Blogging the Alpha Course: Part 2

Last week I talked about my first week in the Alpha Course. To simplify things this week, wherever I’m paraphrasing, I won’t use quotes; wherever I’m directly quoting from my recording, I’ll use them.

Again… these will be long. So, without further ado, this week I’ll move right on with…

Week 4

The Video

This week, the subject of the video was “Why and how do I pray?” No longer being the praying sort, it was kind of hard to get back into the mindset to figure out exactly what Nicky meant, so I’ll just hit on the key points:

  • Prayer is the most important action we take in our lives. It’s how we develop a relationship with God.
  • Prayer is to the Father through the Son by the Spirit. (Your guess is as good as mine for that one.)
  • God is transcendent, but imminent (i.e., he’s beyond time and space but present with us in every moment).
  • Matthew 6:5-6 says that prayer is meant to be for communicating with God, not for showing off your piety.
  • “In any relationship, communication is key.” (Of course, with human beings, we know they actually exist.)
  • Marriage is an appropriate reward (?) for love; passing a test is an appropriate reward for studying; and God gives appropriate rewards for prayer. “He satisfies our thirst … our spiritual hunger.”
  • “If God lives in the eternal present, he hears all prayers simultaneously.”
  • There are no coincidences; coincidences are really God acting in our life, often in answer to prayer.
  • God always answers prayer, though not always the way we want (i.e., “yes,” “no,” and “wait” – the same responses you can get by praying to a milk jug).
  • Unconfessed sin prevents prayer from getting through. Future plans of sin do, too. So do wrong motives, and misapprehension of God’s will (asking for things that aren’t good for us). (News to me… apparently, we can prevent God from hearing prayers?)
  • “Sometimes we’ll learn later why God said no.” (Basically, no matter what happens, it’s sensible to assume that God wanted it to happen, and it was actually good every time.)
  • God has a reason for letting people die, even if we don’t understand it. (In other words, people are just disposable means to an end – tools in God’s plan.)
  • How do we pray? ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. The Lord’s Prayer is an example. (I don’t know how, exactly…)
  • God is in control of how much exposure we get to temptation. (Okay, so… whose fault is it if we’re tempted to sin? Supposedly he knows how much temptation it’ll take for us to sin, but he still apparently allows some people to be tempted past that point?)

The Discussion

As before, there was a brief review of the previous week. Most of the group seemed reluctant to talk; I’m not sure if they were uncomfortable about getting in front of the group, or if I made them nervous, or what was going on. This actually lasted for most of the course – not just the first few weeks. John tried to spur conversation by asking what it meant to have faith, how we can know we have it, how we can know we’re Christians… all to no avail. Nobody answered anything until he asked us about how you become a Christian at which point I responded: “by confessing your sins, asking Jesus into your life, and having a relationship with him.” (Me… the guy who doesn’t believe this stuff. They relied on me…)

John: How can we know our faith is true?

Jane: By the changes we see in our lives?

John: That’s not what I’m looking for.

(so much for “no right or wrong answers”…)

“What we rest upon is that scripture tells us that when we make those decisions, then we can be sure that we’re going to have eternal life and that our faith is valid.” If we base our understanding on our feelings, we might think we have a relationship with God, but we don’t. In Week 1, I asked three questions: What is your religion? If you died today, would you go to heaven – yes, no, or maybe? Why? These are diagnostic questions. A group called Evangelism Explosion asks people these questions in malls as they’re walking by. If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, your answer should be “yes” and “because of the relationship with Jesus Christ.” Those are the two Christian answers.

One thing we do today, that Jesus never did in the Bible, is when we preach the gospel, we really want to convince people. We keep trying, and keep trying, and keep trying. Jesus kind of just told the facts and then moved on; he never begged anybody. The rich ruler left in tears – if you remember that story. The guy asked, “what must I do to have eternal life?” and Jesus told him, “love your neighbor and love me.” The man said, “I’ve done all that, what else must I do?” and Jesus said, ”Sell everything and follow me.” “And he wasn’t willing to do that. It wasn’t like Jesus then had this long dialogue with him to try to get him convinced; Jesus left. He told him what to do, and the guy didn’t want to do it. So that was kind of Jesus’ lifestyle. He never really begged people. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t; it’s interesting to me that that’s how Jesus acted.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with begging, especially our loved ones who we really want to become Christians.

Eventually John brought the conversation around to the subject of the evening, and asked the group if anyone had questions about the video.

