Low life

Jesus sometimes plays a very long game

We don’t know if our prayers are answered but we say them anyway

17 October 2015

8:00 AM

17 October 2015

8:00 AM

We closed the last page of a gruesome, thrilling picture book called The Day Louis Got Eaten and said our prayers. Our prayers are always the same. We ask Jesus to bless as many people known to us as we can remember, taking it in turns to name them. We aren’t sure what the range of consequences might be for someone if we ask Jesus to bless them, but we do it anyway, and the word has a pleasant, incantatory feel to it when repeated.

It has been at least a fortnight since we last asked Jesus to bless our list because Grandad has been away. And as we went through the regulars, it occurred to us that a lot had happened to some of these names since we last asked Jesus to bless them, some of it, on the face of it, not so good. We can only conclude that when he decides to bless people, Jesus sometimes has to play a long game, and in some cases a very long game indeed.


Take his grandma — my boy’s mother — as an example. For as long as we can remember we have asked Jesus to bless her, but with no observable results. For about 20 years she has lived according to the dictates of a cluster of strange neuroses, chief among which is agoraphobia, and in all that time she has ventured no further from home than the garden gate. I tell a lie. Twice, a social worker has coaxed her out through the garden gate and along the road as far as the pillar box at the end of the street, raising hopes that she might then be coaxed by painstaking increments as far as the shops, or even be cured. But those two state-sponsored visits to the pillar box at the end of the street remain the farthest extent of her travels since Julie Goodyear left Coronation Street. About five years ago she was married in the back garden. That apart, the only things of note to have happened to her in 20 years are that she has changed her brand of cigarettes a couple of times, and about three years ago she went online. Which is fine. We all of us prefer to live within our comfort zones. The only problem has been her teeth. Her not seeing a dentist for at least two decades has been disastrous for them. Elizabeth l in old age had more comely teeth than she has now.

While I was away, however, dramatic news came in of her change of heart. She has rung up the county hospital, we hear, and made an appointment with the gob specialist to have her teeth fixed, or, more likely, removed. This will involve an hour-long journey there and back under sedation. If she is still conscious enough to look out of the car window, she will hardly recognise the place. In our little universe, this decision of hers to leave the house and go to hospital is as unlikely and surprising as Birnam Wood going to Dunsinane. Not one to do anything by halves, she has also told her saintly husband that she doesn’t love him any more and that he must sling his hook. Conscious of this new efficacy in our prayers, we gave the embers another poke by asking Jesus to bless her again.

Then we came to Michael, let’s call him. My grandson was his mother’s fourth child. His elder siblings were fathered by Michael, who, though no longer his mother’s preferred partner, was a constant presence at the family home. Michael was a gentle, peaceful, hoodie-wearing guy in his forties who always seemed slightly out of it. Whenever he spoke to me, it was as though he had migrated to another world, but hadn’t altogether lost touch with this one and liked to maintain a polite interest in the lives of earthbound individuals such as myself. Michael hadn’t worked for years and spent a lot of time staring out of the window. He loved his children humbly, treating them as his superiors, and they loved him as one of their own. Asking Jesus, about two thirds of the way down our list, to bless Michael, was always the highlight of our prayers, because our mental image of him, round-shouldered, hood up, staring out of the window, the gentlest man in the world, always made us laugh.

While I was away, Michael was beaten and kicked to death. He was found unconscious at the foot of stone stairs outside a church. The police have arrested a former friend of his. So this time when we said, ‘And please bless Michael,’ neither of us laughed. Nor could we conceive of how Jesus might possibly go about it.

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  • freddiethegreat

    Why blame Jesus for everything – especially when you have no clue as to who he is?

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      “I’m a virgin, just like me dear old mum.

  • Velo

    Jez: – it’s rare to find an article like this about Jesus but as the old saying goes, “What is rare is beautiful.” Thank you.

  • whatever name

    Statistics show that prayer does not work.

    Conclusion, the Christian god does not exist.

    • Ivan Ewan

      There’s a logic in your gap.

      My conclusion, if the Christian God exists He does not answer all his mail with the answer, “Yes”.

      That would be Bruce.

      • whatever name

        Statistics suggest that “god” does not “answer” prayer at all. Conclusion, the god who answers prayers does not exist at all.

