We all know the old Sunday School model of three answers to prayer: 'yes', 'no' and 'wait.' Recently, at the foot of one of those utterly twee circular emails we all get, was a subtly different version: 'yes', 'not yet' and 'I have something better for you.' Apart from speaking into my own life at the moment, this seemed a more helpful model - if one that is possibly more demanding theologically.
When we pray for healing - meaning physical cure - we really don't won't to hear God say 'no' or even 'what I have in mind for you is so much better.' But, dare I suggest, the latter is more in keeping with our mysterious and loving God? We ask our parents for our immediate desire to be fulfilled and they say 'no': we feel let down, rejected, less loved. We ask them the same question and they say 'well I could do that but I've got something in mind that would be even better': we are intrigued, what could be better than the latest 'must have' toy? Perhaps it takes us time to work out that what we are given is indeed 'better' (whatever that may mean in context) but it seems a more hopeful response than plain old fashioned 'no.'
On Monday morning, as I set off for my mentor course, for some reason I put my Association directory in my bag. No idea why - I never take it anywhere, it lives on my desk near the phone. On the evening of the first day I switched on my mobile phone - it is off 90% of the time - in case there any were messages. Unusually, no less than three popped up - two to tell me someone had tried to phone me from a number I did not recognise, and one, timed a mere five minutes earlier, from someone I used to go to school with asking for the phone number of a specific Leicester Baptist minister as a matter of urgency. How either of these people got my 'church' mobile number I do not know but they did. Why did I turn on the phone at the right time and have the right information to hand (though I do have the phone numbers of other ministers in my phone whom I could have asked)? Was, this all coincidence, divine prompting or just plain spooky?! Whose prayers were being answered and how? Hmm.