Woman 3: We don’t always get what we want when we pray; I know that. For example, the 22-year-old girl that just died recently. We were praying for her, and she still died So I question why she died within three months.

John: Anybody want to address that? Prayers that don’t seem to be answered for young people dying, infants dying? There’s thousands of examples we can bring up where people are praying, and our prayers are not answered?

Woman 2: “I think God has a plan for our life, and that’s why we have to trust him, even though we don’t get what we want. For me, my daughter passed away suddenly when she was two years old. I don’t know… I did question it. But I just trusted him, and he helped me through, and here I am, so much farther along on in my journey, and that was her gift to me, I think. And it was very difficult, and it still is, but it was definitely a gift. So I think good things. I always think there’s something good out of a tragedy. There’s always something good that comes out of it.” You can’t just focus on the negative.

(Hearing this was rough. I was sorely tempted to speak up about it, but I knew I would be trampling on her grief. What kept running through my mind here is that this woman believes a loving god is capable of giving people children who die at a young age for the sole purpose of building their faith. The entire point of her child’s life, she has rationalized, was to help her. Her child’s life had no value on its own; it was a means to an end. That’s horrifying. But her religious indoctrination has taught her that it’s proper to form this kind of rationalization. You have to, since everything God does is necessarily good.)

Jane: That’s a really good attitude. It really is. Because I think you could go on either side of that fence.

Woman 2: Yeah. I don’t know why I felt that way, and I’m glad I felt that way, but I joined [a group for bereaved parents]. A lot of people blame God – “why did you do this to me?” Very angry. And it’s funny to me, because they don’t have a relationship with God until something bad happens…

You know this… how?

… and then they blame him, and they think that he could’ve changed the situation.

Hello! He’s a god. Duh.

Woman 3: I’m not even sure if I’m blaming God; just not sure if prayer worked, that’s all.

Jane: I’ve kept a prayer journal sometimes, and definitely some prayers have been answered, and some that haven’t, and there’s some things that I’ve prayed for for years that still have not been answered. And you question, depending on how you feel, whether it has an effect or not.

Woman 3: You say they weren’t answered, but what you’ve got to think is…

Jane: From what I can see.

John: Well, they’re always answered. All prayers are answered, and the answers are?

Me: Yes, no, or wait.

John: Right. And that’s trite, and sometimes it’s not very fulfilling. (Laughter in agreement.)

Woman 7: I’ve heard a different version: yes, no, or I have something better for you. (Murmurs of approval.)

John: [Woman 3] had another question… Do you think prayer works?

Man 4: I think it creates an opportunity for you to trust in God. “Ultimately we’re trusting him in our faith, and prayer is communication, so it’s an opportunity whether we take or we leave it. In a situation where you may be praying for someone, and it doesn’t come true, well, maybe there’s an opportunity there.”

John: Prayer gives us a huge opportunity. I think it’s the number one reason God designed this world – for us to pray.

Woman 2: “It’s an opportunity to get to know him better.”

John: “Right. It’s the number one opportunity to develop that relationship. It’s the only real time that we talk to him.”

Woman 3: It’s a way to feel closer to him. Even the mother of an addict who doesn’t get help right away… maybe ten years down the road, she’s developing a relationship with God, and I think that keeps her going, even though her son may still be an addict.

John: Any more thoughts before I start firing off more questions?

(Oh yes. Yes, there are.)

Me: Actually, I have a question. People say that they feel their prayers are answered; there are people of basically every religion that say that. So if, like Nicky was saying, prayer is communication to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, but people like Hindus or Muslims or whatever… they also pray and they’re also convinced that their prayers are answered just as well, but they aren’t praying to your god. So, what do you think about that?

(A bit of silence.)

Woman 4: “It’s kind of like, um… (unintelligible) the mountain of God, and … you know, God, um, they put water on it… was it Elijah?”

John (interrupting): Yeah, it was the story of Elijah and the prophets, and the prophets of Baal…

Woman 4: And the prophets of Baal, yeah. And it was … every time, it was like, ‘will God do this,’ ‘will God do this,’ ‘will God do this’… And so, it was being answered. So… I haven’t answered your question. I don’t have an answer, I’m just saying… it kind of makes sense.

(Whuh?)

Man 4: I don’t know. Ultimately, I think that, in the same story, in the Old Testament… the Israelites… God… to the Israelites, God was the supreme being, moreso than any other god. And I think that … you know, it’s… if you … I don’t know, it’s tough right now. I guess I don’t know, I’m just going around in circles.

