People who have conversations with someone that nobody else can see are not normal. They are usually sent to a psychologist and prescribed medication to control the hallucinations.
When we have a phone conversation, we hear a voice and can respond. When we pray we are talking to air. Only crazy people talk to themselves. How do we talk with a Spirit, with someone who doesn’t speak with an audible voice?
And if we believe that God can talk to us in prayer, how do we distinguish our thoughts from his thoughts? Prayer is confusing. (A Praying Life, p16)
I am conservative at heart, weirdness freaks me out.
As a Christian one of my fears has long been that I might turn into some odd religious nutter (and some of you will be thinking, “too late, you already are one”). Having seen some folks do extremely peculiar things (e.g., falling over, laughing hysterically, barking like dogs, chasing demons) in the name of ‘worshipping’ God, this is perhaps a reasonable apprehension.
Why then, do something as odd as praying?
The exact reasons for undertaking such a peculiar activity may vary from person to person, but here are the reasons I can think of:
We are told to/God expect us to:
Paul gives us specific instructions to pray always, and Jesus simply assumed (knew) we will pray.
As the saying goes, ‘there are no atheists in a fox hole’. When in extremis worries over being weird are superseded by the desperation of having no earthly help against our own disintegration.
I trust in God, even though prayer seems silly:
When my faith in who God is – His love, power, mercy and grace – is strong, it is easier to ‘get over’ the oddness of talking to the ceiling. If I am convinced God is listening, prayer seems rational.
It is part of our human nature to cry out to God:
I am not so sure of this one but mention it because this is a common thought in a lot of Christian books written prior to about 1960. The idea possibly stems from an assumption that all people have an awareness of God. In secular, post-postmodern NZ this is no longer a valid assumption.
Praying gives me peace:
Sometimes when I pray, a sense of peace and being ‘right with God’ washes over me. This is a pleasant experience and I’d love to have it more often. Whether this is a good motivation to pray is not my point today, it is simply one reason why I pray despite the oddness of prayer.
Praying makes stuff happen:
While this will not convince an atheist, something happens when I pray that would not happen if I didn’t. I can testify that God has answered at least some of my own prayers is very tangible ways. An example would be the many times my wife and I have prayed for my work and in over 20 years I have had many jobs yet God has ensured continuous employment for that entire time.
No doubt there are plenty of other reasons why Christians pray, but this should at least indicate that despite seeming to be an odd thing to do, praying to God is not as crazy as it may first appear to be!
Related to this topic:
Photo of prayer booth: iStock