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Prayer Is Stupid, Unless...

On Good Friday, Peter and I went to our church to participate in a 24-hour prayer vigil. We've never done something like that before, hired a babysitter on a Friday night so we could go pray with some other people we don't know. It was after that experience that I realized, prayer is stupid. Well, really what I realized is that it's stupid unless God actually exists and God actually cares about a relationship with people. It's stupid unless God can effect change in this world. It's stupid unless there is a spiritual reality that intersects with the reality that we feel and touch and see every day. Many Christians would say that prayer and Bible reading are important elements of a daily "walk with God." And I certainly don't disagree. But the Bible reading part comes much more easily to me. Some of that is simply a matter of personality. I love words, and the Bible is full of them. But I think my preference for Bible reading over prayer has more to do with a lack of faith than it does with personality. See, Bible reading is productive even if God isn't there. The language is beautiful. The history is interesting. And, when I finish reading, I can measure what I've accomplished. It interacts easily with my physical reality. It helps me with art history and literature and music. There is a practical utility to Scripture reading. But prayer? Prayer is absurd, inefficient, immeasurable. Stupid. Unless it's true that God exists, interacts, and cares, in which case prayer is an inexhaustible gift to my spirit. I've been rereading Paul Miller's book, A Praying Life.(And, honestly, if you're even remotely interested in this stuff, buy the book and read it. It's thought-provoking, well-written, and as down-to-earth and real as they come. I cannot recommend it more highly.) Paul writes about praying like a child–asking as if God wants to take care of us. And he writes about understanding our lives as a narrative, which means understanding our lives as lives of purpose, woven into the meaning of the entire universe. Our lives as participation in God's story. I have a good friend who says that talking about your prayer life is a lot like talking about your sex life. It's hard to talk about, especially when it's good. It's almost too intimate, too personal. It sounds like bragging to tell a story, especially when my prayer was "answered" quickly, and someone else's wasn't. There's a part of me that wants to write about all the prayers I've seen answered over the course of my life, faithless as it has been, but I'm not sure I want to think about prayer in terms of requests and answers anymore. I more believe that prayer connects our physical lives to a spiritual reality. Our prayers aren't so much answered as they are incorporated into that reality. Prayer allows us to see the tender mercy and gracious love of God.

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