Woman 2: I think that you get to feel… through your own personal prayer, you see things happen in your life that you pray for, and it just reconfirms where you’re at and who your god is. I don’t know. I don’t know anything about any other religions, so I have no idea. But for me, I … as I pray, I don’t say, “I want this, and I want this, and I want this.” I’m like, hey, whatever your will is for me in this situation… I’ve had tough situations. My father’s passed away from Alzheimer’s. He suffered so, but you know what, God worked with us and helped us get through it. [long personal story.] So you’ve got to look at the good. Because dwelling on a negative… it’s only going to be negative right now.

(What did any of that have to do with my question??)

Woman 7: (mostly unintelligible comment. She was very, very quiet.) [God hears everyone’s prayers no matter who they pray to. But it’s still a hard question.]

John: It’s a good point, though. It could be that there’s only one god, the god we’re talking about, and he’s answering prayers for other religions in the hopes of drawing them to him, even though the vast majority will never acknowledge him.

Me: They’d just see it as their own deity.

John: “Their own deity, yeah. But you never know what’s going to happen, until the end of their lives… and I’m just going to throw something out, I’m not saying this is an answer too; just to help address the question, God, Jesus, and everything we’re talking about are supernatural, spiritual beings, and he’s not the only supernatural, spiritual being. We know that there’s a devil. We know that there’s demons, and there’s other spiritual beings. We know that other spiritual beings have power as well, as indicated by the story [Woman 4] was talking about. In the Bible, the devil shows supernaturally Jesus… he tempts him three times, shows him things that are supernatural events, so… there’s other spiritual beings that have power. So it could be that they’re answering those prayers.”

(lol, wut)?

Me: Why doesn’t God just get rid of them?

John: Oh, my gosh… that’s a great question. Well, why doesn’t God do a ton of things? I mean… you know what? I always say, if you were God… say you were God, okay? How would you save the world? You could pick anything, right? An my answer to this, if I was God, it’d be like, snap the fingers and everybody’s saved, right? I certainly wouldn’t create my own son to be viciously slaughtered. We’ll never understand that; logically, I’ll never understand that. And so I don’t think, logically, your question can be answered in our finite minds – you know, why doesn’t God just reveal himself to everybody? I don’t know. Why doesn’t God heal the 22-year-old? But those are the types of questions we’ll never know the answer to.

(And that’s a big problem, because it certainly doesn’t make your deity look all that bright.)

Woman 2: In this world. But… God could give us that perfect world in the Garden of Eden, right? So we… man messed that up, and so that’s it, from then on we were going to live with all this pain and … (trails off)

Me: Well… how perfect could it be if we messed it up?

John: Well, because… well, you know the answer to that, right? Free will. That’s the problem.

Me: Heh. Well, I’m not much of a fan of that answer.

(I’m not. Seriously. It’s the biggest cop-out non-answer of all time.)

Woman 7: He gave us a choice. He could’ve just had everyone just say, okay, I love you… but how real is that? Like, forcing people to love you? I mean, that’s an option, but giving people a choice, I think it just means more.

Me: I mean… there’s a lot of things we can’t choose to do now. Like, you can’t just choose to fly without an airplane. There are certain things that we’re not able to do, but we still think we have free will. So why couldn’t we have been made without the ability to sin? If we were made without the ability to fly, I don’t understand that.

Jane: I think we have physical limitations based on the world that we live in. I don’t know that we have, necessarily, those same kind of limitations from a spiritual standpoint, or a psychological standpoint; that we don’t have the ability – we do have the ability to choose or not choose. We have the ability to think about what we want to think about and not think about, for the most part. I see what your point is as far as the physical limitation…

John: But he would’ve been creating us as robots if that was the case.

Me: Well –

John: I mean, that’s saying a lot, comparing it to flying versus being obedient to not … to live for him as opposed to live for ourselves is a lot different than actually anything else I can imagine. It’s like putting your wife ahead of you is something that you choose to do. It’s a choice, I guess, is what it comes down to. I don’t have the choice to fly, but I do have the choice to love God or not love God.

(Yes, that’s true. But you’ve all missed my point… if there are some choices we’re not even capable of comprehending, we can’t choose them, but that’s no more of a restriction on ‘free will’ than us being unable to fly. Having a choice you can’t conceive of is not the same as being forced to make a specific choice.)

