My life is filled with Atheists and Agnostics. I get where they're coming from. Science explains many of the things that seemed miraculous and mysterious in the days that the Bible was written. Other Bible stories seem more legendary than real. Scholars and archeologists have picked apart the Biblical texts, looking for clues about how people really lived in ancient times. and when and how the texts were written and revised. Some people, learning that the Bible can be treated like any other book or artifact, lose their religious faith. For some this loss is a relief. For others, it is devastating. Either way, churches are mostly emptying out. Oddly enough, the churches that are still pretty full are mostly the ones that claim that science is wrong (even though this same science has given us our modern life and conveniences), and the Bible can't be studied like any other book.
We're living in a weird time. Other times were weird, but this time is weird in a different way from other weird times.
A lot of people say they are "spiritual but not religious." I get what they mean. They mean they feel a sense of awe and wonder when they are in nature, or feel a deep sense of connection to something greater than themselves through art, music and human relationships. Some religious people feel that as well. Religion is supposed to create a structure that helps us have regular spiritual experiences and attach them to meaningful expression in the world.
And so, we pray. Or at least, we say we pray for each other. I do it all the time, on Facebook. Sometimes I do pray a lot for a friend or family member in the depths of something difficult.
I find it harder to ask for prayers for myself, but just as Paul asks for prayers in this passage of scripture, sometimes I ask for prayers for myself. I usually make these requests privately, calling on people I think of as "prayer warriors." It is so unlike me to think in these terms. I'm a mostly peaceful person and I hate actual war, but I have felt protected by their prayers during some really tough times.
Where do the prayers go when we pray? It's a mystery. I don't know if we'll ever know. What we do know is that scientists who study people who pray a lot say that their brains work differently, in a good way. Prayer may be many things, but it is not a waste of time for those who pray.
So the mission for this week is to pray, and to ask for prayers for yourself. Pray for yourself. Pray for people you care about. Ask for prayers for yourself, and for the people you care about. And let them know with the hashtags #Iprayedforyou #prayforme.