Vignette on Prayer and Faith
© 31 Mar 2015 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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An experience from my job interviews.


I am currently employed as a computer science lecturer by the University of Virginia. I love the department and am quite happy here, but I am hired on a temporary pool of money and my long-term future is unclear. Because of that, I have been interviewing at various other schools and also engaging in many not-quite-interview conversations; I try to increase the non-interviews as much as a I can because a full interview takes all day (or sometimes two full days) and involves travel, meaning I have to work long hours the rest of the week to keep my current courses running smoothly. Said long hours have something to do with the sparsity of posts in this blog.

I should also comment, as an aside, that right now there is a huge demand for computer science instructors and a relatively small supply of qualified individuals, particularly qualified individuals are are interested in a career as teachers and not as using a teaching job as a stepping-stone to a research job. So for the most part I have been courted quite strongly by potential employers.

Several times during this process I have been surprised to have the Lord suggest to me that I should apply at school X or should turn down an offer from school Y if (or even before) they give me one. Surprised on two fronts: both surprised that God cares Not cognitively surprised, since I firmly believe in a caring God, but still practically surprised since I tend to assume many of my decisions are not important in the grand scheme of things. and surprised that He puts in the particular advice He does. Though on reflection, I suppose if the advice was not surprising then He wouldn’t need to give it…

In one of my conversations with a potential employer I was asked “‍what can we do to make this offer attractive enough for you to accept it?‍”

I gave a list of things that came to mind.

My fellow conversant being an unusually canny individual, there was a follow-up question: “‍And if we do all of that, you will accept us?‍”

“‍Well,‍” I said “‍maybe. I’m a religious person, and I will consult the Lord in prayer first. He has surprised me by suggesting I turn down other opportunities, and if He does so again I will do so again.‍”

There was an awkward pause. Somehow in our history the separation of church and state has morphed into the separation of faith and public life, and I think my openness came as a surprise.

My fellow conversant then confessed to some religious experience and then asked “‍What can we do to make the result of prayer be in our favor?‍”

I honestly do not recall what answer I gave to that question. I think I basically brushed it off as outside of our control. But in reflecting on that experience afterwards, I wish I had said

“‍I’m not the one you should be asking that question.‍”

I am surprised, given my own experience, that so many other people treat religion as something believed but not realized in their actual life. If you want to know how to influence what God tells another, you don’t ask the other, you ask God. Didn’t He say repeatedly “‍ask and ye shall receive‍”, “‍ask of God‍”, and so on? But my observation convinces me that many even quite faithful people assume that the benefit of asking God is the enhanced reasoning He can give rather than the answers he can actually provide.

This reflection came back to me this week when in church one of our members said she had asked the children to finish the sentence “‍I believe in Christ because            .‍” I could answer that prompt in many ways, but one is this: I believe in God because I have conversed with Him, and it is hard not to believe in someone while you are talking with them, particularly when they are so much smarter than you are.

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