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The cat came back

May 3, 2011

In the Mormon church, the first Sunday of each month is the “fast and testimony” meeting, when members skip breakfast, then stand up to share how they know the church is true.

A seven-year-old boy kicked off the testimonies with a story about the family cat who had gone missing (a common occurrence, as anyone who’s ever owned an outdoor cat can attest). The boy suggested that the family pray for the cat to come back from wherever it was. So the family gathered together, surely hopeful to provide the boy with an experience that could build his testimony, and they prayed that the cat would return. Sure enough, soon after the prayer, the cat reappeared in the family’s yard.

I’ve heard this exact story twice before, not only from the boy, but from his father as well. And perhaps you’ve heard similar stories. But I’m sorry; This isn’t evidence that God answered the prayer. Cats tend to sleep most of the day and become more active in the late afternoon—maybe that’s why it seemed to be missing, then reappeared. Besides, cats are territorial animals. Sure, they may run off for a couple days to find a mate or to check out the neighboring cats’ food options, but unless the cat had been snatched up as a meal or flattened by a car, the probability of the cat’s reappearance was extremely high.

TRY to get rid of a cat, and they’ll often find their way back home.

Stories of answered prayers nearly always ignore the shading of probability. It’s safe to pray for something that is likely to happen anyway (an enjoyable church lesson, a satisfying meal, a good night of rest), because when you get what you prayed for, you can chalk it up to answered prayer.

But if it’s improbable, it’s off limits to pray for, and that’s the unwritten rule.

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One Comment
  1. Joshua permalink

    That’s a surprisingly dark song for a show with puppets.

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