Me: I mean, that’s my key question – why did he make us with that choice?

John: Because he wanted us to love him freely.

(ERROR: DOES NOT COMPUTE. If he wanted us to love him – if that was his prime concern – free will wouldn’t be an obstacle. An omnipotent god would find a way around it.)

Me: If, at the very beginning… I mean, God is supposed to exist outside of time. He knows the past, present, and future all at the same time. That means he knows that some people are going to not choose to love him, and that there’s a punishment for that. Why would he set it up that way?

Jane: But the punishment wasn’t created for us. From a scriptural standpoint, it was created because of Satan or who we would call as Christ-followers the devil, Satan, Lucifer, however you want to name him. It was created for him and that war in heaven that took place in the very beginning, and for the angels that originally were God’s creation as well that chose to follow Satan rather than God. Hell was created for them, initially. It wasn’t created for us.

Me: Why would he create angels that were able to disobey him?

Jane: Well, why not?

John: We’ll never know. What you’re trying to do is understand God’s mind, and we’re not going to be able to do that.

(This is a clever rhetorical technique. It’s a complete conversation stopper, because if you push it any further, they’ll claim you’re arrogant for thinking you can know God’s mind. Any time you have a question they can’t answer, all they have to do is toss out “we’ll never know God’s mind.”)

Me: The whole thing that I have a problem with… well, one of the things that I have a problem with is the idea that God knew beforehand who would and wouldn’t be saved, and yet he was still bringing people into existence who he knows won’t.

John: Yeah, but some also will be.

Me: But not all of them. I mean, there have been about a hundred billion people alive on the planet so far, and most of them weren’t Christians.

Woman 6: Well, isn’t that like the same thing as a dictatorship versus a democracy? Like, everybody knows in America that we’re very blessed to have choice to live where we want to live and do what we want to do, where in other countries it’s just “you’re going to do this, you’re going to do that” – I mean, nobody likes that, you know? Everybody fights that. So that would be the same thing, if God created all of us, all the angels, and said, “you’re going to follow me, you’re going to do this, you’re going to do that.”

Jane: Like, why bother creating something?

Woman 6: Yeah. That’s not… nobody wants to live like that.

Jane: I don’t know what value there is in that.

(If you think a benevolent dictator who sends nobody to hell is worse than a god who allows people to make choices that send them there… I don’t know what to say to you.)

Woman 6: Right. Nobody loves that person. Nobody loves the dictator. Everybody wants to get out. I know it’s a little bit different, but nobody wants to follow that person because they don’t respect him. There’s no respect.

Man 2: So, why did God create people like Hitler?

Jane: Well… he created Hitler, but Hitler made a choice to live his life the way that he lived it. God did not… see, God doesn’t force us to live our lives the way we choose to live them. It’s choice. Hitler chose to live the life that he did and chose to do the things that he did. No one forced him to do that.

Man 3: I think God knew ahead of time what Hitler was going to do, but he created him anyways. Again, that’s a choice. He knows what’s going to happen; he knows before, during, and after.

Jane: But knowing doesn’t negate free will.

Man 2: But if he knew, though, that Hitler was going to do that, why didn’t… I’m just puzzled as to why he created him, then.

John: Well because… again, we think so linear and in human concepts… well, I’m not saying that this is the case, but it could be the case… maybe Hitler’s being alive did tremendous good. Maybe the world would’ve ended a hundred years ago… no, that doesn’t make sense! (Laughter.) Twenty years ago. You know? There’s all these things that we don’t see. God sees everything. God’s outside of time. So if you know the end, you have to trust that the person who’s running the show – and he’s told us that he’s a loving god that wants and desires a relationship with us – is doing this that make sense. They won’t make sense to us, but obviously they make sense to someone who knows the entire story.

Me: Do you think God could’ve achieved his same goals without letting Hitler be born in the first place?

John: I have no idea.

Me: That just doesn’t seem like a very good plan to me.

John: Again, trying to get into the mind of God. Never going to be able to do that. You want to… logically, we’re never going to understand God, because we’re human and we’re not God. I mean… maybe you don’t like that answer, but we want things – we want to understand everything. We want to understand why there’s suffering in this world. We want to understand why some of our prayers don’t get answered. We want to understand why people are born that God knows are going to go to hell; all these troublesome things, but we’re not going to know. I mean… that’s a fact of life. We’re not going to know calculus, and we’re not going to know physics… we’re not going to know answers to everything.

