Thinking seriously about prayer was the tipping point in my religious de-conversion.
I posted about it early and often when I started the Stupid Church People blog. I shared a quote from Karen Armstrong where she writes in “The History of God”:
I wrestled with myself in prayer, trying to force my mind to encounter God, but he remained a stern taskmaster who observed my every infringement of the Rule, or tantalizingly absent. The more I read about the raptures of the saints, the more of a failure I felt. I was unhappily aware that what little religious experience I had, had somehow been manufactured by myself as I worked upon my own feelings and imagination. Sometimes a sense of devotion was an aesthetic response to the beauty of the Gregorian chant and the liturgy. But nothing had actually happened to me from a source beyond myself.
I remember that unhappy feeling when I became truly awake to manufacturing the religious experiences in my life. Then it dawned on me how I had manufactured those experiences for others as a pastor for years.
Religion by and large is a manipulation of emotion, especially in a community or corporate setting. Prayer is used as a primary source of that manipulation.
The podcast we did early on prayer is important because I talk about these feelings openly. The “See You at the Pole” podcast also deals heavily with this subject.
Talking about prayer is a touchy subject because it is so personal to each person who regularly practices it. It’s touchy because pastors rely on it to carry on in front of their congregations as if they have a direct line to God. No one wants to be honest about prayer for fear people will realize the reality of it.
We are just talking to ourselves.