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.