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Answered prayer?

Sunday morning the DJ on one of our local Christian radio stations made one of those statements that makes Christians look silly. He was making small talk about the Broncos on their bye week. He said he would miss not seeing them play that afternoon, but that they would be back the following Sunday with Tim Tebow as their new starting quarterback which, he said, was an answer to prayer. Really?

I don’t know enough about football to evaluate talent, but I like Tebow. He is a “blue-collar” player, as those like him are sometimes called. Apparently he is not gifted with extraordinary physical ability but through sheer will and determination is able to do extraordinary things. I have little doubt that he will be good for the Broncos, at least for a little while.

But I do not believe that God parted the sea to get Tebow the starting job. In fact I think it is condescending to suggest so.

People pray everyday for a job, for their children to get better, for the bombs to stop falling, for their marriage to be restored, for peace to reign around the globe, for the hungry to be fed, for an end to poverty, and so much more. To suggest that God put all of that aside and concentrated his efforts instead on someone getting a starting quarterback job because they play for the right team (not the Broncos but the Christians), makes light of those other prayers.

This train of thought is only possible when we have a narrow definition of prayer. When we were young we were taught to pray similar to the way we wrote letters to Santa Claus. We would ask, and after checking his list twice to see if we were naughty or nice, God would decide to grant our wishes if we passed. As adults we need to grow in our relationship with God and our praying.

Prayer is not a list of wants and needs. Rather prayer is placing oneself in the presence of God and being available for God’s purposes. Prayer is the conversation that keeps the most important relationship in one’s life vital. In other words, it is OK to talk to God about nothing – to chat as you would with a friend about what is on your heart and mind; what is worrying you and what is exciting you; what lifted your spirits and what brought you down. It is even OK to not say anything in prayer, and to just rest in the presence of God.

When my prayer life is in order like that, I begin to notice God in the world around me, to hear his voice in my daily interactions, to feel his gentle nudge toward places where I can make a difference.

May Tebow capitalize on the opportunity he is being given, not just as a football player but also as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. May you and I do the same in our work, our school, our families, and wherever else we feel God leading. May we get ourselves ready for that work with some time with God in prayer.

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