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The first response firmly but gently denies our request, whereas the second leaves open the possibility that we will indeed get the money.

But here is a particularly searing question that we must confront at this time of year: What happens when He doesn't? In the first, you are denied the cookie; but you get the loving attention of your mother. Unfortunately, your financial situation is bleak; you cannot afford to buy yourselves even a small, used car.What, if anything, is left of our relationship with God then? In the second, you get your cookie -- but a gnawing pit swells in your stomach. Even routine grocery shopping has become an ordeal.Imagine that in his last fleeting seconds of consciousness, this man would be privileged to hear God's response to him.Consider, again, two scenarios: SCENARIO A God responds to him: "My child, I want you to know that I am very close to you now.We, of course, have no way to directly perceive how God accepts our prayers -- but for the sake of argument, let us imagine that you could somehow "hear" His response.

Imagine, again, two scenarios: SCENARIO A God responds to you: "My child, I want you to know that I am with you.

If we do get the money, what price will we have paid? A man suffering the effects of leukemia is wheeled into the operating room for a last-chance operation to save his life. As he feels the anesthesia begin to take effect, he realizes quite clearly that this may be his last moments of consciousness on Earth.

He opens his heart to God and prays that he will survive.

We're supposed to feel that He's compassionate, loving.

So you pray to God with added devotion, and ask for this raise to come through.

Imagine a woman who prays deeply and sincerely for the success of an operation on her severely ill 6-year-old daughter. In some small way, your mother has abandoned you... Your husband's employer, however, has hinted he may be in line for a raise -- enough, perhaps, to allow you to afford a vehicle.