Give God some specifics when you pray.
I knew that something had gone terribly wrong when I heard that my friend Bob’s house had burned down, his wife had left him for an alcoholic priest and a giant snake had eaten his golden retriever.
I swallowed hard, closed my eyes and asked God what the hell had happened? Why Bob, my friend?
“That is what you prayed for—and much worse. You do recall, don’t you?” he answered in an annoyed tone.
“Yeah. But that was for a different Bob, my bitter enemy and abusive jerk who has spent decades screaming at and berating people—a goof who abuses authority and who has never treated anyone with a shred of decency, honor or respect.”
“Goof. When you prayed—and I must advise you that all the other horrible things you pleaded with me to do to Bob will soon occur—you just said, ‘Bob.’ No last name, no middle initial, no ‘Bob, my bitter and intractable enemy who works at so and so …’ It was just ‘Bob.’ There are seven hundred million Bobs on Earth. How the hell am I supposed to know which one if you don’t specify? I think I got pretty close and did a damn good job, considering. At least it’s a Bob you know.”
“No buts. You people are never precise. All I hear all day—and night—are things like, ‘Dear God, I beseech thee, cure Karen of her cancer,’ or, ‘Most Powerful Almighty and Creator of All, I beg you with all my heart and all my soul, help Stan win his bowling tournament,’ or, ‘Come on, God, just make Edward go blind.’
“I once got a request from a guy who pleaded with me to make ‘Sam’ fall in love with him. I looked down, found the first available Sam and poofed up an intense and enduring love. Turns out the Sam I found was a guy, and that didn’t go over well with the fella who had petitioned me. He actually wanted the love of one certain Samantha. He never told me exactly who, though, until it was too late, and now ‘Sam’ keeps sending him workout videos and nutritional supplements.
“Got one supplication that ‘Joe’ become a great poet. I found a Joe and made him into exactly that. Before, though, he was a happy, highly-skilled brain surgeon who saved lives. Now he’s hopelessly depressed and mumbles gibberish all day. Got the wrong ‘Joe,’ but I didn’t know."
“So the lesson is?”
“When you pray, especially for woe to befall a bitter enemy or a mildly annoying co-worker, or for me to smite a relative, be specific. I have no problem with nuking people, as you would say, but I hate making mistakes. Most people never realize the mistakes their imprecision causes me to make. Since they don’t, they never pray for a correction, and so there are hundreds of millions of people out there who’ve lost limbs, suffered horribly or gone bald who didn’t deserve it. Give me middle initials, last names—correct spellings—addresses and phone numbers, jobs and job titles.”
I did as told, and now I’m just waiting for that snake to get the other Bob’s dog.