One of the things that differentiates humans from animals is that we have the capacity for real language. That means we can arrange sounds into words and words into complex sentences to communicate both concrete and abstract ideas. Another thing we have that animals don’t is the ability to envisage things that don’t actually exist; we can see a tree and imagine a table, or a lump of clay and imagine beautiful pottery or even a piece of silicon and imagine an incredibly complex electronic device capable of processing huge amounts of data.
Humans are also given a sense of the supernatural a suspicion that everything that is visible is the product of something that isn’t. Most even go as far as to believe that the things they cannot see might be more significant that the things they can. We must all have a sense of a significant other or a point at which we have no choice but to evoke the infinite or eternal. Without this one cannot develop a framework for understanding our origins and purpose.
The ancients thought the earth floated on water held in a basin supported by huge foundations and the sky or firmament was a dome that covered the world and housed the stars. But they had no idea, or perhaps they purposely forgot, what held the whole thing up. What were these foundations resting on, what lies beyond the dome and who put it all together in the first place?
Mysteries like these can provide breeding grounds for all kinds of unhealthy speculation, manipulation and fearful superstition. The priests of every nation got the top jobs and made a packet out of people by convincing them that the sky would fall in, the sun would stop shining or the sea would cover the land unless significant sacrifices and payments were made to the various gods who controlled these things. A bit like the eight billion dollars of tax-payers money given to science to build an accelerator to recreate the big bang. The Bible’s creation story did little to correct our understanding of the nature of the physical universe but it did correct our understanding about the creator and sustainer of that universe and it told us why he bothered in the first place. In one page of beautiful literature we get answers to the all the big questions that really matter for eternity and most of them were questions we were afraid to ask.
That page also tells us why we find ourselves unfinished or incomplete unless we are in touch with that significant other and it also explains why we are all religious especially those that try their hardest to be secular. We were created in our creator’s image and he did that so he could have significant others to share the universe with. The problem is that we wanted to find significance without him whilst doing our best to connect and find a sense of completion with a significant other of our own making.
What gives us away is the kind of conversations we end up having with these self made gods of ours. Don’t be surprised if our prayers sound like baby talk or repetitious ranting. After all the god we create can never be as intelligent as we are he needs to have things explained to him in monosyllabic words and since he has a poor memory he needs to be told the same prayers all the time in case he forgets. Jesus went to pains to remind us that prayer was not to be viewed as some mantra to get access to a computer but intelligent, sincere words that assumed we were talking to someone who is at least as intelligent as we are.
So many books on prayer these days are like Golfing magazines- full of tips on how to improve your score and impress your mates. They all seem to forget that our God is a heavenly father who actually loves his children and is far more interested in their genuine love than he is in their technique.
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