Jane: And that’s kind of where … that’s kind of the crux of faith. It’s like Nicky’s friend [mentioned in the video] who had a heart attack and called out to God and the prayer wasn’t answered; and so Nicky said, I had a choice. I could either stop believing, based on what happened, or I could choose to believe even though I don’t understand, I don’t like what happened – that’s where I’m going to put my trust and faith.

(And that’s why faith is dangerous. It’s an excuse you give yourself to believe something without any kind of rational justification. It’s insanity embraced as a virtue.)

I think when you weigh out both sides of that decision… I mean, I think that the evidence for what the Bible has to say outweighs the other choice on the other side.

(lulz.)

I don’t know. I mean, that’s where faith comes in. And like John had mentioned before, we can sit here and say all we want that the Bible is true to whoever, and we’re not here to convince anybody of the truth of that.

(that’s … kind of the opposite of what he suggested. he said it’s okay to try to convince.)

It’s more presenting what the Bible has to say, and then it becomes a choice.

(Right. And as an atheist, there’s absolutely no reason for me to base my life on a decision made about your holy book. Sorry. It’s just another tome on the pile. I don’t revere it. I give it no more weight than any other.)

Woman 7: I think that… by answering the questions, it’s almost like forcing us to love him, too, because if we had all the answers and we could prove it like with an equation or something, then of course we would love him, and again, it wouldn’t mean anything.

Me: Why do you think that would force you to love him?

Woman 7: Because, I mean, then … how could you debate it or deny it?

Me: Well, there’s the whole concept of Satan or Lucifer, where he knew God existed – he was right up there with him – but he still didn’t worship him.

Woman 7: He didn’t – he still believes in God, I think, but he doesn’t obey him.

(Right. But love, belief, and obedience are far from the same things.)

(Long period of silence.)

Me: Sorry to totally derail the conversation…

John and Jane: Oh, no… it was a great discussion.

This was followed by a discussion of how their church doesn’t do ‘traditional’ prayers – that they’re more extemporaneous, and that praying by rote is a sign that people are just going through the motions rather than expressing a real relationship with Jesus – that a repeated, robotic, automatic prayer loses all of its meaning. They made an exception for the Lord’s Prayer; after all, it was Jesus that told them to say that. (Interesting side note: there are two different versions of this prayer in the gospels.)

John mentioned that most people in the group had come from a Catholic upbringing. I found that interesting, because there was a lot of bashing of Catholic tradition (e.g. Hail Mary being non-biblical, praying through Mary and the saints rather than through God, etc.). They also distinguished between “Catholic” and Christian, saying that “there are a lot of Catholic Christians.”

The church they attend now describes itself as non-denominational, and there was a discussion over whether or not a church is really non-denominational if it claims to be a Christian church. (Yikes.) Eventually, this led to another moment for me to shine:

Man 2: Why is it that Mormons aren’t Christian? What is it that they believe?

Me: Mormons are … interesting. I don’t want to bash on the Mormons, but they’ve added a new testament to the Bible, basically, which was supposed to have been found in upstate New York by a guy named Joseph Smith back in the 1800s. They believe in a whole bunch of different things that aren’t in the Bible. They believe that God used to be a physical being, and that he became a god and created everybody else, and that Jesus is just one of the many children of God. So they believe in God and Jesus, but they don’t think the same things as most Christians do.

John: Right. And they don’t think that anyone else is in the faith. We would consider them a cult, as we would Jehovah’s witnesses. Mormons believe a lot differently than we do. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are much closer, but we still consider them a cult.

Woman 3: Do people think we’re a cult?

John: Well, sure. For sure, I’d say that a lot – Catholics, or Episcopals, or…

Me: Depends on how you define “cult.”

Idle chitchat and a little bit of laughter ensues.

John: A cult, basically, would be anything that is outside what your religious beliefs are. So if you’re a Hindu, Christianity would be a cult, or any of the others.

Jane [unsure]: Yeah, but we wouldn’t call Catholicism a cult.

John: No, but some hardcore Evangelicals might.

Me: Back in my believer days, I went to a church that did. They taught that basically anything other than by-the-Bible Christians were cults.

With a nervous laugh, the leaders steered the conversation around to significant Bible studies people could think of involving prayer. Woman 6 brought up a story where Jesus talked about not being boastful and praying in private.

John: Right. Not praying with vain repetitions. I don’t know where it is… I probably should’ve brought my Bible…

Me: That’s the beginning of Matthew 6. 5-7, I think.

