What is this? Why would an atheist pray?
Actually, it happens. There is an old saying, "There are no atheists in foxholes." A man who has had no use for religion finds himself in a life-threatening situation. Everything is falling apart, He does not know if he will get out of it. And suddenly with nowhere else to turn a man calls out to God.I have sat and talked to men with that kind of prayer in their background. They do remember the moment.
God claims the right to hear anyone who calls out to Him. Psalm 68 calls Him "Father of the fatherless and protector of widows ..." (Psalm 68:5) There is no mention of their belief. Only that God claims the right to hear and answer. Psalm 145 has this prayer, "You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." (Psalm 145:16) And Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that God "makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust." (Matthew 5:45)
God is the One who gives daily bread, who gives life and breath, and insists on the right to hear the prayer of all His people, of all humanity, of all creation. And He answers and provides. How many accidents have we avoided and wondered? How many terrible things did we not even know we were protected from? And when we are in distress and trouble God insists on the right to hear our prayer and watch over us. So the un-religious man could talk with me about how God answered his prayer; and could still be celebrating that his prayer was heard.
God has more to give. So many prayers are offered up for physical needs. They have to do with what I need for "this body and life." (Luther's Small Catechism, explanation of the First Article) Those are good prayers, and God loves to hear them. But there is more.
God has more to give than simply the needs for this body and life. We are more than skin covered collections of chemicals and nerve impulses. We are body and soul, and there is a whole other part of our life. So God hears and answers our prayers for daily needs. But He invites us into a deeper relationship. Always He has more blessings ready to go. God knows the things of the soul. He knows our need for comfort, hope, and promises brought to us by Jesus. He knows our spiritual needs. He knows our need for His promise of salvation in Jesus; for forgiveness earned by His Son; for the promise of eternal life. And He has those blessings all ready to go earned and offered through Jesus rising on Easter.
It would be silly to pray for the bodily needs; receive God's answer; and walk away uninterested so many more gifts and blessings. That's like being at your grandmother's for dinner, and it's really good; but at the end when she brings out her famous pumpkin pie, you say, "Boring!"
Right now we are in the middle of a time when a lot of people are remembering prayer. we are calling out to God in ways we haven't done for a long time. And God is answering, watching over us, keeping and defending us.
As we come through this, remember to remember. Remember God who answers prayer and has answers ready for prayers we haven't even prayed yet. (Isaiah 65:24)
Lord Jesus, You are the gift and the answer. When I have called out You have been there, already ready to help. When my prayers were answered, You prepared even more answers. You are a never ending well of blessings, pouring out more blessings than we can even ask for. Help me remember to remember Your blessings and help in my times of need. And help me remember to praise You, my savior and Friend. Amen.