I’ve noticed two blog topics that keep being raised by atheists on Catholic sites – and (at least in my view) constantly misrepresented and misinterpreted. One is miracles (about which, more another time). The other is prayer.
I’ve been in several conversations recently, and it became obvious fairly early on that those I was talking to thought prayer was a matter of asking for things.
In the minds of the atheists I’ve been talking to, the two seem to be linked. They think prayer is a matter of asking for miracles; the absence of an overt and obvious miracle means the prayer didn’t ‘work’.
This kind of ‘our Santa Claus who art in Heaven’ thinking denotes a primitive view of divinity that would do the average Aztec or Babylonian proud. The god it envisages needs to be cajoled, flattered, and bribed into giving sweeties to his followers. In the conversations I’ve had, it has taken the theists involved a while to comprehend the gulf between their view of prayer and that held by the atheists. It gave the debate the kind of unevenness to be expected when one player thinks the game is tennis and the other thinks it is cricket.
So let me start by stating that I see prayer as a conversation between me and God. A conversation does not consist of one party giving the other a shopping list of requests. I thought it could be interesting to talk about the different types of prayer, and give examples from my own experience of common prayers that fit the types. These categories are not exclusive – they overlap and merge – but they are sufficiently different to be worth talking about individually. Can you think of any more? Let me know:
That should keep me busy for a few posts.
(This post first appeared in July on joyfulpapist.wordpress.com.)