I am not religious, but I have a relationship with Christ, and there is a difference. I do not follow a doctrine prescribed by my church; rather, I follow Christ and try to adhere to HIS teachings, and I’ve found a church that does the same. I don’t participate in ceremonies or rituals, but I do pray.
Even when I didn’t used to pray, I never understood how anybody could be offended by a prayer. Uncomfortable, maybe…I could and still can relate to that as I used to be uncomfortable around prayer, and to this day I struggle with praying aloud in front of others. However, being uncomfortable is not the same thing as being offended.
In an effort to understand what it is about prayer that causes a person to be offended, we first need to define the term ‘offend,’ and then take a look at prayer itself to see if it fits the mold for being offensive.
According to the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term “offend” has a few definitions, of which the following apply best in the context of this discussion:
- To cause (a person or group) to feel hurt, angry or upset by something said or done
- To be unpleasant to (someone or something)
Now I don’t think I need to actually define the word ‘prayer,’ but it is necessary to break down the elements of prayer. Each of these elements are not necessarily always included in a prayer; however, I can think of no other elements that would be included in a prayer:
- Thanks: When we thank God, sometimes it’s a general thanks for everything He does for us, and other times its more specific, for such things as removing us from danger that we did not foresee or putting us in the right place at the right time for the perfect opportunity, even when we weren’t looking for a particular opportunity.
- Praise: Praising God is an extension of our thanks and appreciation. We want God to know how much we appreciate Him. We want Him to know how wonderful we think He is.
- Confession: When we confess to God, it’s because we know we’ve done wrong in His eyes. We are acknowledging that we’ve done wrong and humbling ourselves enough to admit it.
- Repenting: Repentance is an extension of our confession. A confession is no good without an apology. When we repent, we also promise to try to do better in the future.
- Plea for help: When we plead with God for help, this too can also be an extension of our confession and repentance. We are asking God for His help with significant issues, to give us the strength to overcome our temptations and struggles. A plea can also be for protection from harm, asking God to lead us down the right path, or asking Him to heal or comfort others.
The only element that I feel needs expounding upon is the “plea for help with significant issues.” Notice I said “significant.” We know God has bigger fish to fry than worrying about who wins the Super Bowl. We don’t ask to win the lottery, because we know that God will always provide a way for us to take care of ourselves (but you’d better believe He’d be the one I thanked if I did win the lottery). We don’t ask for bad things to happen, we only ask for good things. We pray for our loved ones and our neighbors, our colleagues and total strangers. We pray for those who love us and those who despise us. We pray for our local, national and world leaders and we pray for our military. We pray for peace and happiness. We pray for spiritual awakening. We pray that God leads the ill to the best physicians, and yes, we pray for miracles because we KNOW God is capable of performing miracles because we’ve witnessed them. We pray for relationships to be restored between husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies.
We pray that more people will start praying, because God told us that, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20. History tells us that God holds true to His word, so we believe Him when He says that the more people pray the more He is there. But no matter how many people we wish would pray with us, we also take the free will that God gave us very seriously and would never try to force somebody to pray against their will. Heck, even in church prayer is optional. Prayer isn’t required anywhere in public or in private. A person can always exercise their free will by tuning out or walking away if they choose to do so.
Now that I’ve cleared up what prayer actually is, I would challenge anybody to actually define what it is that is offensive (upsetting, hurtful or leading one to anger – as defined earlier) about prayer. If you overheard a conversation between two people (rather than between one person and God) in which one was thanking, praising, apologizing, promising to do better and asking for help, you might be uncomfortable having overheard a personal conversation, but can you honestly say you’re offended? Of course not. So how can you be offended by hearing somebody saying those same things, only to God? What is upsetting about prayer? Since we only want good things, how could that make others angry? How is a prayer hurtful? Your answer won’t mean that we’ll quit praying, but rather it would give us something else to pray for.