been thinking about it ever since. I have not received a direct answer to my prayer yet, but I know for now that I am to pray with thanks."

My older son Reg put it this way: "Prayers of petition are about growth, both as a person and in relationship."

Or as Dr. Maggie Hodgson, First Nations wellness advocate, put it: "I have to remember to have acceptance of answers to my prayers that may not feel timely or what I want. I also have to be patient that it is in God's time, not mine."

Two thousand years ago a teenaged Jewish girl knew all about prayer as childlike faith, patience, acceptance and thanksgiving, when the answer came as surely as the baby in her womb. "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour," she exulted. The girl, of course, was Mary, and the baby in her womb was Jesus.

In that light, then, I pray for you the blessing of God's Christmas presence, with love and joy.

© 2004 Warren Harbeck

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