This from my old, old blog:
I have an analogy which I hope will illustrate why at least a lot of examples of alleged successful prayer or interventions of God take place.
Yesterday I was pumping up the tyres to my twins’ buggy. I have an old bicycle pump which I bought probably seven years ago. I bought it for £3 – peanuts. This pump has been very hard working – two bicycles and a buggy at regular intervals (the buggy particularly often needing pumping up). The pump has worked tirelessly (pun intended).
For the first time ever, whilst pumping the tyres up to the buggy in the kitchen, I wanted to talk about this pump, and laud its efficiency, reliability and value for money to my partner.
“This pump is brilliant. I’ve had it for seven years now, and it’s never let me down. I only paid three quid for it and it has been such a good bargain. Basically, it’s genius.”
And like a Greek tragedy, surprise, surprise. What amazed me was the timing. No sooner had I finished the ‘us’ of ‘genius’ than the mechanism of the pump twanged and it broke in my hands. The two of us burst out laughing at the sheer amazing coincidence of it. The first time, after very regular use for seven years, that I had ever even mentioned the pump, after singing its praises in my over-exuberant manner, it broke in my hands. Really, what were the chances!? It was like there was some supernatural force making that happen.
It was like there was some supernatural force making that happen… And that made me think.
Let me now change the analogy around – shift the paradigm. Let me now put myself in the position of being a praying Christian.
I am said Christian. I am on my way to work, and am late for an important meeting for the first time. The level crossing that I cross very often is always down. As I approach, I fear it is down. But suddenly, I see it is UP! I race through it thanking God for doing that! Woo Hoo! Now imagine, just before I approach it, I give a little prayer. When it is up, and I race though, I think to myself, “God listened! I won’t be late for that crucial meeting! Thank you God!”
Now imagine that same crossroad which is always down, is open after a little prayer with my critically ill partner on the way to the hospital. That small amount of time could be the difference between life and death. That same prayer has a massive consequence. Now God really is listening and I will remember that for the rest of my life.
But let us return to the original event. The pump breaks after an amazingly coincidental exuberant display of affection for the pump. Hey-ho, I forget about it after a week.
If I was a fervent believer, I would be praying multiple times a day, asking for things very often. The sheer volume of prayer means that many of them, by the laws of statistics, will be ‘successfully acted upon’.
The sheer volume of things we do every day, every week and every year (considering we are often doing many thing simultaneously – driving to work whilst listening to the radio and thinking of my twins) means that, statistically, HUGE coincidences will happen remarkably often. If you attach a prayer prior to that, a remarkable event will seem to happen at the will of God in answering your prayer.