The secret to successful prayer is to be vague. And to beg.We need to talk about the nonsense that is prayer.
We begin with a God who is omnipotent and omniscient, yet can somehow have his mind changed by us. "Pray without ceasing!" cries the apostle Peter. Look how Abraham was able to save Lot's family from the horror of Sodom and Gomorrah, just by pleading with God.
So we try to live with the continued paradox of freewill and predestination, of our choice and God's will, and fall on our knees to ask for things.
The first thing we notice is that God does not talk back. The Scriptures speak of "still small voice" but it's too quiet for all but the most imaginative ear.
But we persist. After all, pray until something happens (PUSH) is emblazoned proudly on our wristbands!
If something happens that is to our liking, then - God be praised - Hallelujah - our faith was not misplaced. God is good all the time! Of course, you don't know that it wasn't going to happen anyway, but let's not spoil the party.
A much more likely outcome, however, is that nothing happens, and we have to start wondering what's going on. Has God said no? Do we need to keep on praying? Do we need to be patient? Is God testing us?
We just don't know.
So we eventually give up, and trust that God knows what the fuck he's doing. We eventually learn how to pray in a more effective way, full of vague, ambiguous requests, and not surprisingly, our prayers start being answered, and we become prayer warriors, heroes of the church.
Until that fated day, when over-confidence strikes, and we lay a hand of healing on the head of a poor amputee, forgetting that whatever prayers God does answer, prayers for amputees are certainly not on that list.