Uni and I recently returned from a week's road trip of over 1,500 miles. I had been called on to preach at Grace Chapel in El Paso, Texas. That's a long ways from Edmond, Oklahoma, so we decided to stop and visit friends along the way and just enjoy the trip. But still, that involved somewhere around 24 hours alone together in the car.
I suppose to many people - even happily married people - this sounds like it would be a tremendous bore. But riding side-by-side is to us a great way to carry on a conversation. Though there are large blocks of time spent in silence or listening to music and short naps (for me when I'm not driving) we probably spend most of our time talking. This is a tradition that goes back over 60 years to when we were high school kids, dating.
What do we talk about? Anything and everything that comes to mind. Much of what we say has been said before, but there's usually something new that comes up: an old memory, a shared experience, an insight into a problem. We never run out of things to talk about.
We didn't spend much time online while we were gone, so upon returning home we needed to check out e-mails, facebook and a few blogs. On my friend Canadian Atheist's blog I found a new post with the rather uncreative title "Prayer Shows a Lack of Confidence in God". Though I confess that I often ignore or just skim many of my friend's posts, this one got my interest. It was brief and spoke of a subject about which I'm concerned and about which I had assumed he would be unconcerned.
The thesis of the post is pretty well summed up in its title and in the first few sentences. "Supposedly, God is all-powerful, can do anything, His will is always done and He has a master plan. That's all fine and good. So why bother praying or worshiping such a being, even if you do believe it exists?"
At first I was amused by this bit of hubris and was tempted to dash off a few sarcastic comments, but restrained myself. After a more careful reading along with the comments, I was actually saddened. Saddened because someone who claims that he doesn't believe in God should be so dogmatic about how believers should behave (even though I recognize that the article was an attempt at satire). The comments were varied, ranging from amens from the choir to attempts to explain from a believer's viewpoint.
Actually the question my friend attempts to address is an old one which thinkers - theologians and philosophers - have spilled much sweat and ink wrestling with for millennia, though none have given as simplistic a solution as my friend. It's expressed in some form or other in the Psalms and the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Job. Even Paul Simon tells us that "God only knows, God makes His plan, the information's unavailable to the mortal man."
If God is sovereign, if everything is in some way part of His master plan, why pray? Why not "sit back, relax and enjoy the extra time spent not praying doing something productive, such as spending it with your family or helping to make the world around you a better place."
I've attempted to deal with this question before. I've been asked it many times and have even asked it myself more than once. One of my attempts at answering it can be found on my post HOW SHOULD I PRAY? I'll not go over those thoughts again here, but here are some further thoughts.
As I related earlier, Uni and I have been conversing for over 60 years. We know the intimate details of each others' lives, thoughts and memories, many of which we've shared. We don't usually converse to inform or persuade. We converse because we love each other, because we're the best of friends and that's what friends do. As we converse our minds become more and more in tune.
Isn't that also why we carry on conversations with God? To become more and more intimate and to bring our minds in tune with His.