John: I’m going to trust Mike on this one. Mike knows Matthew.

(irony.)

John: Jesus talks about that. He says not to be out there like the hypocrites that just make a big show of it – they’re holier-than thou, and they’re repeating these prayers that have absolutely no meaning. They could be speaking gibberish, because they’re not talking to me; they’re just making a big show of themselves. So that’s one story. There are a lot of stories about prayer. Who knows another one?

Me: One that’s always stuck out in my mind is the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. He prays for God to take the burden from him, but he says, “not my will, but yours be done.”

John: Right. Very interesting prayer. Jesus was always praying. Now, this is Jesus. Do you think maybe we should do that? (Laughter.) There’s huge value in praying, and relating to God that way. Jesus got tons of strength from it. And, as Mike is saying, in the Garden of Gethsemane; basically it’s the crux of his life as we know it, and he’s faltering – that’s probably a fair word for it. He’s like, “You know what? I don’t know if I can do this.” He’s sweating drops of blood, obviously going through some real anguish, but he does say “not my will, but your will be done.” Another great prayer story.

Jane brought up the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Abraham barters with God over the number of decent people he’d have to find in the city to prevent God from destroying it.

John: It’s a very interesting look at prayer. Thinking of some of Mike’s questions earlier, well, here’s another one: why would God do that? Was God changing his mind, or did God know all the time that this was going to happen? So who was the value for – for God or for Abraham, to maybe see that God is merciful?

(LOL WUT? God destroyed the cities.)

John lamented the state of prayer among modern American Christians, exasperated that people seem to want to get what they pray for for right away. He asked the group who prays regularly, and admitted that he didn’t do it himself. They weren’t really sure what he meant by “regularly.”

Me: Well, it’s supposed to be about building a relationship with the most important person you can ever build a relationship with. So I used to pray all the time. Any time something came up, I’d say a prayer.

John: Anyone else want to share their prayer life?

Woman 5: Well, you kind of are what you think about. If things are bad with the kids or with other people in my life, I could either melt down – because I’m really bad company in my own head – or I can pray about it, whether I’m in the car, on the way to Walmart, when I’m fixing my hair… just talk to God. I feel better when I give it up to him, because I can give it up for a while. But if I don’t do that, then I’ll just stay stuck in my own head, and that’s just a vicious spiral down.

(This is actually something I’ve believed for a long time: that prayer, for most long-time Christians, is really used a sort of meditation designed to help them reduce stress. They’ve come to realize after many years of trying that praying for material things doesn’t work, so they pray for things like strength of will, focus, and courage. These things are all self-originated, of course.)

John talked about his struggle to get into a regular, routine prayer – that when he was a new Christian, it was easy to be spontaneous, but now, for whatever reason, it’s harder to make it a priority. He said that just like with any relationship, it’s easy to get comfortable with what you have; it’s easy to just go about your day without thinking about it, and you have to be purposeful about it. Most of the group said they didn’t pray every day, but that they “supplemented” themselves with Christian radio.

John: Something that happens with prayer… as we pray more to God, our prayer life should change a little bit. Do you know what that should be? When we start praying, our prayers generally look one way, but before we die, they really ought to look another way.

Me: You go from praying about things you want to praying about things God wants.

John: Yeah. Exactly. Great way to put it, Mike. God set it up that way. He loves us, he wants to bless us, but ultimately the reason he set it up so that we pray is that there’s a whole world that doesn’t pray to him and doesn’t know him, and so really what he wants us to do is pray for other people. Yes, he’s involved in our lives, but there are people out there… the saddest person in the world is someone that doesn’t have someone praying for them. And there’s people out there like that. So maybe that’s why he’s introducing prayer to everyone here: so that we can pray for those other people.

John had us all spend a minute silently praying for the person to our left. (Sorry, whoever was to my left – you got left out.) After about 50 seconds of silence, someone’s phone beeped… I struggled not to laugh.

Eventually, John closed the session with a prayer, asking God to reveal the purpose of prayer to us and help us all understand it better and long to do it.

Afterward, Woman 7 showed me a book she’d brought along for me to read. It’s The Reason for God, which my mom actually bought me for Christmas… ahh, coincidence.

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2 thoughts on “Blogging the Alpha Course: Part 2

  1. Pingback: Alpha Course Redux: Week #1 « Thoughts from a Godless Heathen

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