An Agnostic's Prayer
In the summer of 2000 I was a chaperone at Group Workcamp's "Royal Gorge Workcamp." It was the fifth workcamp I've chaperoned in the last six years for Glen Avon Presbyterian Church's senior high school students. My daughter and or son have been participants for the last six years.
These have been wonderful experiences. Group Workcamps began in 1977 after a terrible flood in Colorado's Big Thompson Canyon. Organized to aid people after that flood, Group Workcamps now sponsors over 30 workcamps across the United States and Canada each summer. I think there will be 46 camps next year. These camps organize church youth to repair and paint the homes of people who can't do this work for themselves. This year the camps will have hit a new milestone as their 100,000th workcamper begins his or her labors.
As an agnostic, I have had to ask myself how honest my participation in workcamps is since they are tied to a Christian witness I can't fully embrace. The word "agnostic" is Greek and means to be without wisdom. Unlike Atheists, who actively deny the existence of a supreme being, I make no claims about the metaphysical or spiritual world.
Ironically, I have led evening devotions with the young men from our church at these workcamps since I began attending them in 1995. I did so again this year.
One evening last week I was faced with a personal challenge which I could not easily resolve. I composed a prayer and hoped that a particular member of our group would listen closely. When our devotions concluded I ended with the prayer and explained that it was personal in nature and not meant to speak for the group. It was an act of confession to our young men as much as to God.
Here follows my prayer:
I am a fraud. When I pray to you Iím praying to an idea I have not accepted. I am not a member of your church although you see me there on many Sundays singing in your choir.
If you exist, as so many people in your church and my Glen Avon Presbyterian Church believe, you are certainly not surprised by my confession. You know that when I pray to you it is because I can think of nothing more worthy than the acts of caring and humanity the belief in you inspires in others. And God, every time I pray I search my heart for the right words, for honest words. I do not believe in the void your absence would demand. That void, that anarchy, that confidence in personal gratification limited only by the whims of man I find repellant, worse yet, the source of evil, both petty and profound.
Perhaps God, I am not alone. Perhaps, to one degree or another, your followers share similar doubts, which are revealed by their confessions. In every prayer worthy of the name, there is an element of confession. Each sin confessed testifies to personal rebellion against you and a denial of the path you have set before us.
Forgive this seeker Lord, as you forgive those who, although they have found you, stray from your path.
Know that everyone in this workcamp, who labors for the humble and vulnerable people of Canon City, is struggling to stay on your path by their service to others.
Lord, forgive the frauds, forgive the sinners, and look kindly on all seekers.
Help us complete your good works there at the Royal Gorge Workcamp.