prayers for an agnostic season

Coliseum at Arles

Just about everyone who has looked honestly at their own thoughts could admit to at least a season of being agnostic, a time when it seemed impossible to know anything at all about God. During such a season, praying may seem confusing, frustrating or foolish. But prayer is such an important form of human expression that we may need to practice it the most during such times. I thought I might suggest some prayers that could be fruitful during a season when we’re convinced that there is nothing to be convinced of.

All of these prayers make the assumption that it’s perfectly reasonable to be clueless about who or what may or may not be listening and still to toss some thoughts and words in the direction of the Mystery that might just hear.

  1. “Be with me in caring for ______ .”  – If we don’t voice this prayer at some level, it will constipate our love, making it hard to give any attention to our aching concern for someone who is ill or broken by life circumstances. Of course, we want to spread the circle of who is all caring for the one that we are caring for.
  2. “Help me to do or be what is asked of me. Help me to love.” – Most of us have a sense that there is a value in our existence and that we want to fulfil that value. And most of us also sense that this value is closely bound up with love. Knowing how challenging love is, how can we not long for help? And then, perhaps, at the end of the day, a quick, “with all I did and didn’t do, let it be enough for this day.”
  3. “I forgot how big…. Thank you.” – OK, it’s dangerous to quote Joe vs. the Volcano since the movie is loved by a few and hated by many. The point is: however we do it, we need some means by which to express our awareness of the kind of awe, immensity, complexity, beauty, grandeur, or wonder that puts things in perspective. Humbly we accept our smallness and lack of entitlement. I suspect that if we don’t let ourselves express this awe or gratitude, we turn away from it and keep pretending our world is small and dull.
  4. A wordless prayer, imagining the real world, as it is, becoming more whole – not fantasies or utopias or Platonic ideals, just reality shifting into place, puzzle pieces fitting. If we don’t do this, there’s no hope.

Then, after some time has passed, perhaps with our hearts a little softened – some of the bitterness, disappointment, and frustration less in the way – we might hope for even more. And so we start adding one more…

5.   “Please notice me, and let me see you.” – Because there is also a season for knowing and
being known. Sometimes, even unfathomable Mystery can touch us where we live.

Coliseum at Arles

4 thoughts on “prayers for an agnostic season

  1. I love the image…oh and the prayers are nice too. First steps sometimes need to be directed even dictated so…thanks.

  2. Thanks Walter. This is such a nice collection of thoughts and it resonates with me in an illuminating way. I feel like I’ve been stuck in a prevalently agnostic/Christian rut for too long and these might be helpful ways of re-centering some of my values. Can you spell out #4 a little more? By “whole” do you mean healthier?

    1. Yes, it would include healthier, but that word always feels a bit narrower to me. More – “well-formed” with things working together for the benefit of humanity and the earth. Great to hear from you, Jonathan.

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