David writes as a scientist and a theologian.
The basis of the book is miracles, how they might happen, where there is space for them within scientific structures and what effect praying can have on them. He explores science, both old, now out of date science, and the revelations that new science have brought – and the possibilities for God to work in that. He faces the questions of how God can, does and apparently doesn’t answer prayer; how it is possible for God to act in response to prayer, whilst still maintaining the ‘rules’ by which the world works. Various understandings of prayer are also examined and the reality that “prayer does not always save us from the very worst of circumstances” (p89) are there throughout.
The expositions of science are highly accessible and easy to grasp – even the ‘big’ principles. The space for God within that shines through. It is very illuminating to consider prayer and God’s work in the context of science and how that works. He covers also such themes as the apparent injustice of some prayers being answered and others not, and what prayer is actually about anyway, all underpinned by the bible.
I did find the use of the phrase “unanswered prayer” frustrating. Especially given that he says that, “we judge God’s response to our prayer in an isolated way, not allowing the possibility of some bigger story at work” (p92). I personally consider a ‘no’ to a prayer still to be an answer – which is touched upon in the final chapter in conversations with our children – whatever our answer, it is good to talk. Even if our answer is that we are praying the wrong prayer, I consider that still to be an answer – a very important one if we will listen to it.
Over all, though this book is very interesting and challenging, I did have two questions (which is not a bad thing in a book!):
if prayer and miracles can be explained, or at least shown how they are possible, with science, does that make them miracles? Why pray for God to do what he is already doing? Or does that go to reinforce that in prayer we are aligning ourselves with what God is already doing?
Do I need to understand how prayer works? Or is it like the working of the internal combustion engine and I only need to know that it does work and how to make that happen? I guess the answer to that depends on the kind of person you are!
In the end, for me, I found this book was answering a question I wasn’t asking. But maybe I should be!
It is always good to think about faith, prayer, how God works and how we work with him – and this book fulfils that admirably. A challenging and stimulating book – especially if you are an asker of ‘how?’