Honest Prayer and Saying Yes to God

Bob Seidensticker, one of our friendly atheists here at Patheos, writes at Cross Examined.

Bob has been posting about his participation in a 40 Day Prayer Experiment.

I often tell people who doubt God’s existence to do something very similar.

What I tell them is to pray honestly for five minutes each day for 30 days. I don’t think it will take 30 days. I choose that number because it sounds good — serious — to them.

The key is honesty. It’s fine, in fact it’s good, to pray “I’m doing this because Rebecca and I have a bet and I don’t believe in you at all.” If that’s the truth, pray it.

Then, at the end of the 30 days, you come back and tell me that God is not real.

The reason I do this is because I know from personal experience that if you open yourself up to God with honesty, He will reach out to you. If Bob Seidensticker prays honestly for 40 days, he’ll know.

The question for each of us is not whether or not God is there, or if He’ll answer an honest prayer. The question is, do we have the courage to admit it and to follow through with it when God answers us? When we meet God, it’s not just a cocktail party introduction that means nothing. An encounter with the living God means everything, and I mean everything. 

Once you know, not only that God is real, but that He loves you with an ecstatic and all encompassing love, nothing that you thought or believed or have done is off limits to the transforming power of His presence in your heart. That’s the scary part. It’s also where most Christians set limits on their faith, or even where they turn back altogether.

If you really reach out and let Jesus take hold of your hand, you have to let go of all the worldly ideas and relationships you were holding in that hand. You will be, in Jesus’ words, “born again” into a new and fuller self than you ever were before. But like all births, this one can be painful. The life you’ve lived will not longer fit you. The people you’ve known will often no longer like you. It’s a big step from what you’ve made of yourself to what God wants you to be. It would be impossible if you had to do it alone.

However, once you open your heart to the living God, you will never face any challenge alone and unaided again. As the old hymn says, “He will go with you until the end.”

Prayer, entered into honestly, is an open doorway into the divine. My advice to anyone taking up the 40 Day Prayer Experiment or something of its type is not to over-think it. Don’t sit there analyzing every twitch and itch. Don’t worry about how to pray or what to say. God knows everything about you already. Just be honest. Talk to God honestly. My prayer for you is that when He answers — and He will — that you will have the courage to answer Him with a life-changing, soul-saving yes.

  • http://theshepherdspresence.wordpress.com Karyl

    I have been born again for 50 plus years. The longer I know Jesus, the more I find myself asking Him about everything. But all too often, things creep in unawares and cover over areas where I once was sensitive. I want that sensitivity renewed during my forty day walk and prayer particularly for all areas of American leadership. It’s far more than the election to me.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Karyl, I read your blog and also your comments and I am convinced you are a beautiful, Godly woman. Thank you for sharing this. You are a blessing.

  • http://significantencounters.com Deborah

    I totally agree.
    He will meet us where we’re at.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  • Bob Seidensticker

    Rebecca: Thanks for the honest critique and advice on the atheist prayer experiment.

    - Bob Seidensticker

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      de nada Bob.

  • Arkenaten

    If one doubts/does not acknowledge/rejects the belief in the existence of your god or any other how can one pray with a sincere heart? And for what gain?
    It would be like praying to Santa Claus.
    How would you expect anyone to open up their mind heart to something they do have a gram of faith in?
    And it is an experiment in the truest sense, with no preconceived ideas; the emphasis being on a god to acknowledge the prayer and respond in some way.
    As this is an experiment for non-believers I would respectfully ask for any Christians on your blog, if they feel comfortable,of course, to reveal the outcome of any of their prayers.
    You read my own post on this topic – any response?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I suppose that means you aren’t going to take the challenge.

      I’ll be posting on answered prayers for the next few days. I would suggest that other people here consider what they do before answering this. I don’t think Douglas is asking in a spirit of honest inquiry but rather as a provocateur.

      • Arkenaten

        That a little unfair, Rebecca. I would feel like a hypocrite and a fraud that’s all; as would you if I asked you to deny your god.
        But I will await your prayer posts with great interest.

  • Arkenaten

    I have done a post on this experiment and linked your blog and Bob’s.
    Maybe you will get some folk from ‘my side’ as it were to join in?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That’s not the purpose of this blog, but if they are courteous and don’t hijack the board for a constant atheist vs Christian debate, they are welcome here.

  • David Berg

    Thank-you Rebecca. Beautiful. I am encouraging many to read this.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you David.