Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Would You Pray about Buying a Time Share?

nuchylee, via

The minivan has a button for tuning the radio on the steering wheel.  I guess this could come in handy, but mostly I end up bumping it by accident.  Then there's some guy answering a caller's question with the phrase "Catholic birth control."  I hit the button again, hoping that it's in the opposite direction from the first hit and I'll hear NPR playing classical music again.  No.  Now some other guy is explaining why he doesn't recommend time shares.  You pay whether you use them or not.  Maintenance fees go up.  They can be very hard to sell. So don't rush into it, he advises.  Pray about it.  I hit the button again.  NPR.  Relief.

But... of course the little voice from behind me pipes up, "Why'd you change it Mommy?"

I try not to lie to my children.  I can explain (hopefully in developmentally appropriate terms) where babies come from.  I answered truthfully that yes, in some states men can marry other men (but you still can't marry your brother even if you do love him more than anyone).  But in this case I... don't exactly tell the whole truth.

I say, "We don't need to listen to someone talking about time shares.  We are not going to buy a time share."

I didn't feel like I needed to explain that I find this advice to pray about buying a time share irritating.  Because most likely he would again say "Why?" and I'd have to try to explain.  And it's complicated.  I guess.

I mean what does this financial and apparently Christian sage expect to happen when his listener prays?  Will someone miraculously knock on his front door and offer to sit down and map out his income and expenses so that he can see exactly how much money he can afford to spend on vacations each year?  Will he have a feeling of peace about his decision that will cause him to move forward?  Will an obviously "better" opportunity present itself?

I know.  The Bible says to pray about everything.  But if we're doing that then why point out the need to pray about this, particularly?  Just in case he forgot? 

I also know that the Bible promises that if anyone lacks wisdom he should pray for it and God will provide.  But either people are forgetting this promise or it doesn't work quite the way we'd hope because lots of decisions get made - especially regarding finances - that I would not consider to be wise.

But really, it's not bad to pray.  I didn't really change the station because I have a problem with praying.  I changed it because I have a problem with this casual way that we talk about praying.  As if it's.... what... some kind of magic eight ball that will reveal just enough of the future to let us know what to do?  What about common sense?  What about basic principals like spending less than our income?  What about charitable giving? 

If there are moral/spiritual issues involved they have to do with meeting obligations to people who rely on us and thinking about possibly helping people who don't have the basic necessities of life like clean drinking water and basic medical care.  But hey, maybe all those factors have been considered and the listener really does need a few weeks out of the year to rest and relax and maybe a time share would be great.  Maybe praying would help him reflect on all of this.

So I'm probably just being petty.  I'm probably jumping to conclusions about how people who are calling into radio shows aimed at Christians who have questions about their finances act and think.  I'm probably a little bitter that when I was growing up we spent so much time traveling around, visiting dozens of churches, hoping to convince enough people to give us money that we would be able to spend four more years bringing the gospel to an isolated "unreached people group."  While some guy here is sitting in a radio studio telling people to pray about whether they should buy a time share.

Or maybe I'm just frustrated and discouraged by years of pouring out the desires of my heart to God and feeling like it didn't make a difference.  Maybe I just don't know what to do with the fact that when I couldn't stand to pray anymore, when any attempt brought up a well of pain and sadness, when I decided I couldn't expose myself to that any more... that was when I found some measure of peace.  Not the perfect peace that the Bible promises, but a greater peace than I had known when I was hoping and yearning and reaching out. 

Maybe, in spite of a lifetime of teaching on the subject I just don't understand prayer at all.  But I do know that this kind of glib instruction to pray about an issue that might be better handled by careful study and thought rubs me the wrong way.  I think that the Christian community would do well to think about how we talk about these topics in such a public way.  Maybe I'll even figure out how to drive the minivan without hitting that button.


  1. Hi Rachel,

    I've been pondering this post in recent days, and pondering a lot about prayer in general recently.

    I agree that it seems like a bit of a no-brainer (i.e. something you wouldn't need to pray about), but then, if it isn't a no-brainer to the caller, then putting themselves into God's presence and talking about it with him gives him the opportunity to talk to them about it and work on their perspective etc. So it seems like a good idea, on the whole, even though the very question raises some potential questions about their priorities.

    My own experience of prayer is that God not infrequently reframes stuff when I bring it to him and maybe that will happen to them, too.

    For myself, I've been pondering the theological correctness of a kind of praying I frequently find myself encouraged to do: praying that God would make everything better for various friends of friends in difficult situations. I blogged a bit about my questions about this here:

    This past week Martin and I have been working our way through Romans 8. In the light of my questions, I found this bit really encouraging:

    "26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words."

    i.e. it doesn't matter if we don't quite know how to pray - God knows we are weak and can deal with that!

    Just my few random thoughts...

    --Heather :-)

  2. Thanks for the thoughts, Heather! Glad I thought to check in on the blog as I've been ignoring it a little lately. The baby has been extra fussy.

    I do think that prayer requires a lot of humility on our part!