Cabaret owner Tarcilia Bezerra, in the city of Fortaleza, wanted to expand his business. He had experienced great success with his liquor-and-dancing-girls enterprise, and thought it was time to make the place bigger. So he applied for, and got, a building permit, and construction began.
The local church, however, didn't think that was such a hot idea. All of that skin showing and alcohol flowing was just sinful; the idea that the godly folks of Fortaleza had to put up with Bezerra crowing about how well he was doing, and making the place bigger and better, was just naughty in god's sight. So the pastor (who was unnamed in the story) encouraged his flock to pray that god would intervene and smite Bezerra and his unholy Temple of Tawdriness. Prayer sessions were organized morning, noon, and night for weeks, as the construction went on.
And then, only a week before the grand reopening, lightning struck the cabaret, destroying most of the roof and almost all of the new construction.
So Bezerra sued the church.
His lawsuit read, in part, that the church and its members "were responsible for the end of my building and my business, using divine intervention, direct or indirect, as the actions or means."
The pastor, of course, was appalled, but was forced to respond to the lawsuit. His response, predictably, was to deny "all responsibility or any connection with the end of the building."
Now, wait a minute: isn't this backwards? The cabaret owner is the one who believes that praying works, and the church pastor doesn't?
The judge in the case, which has yet to be decided in court, evidently agrees. In his opening statement, he said, "I do not know how I'm going to decide this case, but one thing is evident in the records. Here we have an owner of a cabaret who firmly believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church declaring that prayers are worthless."
It all, somehow, makes me wonder how much folks really believe what they're saying. I remember, during the Cold War, Americans praying for the destruction of the Soviet Union. How would they have reacted if Moscow had been struck by a giant meteorite, causing millions of deaths? People pray for political candidates, and sometimes sports teams, to win. What if it actually happened, as per biblical miracles, with the losing candidate (or sports team) being eaten by a lion, contracting leprosy, or being "swallowed up by the earth?" Each Sunday, there are thousands of prayers given asking for Jesus' return. What if he just showed up, and said, "You rang, here I am! Okay, leave behind your comfy house and all of your stuff. Give everything away to the poor, like I told you to. What, weren't you listening?"
Oh, I'm sure that there are some people who would be thrilled if this happened. The members of the Westboro Baptist Church, for example. But I'll bet that most ordinary churchgoing folks would freak out so badly that they might never freak back in.
I suppose the take-home message, here, is "be careful what you pray for, because due to random chance, it might actually happen, and then you'll have to admit that you honestly didn't think anyone was listening."