“It’s a Wonderful Life” and Why I’m Frustrated with Prayer

Do we live in George Bailey's alternate reality, or God's kingdom?It’s a Wonderful Life has power like few other films to restore my faith in mankind.

Or at least that’s what I was going to write.

I saw a screening of the film at a friend’s house and drove home in my usual condition: more full of thoughts than I’d like. My Facebook feed awaited me with news of yet another couple grieving over their newborn’s passing. A friend sharing the effects of a years-long depression. More development on the San Bernardino shootings, over which the unbelieving world (voiced by the New York Daily News) finally threw off the last vestiges of their polite silence and hollered “God isn’t fixing this!“.

A cold blast of reality, like the one George Bailey got when his angel announced he’d gotten his wish, and no longer existed.

Sometimes George’s alternate reality, its eeriness anticipating the Twilight Zone a decade in advance, feels more like ours than George’s real one.

Maybe that’s why I was tempted to paint It’s a Wonderful Life as a faith-in-mankind movie. It’s the safer portrait. It was the original intention of the director. It sticks to viewing the movie as a feel-good experience, instead of looking a chaotic world straight in the eye to make the audacious, incredible, ridiculous claim that God is the powerful one.

But perhaps I’m not supposed to be playing it safe.

Perhaps I – we – should be walking straight into the audacity and planting our flag.

Yes. God does respond to prayer. He does choose to operate that way. He does answer our requests.

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