        Your argument is that perhaps he answers a few, statistically irrelevant prayers, but is that the god of whom jesus supposedly wrote and in whom christians supposedly believe? I say, no.

        Matthew 21: “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this [which is done] to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

        The christian god who promises to answer prayers does not statistically answer prayers at all and he/ it does not exist.

        • Ivan Ewan

          There are a few common and understandable problems with your argument. It’s a common mistake to suppose that Adequate Belief In God + Adequate Belief In Command + Command = Commanded Result Accomplished. It falls down because God is the only one with the power to actually make it happen and He would essentially have to decide whether it would be the right thing to do. Unlike in Star Wars, you don’t get Force powers if you believe in them hard enough. There has actually been a lot of thought put into this seeming conundrum, but the basic gist of the dominant arguments about Matthew 21 is to be found here:

          http://www.crivoice.org/commanding.html

          • whatever name

            Jesus talked crap about prayer that obviously isn’t true. It is an obviously crap religion and you are getting very boring.

          • greencoat

            Hey, it’s the teenager again.

          • whatever name

            What could be more infantile than an adult who “believes” in Daddy God?

    • Fulgentian

      What an utterly, utterly ridiculous assertion which lacks even the basic elements of good reasoning.
      That’s like saying ‘Darren didn’t answer my email therefore Darren does not exist’.
      Even if God never answered a single prayer that would in no way show he does not exist.

      • Solage 1386

        Whether a God exists or does not exist can be viewed as a matter of no real importance by a truly enlightened mind, perhaps…..

  • Guest13578642

    “However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”, these things God has prepared for those who love him.”

    You are praying to a man who was flogged and nailed to a cross, and whose closest followers were nearly all executed. His path is rarely easy.

    “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” – St Pope John Paul II

    • whatever name

      Riiight, we might get kicked to death at the bottom of the church steps but don’t worry jesus will “save us” in some invisible realm that no one can know about… all is well in the cosmos… we can take your word for it… simply because you personally chose to believe in some prehistoric desert religion.

      • Bruce Lewis

        In the end, that “prehistoric desert religion” and it’s God, who is Love Incarnate, will turn out to be the only hope the world has left–and that will be true whether or not Paul or His Church understood Him correctly.

        • WillG

          Why would you even think this stuff?

        • Solage 1386

          Why does the world need hope? Why should a God have created a world in which hope is even necessary? He could have created a perfect world. Or perhaps the world IS perfect? Who knows?
          .
          “Perfection is not of this world, even when we meet it here”. (Violette Leduc, La Batarde, 1964)

      • Ivan Ewan

        I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet – but we all die some day.

        • whatever name

          What is your point?

          • Ivan Ewan

            I should have thought it was obvious. Dying isn’t an evil. It’s just one of the unfortunate but ultimately necessary aspects of being alive. Of course, precisely because you don’t believe in the idea of life beyond death, and also because you believe that God is bound to obey all commands that are made in good faith, you automatically presume that God fumbled.

          • whatever name

            Christianity teaches that death is an evil and that it is a punishment for “original sin”.

            Jesus talked crap about prayer that obviously isn’t true. It is an obviously crap religion and you are getting very boring.

          • greencoat

            You sound like a teenager.

          • Solage 1386

            So does God.

          • Ivan Ewan

            Well, he can’t have been talking about physical death because everything that lives, dies, with no conception of sin. As any theologian would point out to you, it’s talking about the death of the soul.

            You talk an awful lot of crap for someone who thinks everything is so obviously obvious. And if I’m boring you, tough. Get over it or go away.

    • Solage 1386

      Nothing is inconceivable to the mind of homo sapiens.

  • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

    Sad that humans still need this delusion.

    • Fulgentian

      How do you know it’s a delusion? I think it’s sad humans still cling on to the intellectually untenable position of Naturalistic Atheism. For if NA is true, our faculties have evolved not with a view to ascertaining the truth, but with a view to survival. We have therefore no reason according to NA to trust our faculties as reliable and science, philosophy, etc. go down the pan.

      • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

        Do you believe that the Hiindu gods are real ?

