The Purpose of Prayer

When prayers don’t seem to work, and we doubt God, what do we do?

A few days ago, our family dog, Serena, found wrapped chocolates that my sons had left in their bedroom. Within minutes, truffles, peppermint patties, and a host of other delectables were gone. The same day, close friends visited from northern Virginia. The chocolate and excitement were too much for Serena, and she couldn’t go to sleep. Instead of sleeping, she barked and barked and barked.

Serena’s barking, whimpering, and fussing doesn’t bother me; I can fall asleep and stay asleep through a thunderstorm. My poor wife, Nancy, cannot. She laid awake for hours, counting her breaths, praying, and doing everything else she could to get some badly needed rest. It worked off and on. Serena napped, but at 0300, she started up again. I woke up. When I heard Serena’s caterwauling, and Nancy’s sleepless report, I fumed.

Then I prayed. Praying through a fog of sleepiness probably is not the most effective way to talk to God, and the more I prayed, the louder Serena barked. Nancy’s head began to ache. I got angrier and angrier.

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The Christian Community in Society

“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever” opined the famous French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. American society today seems to have taken him at his word. We are told to dream big, take chances, and make our mark on the world. To be remembered in posterity, “write something worth reading or do something worth writing about” wrote Benjamin Franklin. We are even told to misbehave, “Well behaved women seldom make history (Laurel Thatcher Urich).” It is as if 100,000 of us were standing in a stadium screaming to be heard, and spending our lives trying to be distinctive enough to feel important.

Sometimes the Christian community looks little different. In his book You Are Special, Max Lucado writes of a village of little wooden people called wemmicks who spend their days putting stars or dots on each other, stars for doing something that they like and dots for doing something that they don’t. The best had special awards (a sequel, Best of All) and perhaps even monuments to be widely known and remembered. These fictional children’s stories describe an all too common trap into which even followers of Jesus fall.

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