homepage logo

Faces on Faith: Practical atheists

By Staff | Apr 11, 2013

Rev. Dr. John H. Danner

Did you hear about the Sunday school teacher who asked her preschool class if they knew where God lives?

One little boy piped up, “In heaven.”

“No, no, no, “said a little girl, he doesn’t live there, he lives in our bathroom.”

The teacher was rather startled by the comment. “What?” she said, “In your bathroom? Why do you say that?”

“Because,” said the little girl, “every morning my Daddy stands in front of the bathroom door and yells, ‘My God, are you still in there?'”

We laugh, but in a weird sort of way the little girl and the little boy are both right. God is in heaven, however we may define that, but God also lives in your bathroom, and mine too. For God, theologians tell, is omnipresent. In plain English: God is everywhere.

Now that would seem to mean that we should be able to keep in touch with God rather easily. But the reality is for most of us, most of the time, we move through our lives banging on bathroom doors, going to work, cleaning the house, driving the car, attending classes, totally oblivious to the fact that God is there all the time.

If we are people of faith, we may say on the Sabbath that we believe in God, that we know God is real. Yet the rest of the week we often act as if God doesn’t exist. We are, as someone once said, practical atheists.

So how do we remedy this problem? How do we move from merely acknowledging God’s existence to consciously living with God all week long?

The answer rests in the ancient practice, the ancient discipline of prayer. Regular prayer. Every day, every night. For prayer is the way we continually remind ourselves that God is indeed present at all times, and in all ways. This habit of consciously, intentionally, communicating with God is essential to maintaining a relationship with God.

Think about it this way. Your best friend moves off island. She was the sort of person who called you on the phone most every day. You’d have coffee on Tuesdays, and play tennis on Thursdays. You went to the same doctor. Your friend knew your secrets and you knew hers.

At first when she moves you keep in close contact: daily texts and e-mails, regular phone calls, an occasional visit. But then the phone calls get less frequent. One day you begin to have trouble remembering what she looks like. You wonder if you really are friends.

When you finally see one another again face-to-face you discover you’re not so comfortable sharing your hurts and worries and secrets, and you grow further apart. And whereas her support and love helped you make it through many a crisis in the past, you now doubt you’d turn to her in the future.

That can happen with God. The difference is that God never moves off island. God never moves away from us, rather we move away from God. So it is that we must intentionally nurture our relationship with God through prayer. It is then that God will have an impact on our daily lives.