Presence Rather Than Partisan Answers

Years ago, during a controversy in Whitewater, someone told me a story about an official who, I learned, asked God’s help to relieve that official from a political burden.  The official delivered his request, apparently, in blunt, specific terms.

I don’t know whether the official received an answer to his prayers, or whether he believed that he did.  

In any event, one may be confident that the official did not receive an affirmative answer, as the subject of his request remained living and in good health.

I was reminded of this account, nearly forgotten to me, when I recently read the observation of a pastor about God’s possible reply to prayers: “we go to God for answers, but sometimes what we get is God’s presence.”

This seems profoundly right to me.  We misunderstand God, surely, when we believe that we are owed what we want, in the way that we want it. It’s a staggering arrogance that would lead us to believe that God, Himself, serves as a political consultant.   
Lincoln certainly understood this — it’s not possible to read his Second Inaugural without seeing that Lincoln held a divine, transcendent will to be fundamentally removed from particular, partisan concerns.

That leaves us, as just as it left Lincoln in his time, often to experience God’s presence alone.

Far from being too little, that presence is, by definition, then and there exactly what should be.

(Of views on the divine nature, I have enjoyed two books from David Bentley Hart.  On the historical ignorance of skepticism, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. On misunderstandings about the transcendent nature of divinity, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss.) 

As for our particular and partisan political questions, we would do well to manage them to the fullest of our own abilities.  

In fact, I believe, that responsibility is among the least that God expects of us

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