Friday, November 17, 2017

Why Non-Christians Don't Understand Christian Prayer

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This is a continuation on my post from a week and a half ago at Da Tech Guy blog. It probably won’t follow a direct line of thinking, though. Call it a train of meandering thought.

After the massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, many expressed sympathies toward those who were affected and still living. “Thoughts and prayers” is the usual phrasing, something with which I have no quarrel.

However, with such an evil act having been perpetrated on followers of Jesus the Christ while they were in the midst of worshiping Him, many non-believers took the opportunity to mock Christianity and Christians.

Most of the mockery amounted to this: “Where is your god now?” “Prayer doesn’t work.”

I have several atheist friends and family members with whom I usually don’t argue and, usually, they don’t argue with me when I expound on the Bible. However, I hope that they all read what I write here and it’s this: if you’re going to argue against Christianity, know what you’re talking about and what you’re arguing against. That is the failure of naysayers to Christianity and of prayers to the Living God.

A lot of people, even some Christians, argue about what happens here on Earth as if there is no afterlife, as if this life is the only one there is. If it’s true that this is all there is, then why bother doing what’s right? Why not get all you can get and get away with?

I’ve always believed that God exists. But, before I became a Christian, the god I thought existed didn’t pay much attention to me and was busy lavishing his attention on others he felt were worthier. (The riveting thing about that is, after I became a Christian, I began to reflect on certain incidents prior to that and concluded that God had been paying close attention to me, but I had ignored it or forgotten about it.)

The beginning went like this: after reading the Bible the first time all the way through, I said “Okay. I’m in.” There were no harps or angelic visions.

Since becoming a Christian, my struggle has been to rid myself of that old notion of who God is and to discern what the true nature of our being and of this world. I’ve read the Bible from beginning to end more than once. I’ve attached myself to a Bible-based nondenominational church. I’ve read and listened to topical sermons from many pastors.

The story of my search for a church is told here, but that was only the barest beginning. My life as a Christian used to be like this: I’d go to church, listen, take notes, say amen. And then I’d go back to ignoring God on the other six days. That pattern stopped when my life seemed to take a turn for the worse. Broken relationships, taking care of a terminally ill great-aunt (parent), loss of house, car and loss of the majority of my physical possessions, homelessness. Oh, I was praying then, every single day! Hanging onto the promises of God. Taking them and saying to him “you promised this if I did this.” And the big one “are you going to leave me, too?”

I could almost hear Him say: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Okay then. Just checking.

And He has stabilized my material possession situation – several items have been replaced by my generous friends-fans -- but I have not reverted to my old relationship with Him. And that’s one of the main purposes of prayer: keeping the relationship alive. It does so many things including this one thing: it will keep you sane. But you must listen even more than you talk because He knows things that you don’t know. Example: eternal life; the life after this one.

If I’m going to die and my body becomes worm food and my consciousness ceases to exist, then why bother to do anything other than to satisfy my own appetites? People much more intelligent than I am have struggled with this, but that intellectual inequality matters not at all. If we actually think about these things – if we are “fortunate” enough to have it enter our minds and curious enough to keep turning over those rocks to see what’s underneath, we come to one of two conclusions.

1) That there is no God, and nothing matters in the long run, or
2) That there is a God, and what we do here matters to that deity.

Of course, item 2 has many subheadings, such as, the nature/personality of this deity and what that deity wants of us, if anything.

Leaving aside all the other theologies, why wouldn’t I want to serve an omnipotent, omniscient God of whom I’m a reflection and who loves me like any father loves his child? And why wouldn’t I want to be with Him when this life is over? To experience things I can never imagine in this life? And if I listen and talk to Him, why wouldn’t I want His omniscient self to reveal things to me that I need to know? And if He loves me with perfect love, why wouldn’t I trust Him most especially when the feces hits the fan?

This direction of thought – this walk of faith – is, mostly, unfathomable to those who never embark on the journey and, especially, to those who volitionally choose to walk in the other direction. If there is nothing else other that this reality, prayers seem foolish to them. But the irony is this: if there is nothing else other than this reality, then there is no point in getting worked up over murders, suicides, rapes, etc. either! I mean, if there’s no final accounting, then it’s eat, drink, be merry, rape, steal, kill and destroy as much as you can get away with, if any or all of those are your thing.

Right?
If we learned that the vast majority of the world loved chocolate but hated vanilla, would we claim this made vanilla “wrong” or “evil”? Of course not. It’s just a matter of taste, or human preference. Yet how is it any different asserting murder is “wrong” or “evil” if the only reason we do so is that we learn that the vast majority of the world hates the idea of killing others in a way the vast majority of the world considers unjust? 
If man’s consensus is all it is, then it falls into the same category as flavors: human preference. (…) 
And if God doesn’t exist? Then we should stop fooling ourselves and putting lipstick on the pig of mere preference. Stop using words such as “values” (prevalent now precisely because “morality” connotes something absolute), designed to obscure atheism’s meaninglessness.(…) 
So, if God doesn’t exist, neither atheists nor theists can be moral — only in or out of fashion.
This pastor caught no end of short-sighted ridicule even from Christians about this very biblical point of view.
When we pray [“Deliver us from evil”], we are certainly praying that God would deliver us from evil temporally—that is, in this earthly life. Through these words, we are asking God to send his holy angels to guard us from those who would seek to destroy us with knives and bombs and bullets. It may seem, on the surface, that God was refusing to give such protection to his Texan children. But we are also praying that God would deliver us from evil eternally. Through these same words, we are asking God to deliver us out of this evil world and into his heavenly glory, where no violence, persecution, cruelty, or hatred will ever afflict us again. 
We also pray in the Lord’s Prayer that God’s will be done. Sometimes, his will is done by allowing temporal evil to be the means through which he delivers us from eternal evil. Despite the best (or, more accurately, the worst) intentions of the wicked against his children, God hoists them on their own petard by using their wickedness to give those children his victory, even as the wicked often mock the prayers of their prey.
I don’t want to tell the story of the Garden of Eden again, but one thought about it reminds us that the evil in this world was set in motion then and, at some point will lead to the destruction of it. But, again, is this the only existence there is? Christians give an emphatic “no” to that question. Therefore, those who have Jesus the Christ as Savior will live forever in Paradise, and that includes most if not all of those who were murdered in Texas. This world is bad and, in it, evil falls on the just and the unjust alike. That, however, is not so in the next world, not for the group mentioned, at least.

But there’s the soul and spirit of one person that everyone seems to forget about in the discussion of this tragedy: the perpetrator. He will live forever, too. I don’t even want to think about it, really. But assuming there is an afterlife and you spent your last moments in this life mowing down innocents …

Back to prayers; in situations like this, Christians pray for the comfort of the living, that they are reminded of the hope of eternal life, and to go along with that, that their loved ones likely made it into Heaven, considering what they were doing when they died.

So those who ridicule prayers and Pray-ers have no concept of what they are doing. It's like a spiritual Dunning-Kruger effect.

I think we should pray for them.

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