Responding to a mocking comment that answered prayer was mere coincidence, former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple replied: ‘That may be true, but I’ve noticed that when I pray coincidences happen, and when I don’t they stop’. Or as a friend of mine used to say: ‘If you think it’s a coincidence, have a dull day!’
The collapse and cardiac arrest of Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba on the pitch in March, has led to what one newspaper called ‘a widespread prayer campaign’.
As Bishop of Bolton, along with so many others locally, I have been deeply moved by this outpouring of love and concern, and of course share the joy of what even the most cynical commentators are calling Fabrice’s miraculous recovery.
So was it coincidence that as well as the club doctor, there was a Tottenham fan in the crowd who was a cardiologist. Or that Fabrice was quickly able to be taken to a hospital close by that could offer the best possible specialist care? Given what happened, it’s hard to argue with Fabrice’s own words: ‘I am walking proof of the power of prayer’.
Prayer is essentially about relationship, and what the world has also learned over the weeks the Muamba story has been around, is that he and his family are devout Christians; they have spoken openly about their relationship with God, including his dad praying with him before the game for protection.
Prayer or coincidence? Even when we pray fervently, we have to acknowledge sometimes things don’t work out as we’d like them to. But in this instance I’ll settle for the words of one of the other players on the pitch that day: ‘We are very happy the medics did a great job – and we have to thank Almighty God as well’.
Lord, thank you for the gift of prayer. Today please increase my confidence that you both hear and answer the cries of our hearts. Amen.