OYB for Jan 31st

(Very liberal points of view about to be expressed. You have been warned. ;) )

I must admit that I've always had a problem with a portion of today's reading. Specifically, Matthew 21:18-22.

18 In the moring, when he [Jesus] returned to the city, he was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" And the fig tree withered at once. 20 When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, "How did the fig tree wither at once?" 21 Jesus answered them, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' it will be done. 22 Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive." (NRSV)

Leaving aside for a moment the question of answered prayer, does this action seem to anybody else to be totally out of keeping with Jesus' character? Did the fig tree "choose" to have no fruit? This seems to be an act of spite!

My own personal feeling is that this event probably didn't actually happen, at least not in the way described. (See, I warned you this was going to be liberal). The only way this makes any sense to me is if the fig tree is a metaphor for for the believer, who is expected to bear good fruit.

Now, on to the "you get what you ask for in prayer" bit. I'll grant, of course, that my understanding is limited, but I try to relate God's response to prayer to my response as a parent to my daughter. My wife and I have always tried to be permission-giving. That is, our default answer is "yes," unless, and this is a big unless, there is a good reason not to say yes. But sometimes those good reasons do exist. Perhaps her request would be dangerous. Perhaps it conflicts with something else of more importance. Whatever. I think that's how God sees our requests. God wants to meet our needs. Sometimes that means saying "yes" to your requests. Sometimes it means saying "no." And sometimes other needs are more important than our requests. (Oh, and, for those of you assuming my daughter is some spoiled demon child. She's a wonderful, remakably well adjusted high school senior. Far from perfect, of course, but she's the type of child who would make any parent proud.)