Monday, May 9, 2011

Written Aug '09: My First Doubts - Prayer & Confusion

It's difficult to see the purpose of prayer. We are simultaneously told that prayer is powerful, and that God's plan is perfect. When our prayer requests are granted, we praise the Lord, assured that it was his hand. When our prayer requests are not granted, we are told to be patient for God's perfect plan and that he knows better than us. This renders the power of prayer indistinguishable from the power of chance. I’ve heard several pastors say that when we pray for guidance, we should not expect a message from God but instead make a Biblically educated decision and see if God blesses it (called stepping out in Faith). If God's perfect plan trumps our requests, and God doesn’t offer us foresight (we still always rely on hindsight), then what is the purpose of prayer? If it is solely to please God, then it’s a strange pleasure to watch us struggle. Christians often expend great emotional energy in prayer, seeking answers and positive changes, and are left in confusion. My prayer life has greatly diminished because of these observations.

I’ve observed a correlation between spiritual fervor and confusion. Those who are most seriously seeking God can also be in the most devastating confusion. This conflicts with the amazing peace and fullness that is claimed by Christianity.

I now understand the definition of Faith, and the Bible agrees: Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. So by definition, Faith is belief in the absence of evidence, and I now fully understand why Christianity emphasizes Faith: I see little evidence of our beliefs. It’s ALL about Faith; the more I’ve searched, the more concrete that statement has proved to be. But Faith has no merit apart from Truth. There are many false religions competing for our Faith, but Faith in them is worthless. Really, it’s all about Faith in what’s true. This is the paradox of Faith: we can’t determine where to place our Faith unless we know what’s true, and we can’t actually know what’s true because then it wouldn’t be Faith.

So, we just have to pick a religion and hope it’s correct. Unfortunately God bases our eternal fate on this very confusing decision, and billions of good-intending people won’t choose correctly. Many, if not most of them (like Christians) will simply adopt the beliefs of their family, a method much too primitive for this critical decision.

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