Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Road Not Taken Prayer

Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

The following are two accounts of answered prayer
concerning cockroaches and locked vans
in the February 8, 2007, Adventist Review

I. The Road Not Taken

Patty Froese
Prayed “one of the most desperate prayers” of her life
when cockroaches were driving her crazy.
“You brought on the bugs in Egypt,
and then you removed them.
So please, remove them from our home.”
She never saw another cockroach.
She wrote, “It’s hard to explain to someone
when you feel a prayer has been answered.
I just felt it somehow.”

Don Droze
Prayed, when keys had been accidentally
locked in a van at summer camp
and he tried to open a door
using the keys from two similar vans
“God, in the name of Jesus Christ,
make one of these four keys work,
for Your name’s sake.”
The van door remained locked.
So he “prayed yet again,
Oh God, for Thy glory,
For the sake of these kids,
Make this key work in the other direction.
With fear and trembling and holding fast to faith
(total reliance upon His strength)”
and “the key moved within that tumbler
as though it was cut to do so.
All the locks instantly popped up”

II. The Road Less Traveled

My Prayer

What am I to believe, Lord?
How do I figure in Grace*
With cockroaches and keys?
Are we that love Grace not desperate enough?
Are the words we pray not the right ones?
Is it that we don’t we rely totally on your strength?
Is Grace’s problem too big for you to handle?
Are you only able to work with cockroaches and keys?

God, I’m taking the road less traveled on this one.
As far as I’m concerned
there was nothing miraculous
about the cockroaches disappearing and the key turning.

Every day really bad things happen
to people of deep religious faith
who pray using all the right words.

Yet implacable, monstrous, mysterious evil remains.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in prayer,
or that I don’t pray,
or that I don’t believe in miracles.

I pray to thank You for the miracle of this planet,
the miracle of life, of modern medicine;
the miracles of hope and generosity
and kindness and friendship and wonder
And understanding.

I pray to thank You for spending time on the earth with us.
Because of your life I can believe in justice
and forgiveness, the end of suffering, and happy endings.
I pray to thank You for the fact that this world is not my home
and my mistakes and foolishness and awkward selfishness
do not separate me from your love.

I pray for wisdom and thoughtfulness and compassion
and perseverance and a loving spirit.
I pray that my prejudices don’t blind me to suffering,
and that I will always do right because it is right.

Finally, I want to thank you
for my my companions,
on the Road Less Traveled.
It has truly made all the difference.

*An 8-year-old friend with an inoperable brain tumor



  1. A great poem! My sentiments exactly. Thank you.

  2. These are feelings we all share when tragedy is looking us in the face or even when we hear of it. I think it is a well-traveled road actually.
    But I see the "little miracles" as the God moments in our everyday lives. I wouldn't invalidate the experiences of those of us who make note of these God moments. There have been too many coincidences and answered prayers in my life to indicate that God is smiling at a particular moment. These moments often make our day when we have bigger burdens that are more constant.
    I am not always open to sharing these "little miracles" because there are many who would devalue them.
    We don't understand now the reasons for tremendous suffering of children and the innocents in this world--but it is only temporary. We hold close the belief that when the suffering ends, the next instant they awaken to the Second Coming and a joy never before known. Maybe it's the little things that keep our hope alive day by day, as we continue to suffer the losses.
    The poem is an honest reflection and well-expressed piece. But I find it a bit cynical concerning the experiences of others.

  3. Hi Ellamae

    You have an interesting perspective on the "miracles" of everyday life. In my view, we shouldn't call the everyday miraculous because it denudes the term of all its meaning. I think we should celebrate in gratitude for all good things that happen. But coincidences happen as a natural part of our world.

    What bothers me about claiming miraculous intervention in the everyday things trivialises the suffering of those that do not experience the miraculous in the face of terrible suffering.

    I think we do know why there is tremendous suffering of children and innocents in this world. It is because we are in a war zone with a great spiritual battle going on -- and in a war zone people get hurt. Little children and innocents suffer because people with freedom of choice perpetrate evil.

    But you are right -- it is only temporary. The battle will be over one day.

  4. Steve,
    No, I am not trivializing the tragedy in the world by noting the God moments. But I don't like to trivialize the special blessings that happen to us either.
    There are some of us(and many friends of mine, and usually women) who experience God moment by moment and talk with Him throughout the day. I believe in thought inspiration, and I believe that the Holy Spirit is not too busy to be with His people all the time maybe in another dimension. I call it practicing the presence of God. It makes us stronger and gives understanding when we have to live with the tragedies in the world.
    I think little things do build our faith and would not judge another's experiennce of them. If God is everywhere, He must be here.
    I believe in miracles by whatever term you want to call them. I think this has a lot to do with our differing thinking styles--how we experience God. Don't you?
    I really enjoy reading about Revelation and other Bible study and listening to all the scholars, but I recognize that not everyone does as I see on here. Maybe it's my hobby.
    PS Have you read The Shack a recent bestseller?

  5. Hi Ellamae

    I agree with pretty much all that you have said about practicing the presence of God. But God's presence does not always show itself in the miraculous. I think the term "miracle" should be used carefully to refer to those things that truly are interventions of God. I can illustrate what I mean by an example:

    Here in Australia, one of our snowfields collapsed and trapped a number of people. One person survived and the rest were killed. The survival of the one individual was constantly called a miracle. But does that mean that God only chose to save one person and not the others? How would this language affect those who lost loved ones in the accident?

    I beleive God was there in that accident. But there were no miracles. There was the hard work of the rescuers. The whole thing was an incredible tragedy.

    We can learn much from everyday life about God and God's presence. But to call everything that happens a miracle means that nothing is really a miracle. We should celebrate God's presence in the everyday, thanking God for all that is good. But God is a God of the everyday as much as the occasional miracle.

    This has nothing to do with scholarship -- it is just about us being sensitive to what our language means to others when we use it.

    Hope that makes sense!