This parable is the first one I heard from this book as a friend read it aloud in a small group called Exiting Christianity. The story tells of a preacher who learns that whenever he prays for someone, they lose all faith. So, the preacher decides never to pray for anyone. Once, on a trip he finds himself seated next to a very successful banker who does business in as cutthroat a manner as any other, rationalizing that it is the way business is done. Still, the businessman says, "that is not me. I am a man of faith and my experience in church confirms that." The preacher realizes what he must do... he prays for the man who loses his faith immediately. Soon he finds he is no longer able to justify his business practices, quits his job, gives away his possessions, and proceeds to use his talents on behalf of the poor. One day he sees the preacher across the street, runs to him, and thanks the preacher for helping him discover his faith.
One of the questions swirling around these days is whether religion gets in the way of faith and what to do when the institutional church impedes the good news of the gospel by working to buttress the status quo. As a pastor committed to and working within the institutional church these are difficult questions. They are doubly difficult fr me as I do not believe it is possible to really follow Jesus outside of a community of faith.
I have no answers... only more questions... but it is Lent and struggling is good.