Read the following Matt and Mandy from the Aug 2008 Friend. Between the penultimate panel and the last one what happened? Here are some possibilities. Let’s assume that the car is not running for a mechanical reason and that there is a physical cause for its not starting. What are the possibilities in the missing panel? Let’s consider three:
- 1) The Lord intervenes directly. He uses his power over the laws of the universe to command that sparkplugs are repaired, fan belts mended, unhooked wires to be rehooked, etc. In short, he commands the elements to obey, and they do.
2) He sends heavenly messengers to make the repairs to the car without making their presence known. Say a resurrected being comes and does the repair.
3) The Lord has inspired that day a mechanic to leave at the right time, and sends the inspiration to help the family get on their way, so the man stops, and the fourth panel proceeds.
4) The father is inspired as to what he needs to do to get the car running. This inspiration goes beyond his current mechanical knowledge.
5) The father feels the spirit to make repairs he is capable of making based on his knowledge of mechanics.
In some senses, theologically within our church, all are possible. However, if it is my prayers we are talking about, I would say that I have personal experience with the last three and none with the first two. And in my life #5 and #3 typically seem to be within reach of my prayers. For example, if I discovered the engine block had cracked I would not have had the faith to pull off the faith needed for #1 intervention. I would have started waving down cars for a ride into town.
However, the panel bothered me a bit. It seemed to suggest that prayer was something that would automatically fix things. The message seemed to be that when trouble comes a quick prayer will do the trick (hence the boy’s being put out that his father was looking for causal problems). The perspective of the boy seemed to harbor an almost magical world view. One in which prayer solved problems of all kinds and should be the first course of action rather than investigating possible physical problems. God does not always fix things. At least not in my experience. This is not the way it has worked for me in my life. If I were drawing this the last panel would have been a tow truck pulling the car away and the father saying “I knew I felt good sending in that AAA application.”
What can we expect from prayer? How do we teach our children what to expect from divine intervention? Should a rational exploration of causal realities play a more important role in the lives of our children in dealing with the world than this panel would suggest? How do we best seek relief and solutions from on high vis-à-vis these causal realities?