“I’ll pray for you!”
We atheists hear that a lot. Whether it be in public or on the Internet, Christians often feel an overwhelming desire to declare there intention to pray for someone at any given opportunity. More often than not I believe that this is simply a display of piety and an attempt at letting those around know that they are “good god-fearing Christians”.
Let’s look at something the Bible has to say about prayer:
Matthew 6:6 KJV: But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Now, I know that in Acts 20:36 Paul knelt down with the body of believers and prayed quite openly, but this is in the presence of other like minded believing people – when you are out in a public place I truly believe that the Bible commands you not to make a public show of your prayers – either by announcing your intention to do so or by making flagrant displays of prayer.
What is a flagrant display of prayer? In the last week I have been to about 3 sit down restaurants. At each of these restaurants there was a group of people there that would either bow their heads or even join hands in order to bless their food. I can’t imagine anything more flagrant. It was like seeing a group of people say “Look at us, we are praying because WE LOVE JESUS !!!”. It isn’t that bowing ones head is such a robust showing, but the act in and of itself reeks of false piety and the desire to look the part; simply put, everyone knows what you are doing when you bow your head and you know that everyone knows.
A couple of months ago my wife and I had a little party where a salesman comes and tries to sell insanely expensive stuff to the party goers. Part of his demonstration was that he used the cookware he was trying to sell to cook a meal for everyone there. After he was done cooking he, without asking the hosts, asked everyone to bow their heads and pray…and he begun before I could say anything. While a few of the people were praying with him I exchanged glances with many of my friends as they anticipated what I might be about to do. I simply let him know when he was done praying that we were Atheists and that prayers weren’t necessary – he replied with,”well, Jesus loves you anyway.” I let it slide, but it was quite disrespectful.
I remember when I was a Christian, I too performed public displays of prayer. When I did this I was still a “baby christian”. My understanding of the Bible was nil and my experience was about that same. When I matured after I had spent a few years doing individual Bible study I learned that these displays were un-biblical to say the least and I began praying silently with no outward sign of it at all. I also had a quiet room in my house where I spent hours in prayer at a time. That may be a bit more extreme than many folks these days but my point is to show that there should be a recognizable difference between some young Christian that doesn’t understand his religion and those that have been in it for 30 years and more.
I’m not attempting to defend the Bible in the least; it is still a savage book unworthy of the attention it gets. Lately though I have felt the desire to begin addressing the Christian world from the former Christian now Atheist perspective. To say it simply, I want Christians to be Christians or to stop calling themselves that.
Pray all you want. I can’t stop someone for praying for my eternally damned soul. It is appreciated because I know that in general you mean well. Don’t make a show out of it or next time I and my friends might just make a show out of you. We may just quote Matt 6:6 aloud and publicly as a way to chastise your false piety – wouldn’t that be embarrassing? Do what your Bible says.
Someone made a comment on StumbleUpon about how they really didn’t agree with the part about praying in restaurants etc…I just want to say that I know not everyone does it with that in mind. I don’t think I ever did. Some do. All I ask is that you examine your motive when you do either of the things I have talked about in this post today.