Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Praying for Parking Spaces

My Pastor approvingly cited this article on praying for parking spaces. I tried to comment there, but first CoComments wouldn't work, and then the picture that contains letters I'm supposed to copy to prevent robots wouldn't load. So I'm writing here. Sorry, Bob.

Hmmm. Read the article. Not sure how much I agree. The author writes,
[P]raying for parking is poor theology. In Philip Yancey’s new book on prayer, he quotes a philosophy professor on the subject: "If God can influence the course of events, then a God who is willing to cure colds and provide parking spaces but is not willing to prevent Auschwitz and Hiroshima is morally repugnant." The point is not what kind of god God is, but what kind of God we believe him to be, and what our prayers say about our vision of him.
This appears to imply that, in order for God not to be "morally repugnant," there must be some hierarchy of importance, comprehensible to us, that God follows in choosing what situations to intervene in and what situations not to. But that is not the pattern of Scripture. The same God that sprung Peter from prison had already allowed the Apostle James to be executed, and would later let Paul rot in jail for over four years. He has reasons that are beyond us. He doesn't have to conform to our idea of dignity, or importance.

I probably have prayed for parking spaces, now and again, when I'm in a serious time crunch and the course of my life has forced me into an inescapable position of having to go into a store and buy something at that particular moment <shudder>. I've also been known deliberately to take a parking space further from the entrance than necessary because there are those who may have more trouble than I do taking a few extra steps.

If our prayers reflect simple greed or selfishness ("Lord, let me get that space ahead of the other guy who obviously wants it"), well then, yeah, that's not good. But should we avoid praying for things because we think they are not worthy of God's attention? Perish the thought! I say pray for everything, and let God sort out what He wants to pay attention to.


  1. I was jarred a bit by that quote, too, but understanding that it was a third generation quote, (Dodd quoting Yancey quoting a philosophy professor) I chose to focus more on the content of the article itself. Dodd isn't trying to argue that we shouldn't pray about small things. On the contrary, he says "...he’s compassionate enough and incredible enough to be concerned about the minutia of our lives." The point of the article, as I understood it, was that praying for comfort ("those unwilling to walk 50 additional yards") is to misunderstand what God does in our lives. Based on your final paragraph, I think you and Dodd may be agreeing violently.

  2. I don't know. Dodd's article, for me, slid into incomprehensibility when he expressed "gratitude" to God for getting him out of South Boston and the horrendous traffic there (although on that factual point, I do violently agree) and into Colorado Springs, where parking is ample.

    But the real sticking point is that I don't know anyone who prays for a parking space merely to get 50 yards closer (although I can quite imagine it, in Colorado Springs. I've only done so, and only heard of other people doing so, when there was a sense of desperation because of the exigencies of a particular situation.