It’s midterm week at Wheaton, and everybody is frantically taking exams, writing papers, and getting ready for Fall Break. For devotions in every class, we pray for our exams, preservation of sanity, and safety traveling during Fall Break. I think it’s incredibly hokey. So I was surprised, as I walked across campus on my way to take a midterm exam, to find myself wishing that there was some atheistic equivalent to prayer.
I used to be one of those Christians who prayed at every opportunity, including before a test. Sometimes it was a last-ditch plea for God to save me from my lack of studying. Most of the time, I simply found prayer a nice way to prepare myself for any event, to put my mind at ease and wrap up the preparation before the execution phase of a project. Praying before a test was a way of acknowledging the preparation I had done and get into the right mindset. It seems like a nice, quaint 17th century thing to do. Except that I kind of miss it. Not the God part, but the pausing and recognizing and pulling things together. And, it’s kind of fun to have someone you can talk to in your head all the time.
Is there an atheistic equivalent of prayer? A way to recognize the good, prepare for the worst, and put your mind at ease, maybe with a small ritual? How do you express concern for someone where you might normally say “I’ll pray for you”? How do you keep friends’ troubles in your thoughts and mentally provide moral support? Or are these psychological games purely the domain of religion?
Or, is praying essentially the same as thinking? As I once overheard a Wheaton student say to another, “sometimes I don’t know if I’m praying or thinking”.