        • Solage 1386

          I think I may once have seen Ganesh in a circus. He was munching a currant bun.

          • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

            Well of course the gods are a delusion.

      • Solage 1386

        People believe in the existence of a God because they fear death. The ego craves, mindlessly, to exist for ever more! This is the nature of the ego. As Schopenhauer pointed out, if people had the choice between an afterlife without a God, or a God without an afterlife, they would choose the former.

        • DeliaMaguire

          Surely we are right to fear death. Fear of the unknown is a very logical thing. However, many people believe in God and go on to suffer enormously for that belief. I really think something more than ego sustains them.

          • Solage 1386

            The need for absolute purpose, absolute meaning, and complete, perpetual safety in the arms of a benevolent God. As for fear of death, we are programmed by our very nature to fear it. The will to exist, manifesting itself through the ego, mindlessly craves continuation of itself in whichever living body it happens to occur. People have invented the concept of a God because they seek meaning and pattern in the chaos that surrounds them, and because they fear death, desire eternal life, and are unable to comprehend nothingness, meaninglessness, and emptiness. Time for another pink gin.

          • DeliaMaguire

            Thanks for your reply. Who knows, you might well be right but if you aren’t, then that is a very different scenario. I can see that it is very difficult for people to believe in a loving God when so many of His followers are anything but loving,myself very much included. However, at the end of the day it is very much a leap of faith and I certainly wish you well. Each path is different but it is amazing what can be achieved by a moment of blind faith.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          When you draw your last breath it’s “Game Over”. No glorious after-life, the here and now is all there is, so get used to it. Organised religion is for the weak-minded that can’t handle mortality.

  • blandings

    It’s an odd thing, but despite being an athiest I often prefer the company of those who profess to be christian.

    • It’s possible that you are in the minority of rational atheists rather than a faith based one.

    • Ludwig Van

      I generally enjoy the company of religious people too although I am extremely opposed to superstition/religion myself. Funny.

  • Dominic Stockford

    And as the Bible points out, and the Book of Common Prayer repeats, what is best for us (most expedient) is known to God, not to us. So a blessing for one might be a peaceful death and for another courage to face tribulation.

    The real sadness in the middle of all this is the disgusting way the agoraphobic has treated her hsuband – he is the one who needs both prayer and practical help.

  • Solage 1386

    Jesus died long, long ago. He ain’t never coming back, and his game-playing days are long since over. Besides which, how could He possibly “save” you even if he could return? He Himself is lost. Being All-Wise, He would realise this. He would be aware of His own powerlessness. Nothing can be saved, and nothing is in need of salvation.

  • DeliaMaguire

    I enjoyed reading this article and I hope I am not breaking any rules, but I would love to indulge in a little bit of self publication. My novel, ‘The Rural Gentleman’ is now available and just might appeal to anyone who is wondering if there are any Don Camillo or Bishop Myriel figures to be found. Well, there is, his name is Father Barnabas Salmon, he is an English priest who has been sent to serve in rural Ireland, and my hope is that he brings good cheer to all who read about him in the pages of The Rural Gentleman.

  • Shorne

    When I was a young sneering atheist (now I chose not to believe but don’t jeer at those who do) I asked a believer why God doesn’t answer prayers. His reply was “He does but sometimes the answer is ‘No'”. That shut me up.

  • Andrew Smith

    Is it possible that the Christian god exists but that he does not intervene in the physical world in any way and, in addition, there is no afterlife? Wouldn’t that be a laugh.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      So all that time you spent our your knees staring at the ceiling was a total waste of effort.

      • Andrew Smith

        Well, it all rather depends on what you think is a good use of a time. In some sense, if there is no god and no afterlife, isn’t everything a waste of time?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    If God and Mr. Jesus Christ are so powerful, how come they let bad things happen?
    The question the dog-collar vampires can’t answer.

    • They constantly answer it. In fact the answer is obvious, it’s just that we don’t like it

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        However, the obvious answer is always sidestepped. Namely, God doesn’t exist, you’re on your own. It’s all BS coupled with violent superstition. Wake up gullible Muppets. You’ve lived your life as a surf and a slave. There’s no need to die one. So the next time one of those sky pilots comes by, tell him to piss up astick and not get his hands wet.
        Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

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