I found a new website about prayer today. The link to it is at the bottom of the post. I’m not sure what I make of it yet. It’s full of harsh, stark, beautiful prayers from all sorts of people in all sorts of places facing all sorts of challenges. It’s profound, but profoundly what? Reassuring? Disturbing? Maybe both, I think.
It intrigues me that a website about prayer should overtly distance itself (as this one does) from any connection with anything faith-based, because its posts are from real people with real needs, addressing God. They don’t seem believe they’re screaming into a void, or why bother to address an Almighty? I’m reassured by this site that we all search – whether we recognise it or not – for something more to life than the emptiness of now. The very utterance of these prayers suggests that something deep inside us knows there is something more. That somewhere inside each of these people there’s a mustard seed of a faith. Prayer helps, somehow. I guess the question, the mystery, is why.
I’m disturbed about the places we look to for help, though. At the end of the day we all make choices about faith. John Ortberg puts it like this:
“…making the right choices about faith — like making good choices for life in general — does not seem to rest primarily on IQ. Smart people mess up as easily as the rest of us.
“Three men are in a plane: a pilot, a Boy Scout, and the world’s smartest man. The engine fails, the plane is going down, and there are only two parachutes. The smart man grabs one. “I’m sorry about this,” he says, “but I’m the smartest man in the world; I have a responsibility to the planet,” and he jumps out of the plane. The pilot turns to the Boy Scout and speaks of how he has lived a long, full life and how the Boy Scout has his whole life in front of him. He tells the Boy Scout to take the last parachute and live. “Relax, Captain,” the Boy Scout says. “The world’s smartest man just jumped out of the plane with my backpack.”
“Our world is full of smart people jumping out of planes with backpacks. One of the paradoxes of faith and doubt is that it is the ultimate intellectual challenge, yet simple and uneducated people may live with great wisdom and PhDs may choose folly. One thing is for sure: sooner or later the plane is going down.
“We all are on the same plane. Smart guys and Boys Scouts alike: everybody has to jump. Everybody has to choose a parachute. No one will know who chose wisely until after they jump.” (Faith & Doubt, Zondervan, 2008).
I choose to put my hope in the promise of Jesus. That hope seems absent from some of the posts on Dear God. The harder question, therefore, that this site raises for me is about different concepts of God. It makes me ask whether one concept of God is the same as another. In the bottom of my heart I want the answer to be yes, but I don’t think it is.
I’m humbled by the honesty of the Dear God posts, though. That people are searching, really searching for answers to life’s big questions. And I believe that the truth is there to be found if we search in honesty and humility.
Today I stopped again to reflect on Jesus’ claims. Are the narratives of his life and death just pieces of random social and political history shrouded in myth over 2000 years? Was he just a generally good guy who got up the authorities’ noses, or is there more to it than that? Who, really, was this self-professed God-man who claimed victory over evil; promised forgiveness; loved the unloveable; taught the drop outs; healed the broken; washed the dung-plastered feet of his own followers; and who offers these things to you too? What does it evoke in you to hear that he was hated and hunted, that he allowed himself to be convicted, publicly humiliated, beaten and slowly killed? And that 3 days later his tomb was empty and his followers met him again. We each have to decide which way to jump.