Praying is weird

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.

 Desperation:

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 When in extremis worries over being weird are superseded by the desperation of having no earthly help against our own disintegration.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!

Improving your eyesight

I am eagerly awaiting some new glasses to help me read easier. The bill for them will not be so welcome, but it has stimulated my thinking about eyesight and how precious it is.

Without vision I could not navigate through my days, I’d be reduced to fumbling around home until I could get someone to guide me where I wanted to go. Even then I’d be more of a liability than an asset at work, unable to view the computer screen, restricted to verbal communication tools and oblivious to most of what is happening. My primary means of taking in information would be taken from me – reading. Without being able to read I feel as though I would shrivel up!

Protecting our eyes

We all have reflexes which help to protect our eyes: blinking, tears, turning the face away, not looking directly at the sun. Then we take this a step further in some situations to wear protective safety glasses at work and sunglasses in bright sunlight. If our eyesight is impaired we go to an optometrist to get corrective lenses. Most of us value vision very highly, we like to be able to see clearly. Blind people know that there is a dimension of life which they are not able to experience due to being unable to see.

Eyes of the heart

According to the Bible there is a realm of existence which we are unable to detect with our physical sense. The spiritual world is invisible to us, no matter how good your natural vision is. Without God’s work in us we are blind to God’s grace, sometimes having a hint of it’s existence but remaining unable to experience it.

having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
(Ephesians 1:18 ESV)

Even once we are renewed by God we need some work on the eyes of our heart so that we can see better. (I almost wrote ‘properly’ but I doubt we ever actually see properly in this life). We are all sinners and so must rely upon the corrective lenses of Scripture to fix our myopia. We also need help from others who know the path and can help us know where the pitfalls and stumbling blocks are which cannot be seen in our blind spots.

And don’t forget that there is one who throws sand in our faces to blind us to the gospel:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV)

So keep returning to the Bible, to wise counsellors, and to God in prayer that He will open the eyes of your heart. Also remember that much wise counsel and eye-opening assistance comes from the words written by other reliable Christians:

 I will keep coming back to anyone who helps me see and be astonished at what is in front of my face — anyone who can help heal me from the disease of “seeing they do not see.” (John Piper, Why Chesterton’s Anti-Calvinism Doesn’t Put Me Off)