Let Us Pray: How an Atheist and Christian Connected in Prayer

By Andrea LaFountain

I was sitting at my desk when I received a phone call from Ireland that my Godmother had died. She was young, and seemingly healthy, so when news broke out that she had collapsed of a sudden heart attack–dead–everyone was shocked. Robbed of the chance to secure one more hug or the opportunity to share words of love with her, I cried when I heard the news. I loved her. I don’t remember ever telling her that though; we just don’t do that in Ireland. I cried for her only daughter, Alice, too, whom I love. 

I thought I should make it a point to make this confession out loud to her soon lest I fall short again someday.

After sobbing, I mustered the courage to call Alice and say something, although I wasn’t sure what to be exact. “Sorry for your loss” has always sounded trite to me—fine for a missing wallet or cat, but for a dead mother? The words just weren’t the right size for the situation. “God’s peace surpasses all understanding” perhaps were the right words? I wondered if that could be the right verse for her. But she was clear in her atheistic views, so I wondered if she could still have His peace? Could I still pray that for her? 

I didn’t know the answer so I checked my Bible and read: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). After finding that encouragement through scripture, I said a quick prayer, picked up the phone, and sobbed all over again when I heard her voice. We both cried. 

I wondered if the peace of God that transcends understanding was still hovering above the Atlantic, not yet having reached the cold, windy coast of Donegal. There was no peace. There was just a sharp hurt…and blank loneliness. Nothing else. And no mother left to comfort this daughter. I cried all the more in the hopelessness of the moment.

A Supernatural Peace

But then the Spirit of God arrived. My friend said, “Andrea, you know I don’t have any faith, but I know that you do. Can I borrow your faith for now?” Without stopping to think, I heartily agreed. Using my lips, we prayed together, calling on the name of Jesus to give the peace that only comes through Him. 

We prayed that the hurt and loneliness would abate quickly. We prayed for strength, for helpful neighbors, for freedom from the dregs of any unfinished business, for sleep, and that Jesus Christ Himself would be right alongside her, holding her up as she walked through the valley of the shadow of death. She took on all these prayers as if uttered from her own lips. When we were done, it seemed that I still had a full supply of faith left, maybe even more than when we started. 

This instance proved to me that everyone needs prayer. The Word of God and prayer are the sustenance of the Christian life—the meat and potatoes of our daily diet. Why is it then that so often we start the day on an empty stomach and go to bed hungry when our Father in heaven declares “every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10)? He is abundant, and He asks us to come and receive: “Come near to God, and He will come near to you” (James 4:8).

Finding God in Prayer

The Bible is full of promises from our loving God. Some of them we fully embrace like “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” in Matthew 5:9. Others, we don’t like as much:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold­—I am about to spit you out of my mouth!” (Revelation 3:15).  

For cherry-picking, perhaps the universal prize goes to Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you …plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” A mighty fine cherry that I have claimed for myself many times! It’s so sweet that we linger on it, stopping short of the two verses that immediately follow it that bring us straight into the heart of God: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:12-14). Praise God that He made it that simple! How do we find God? We come and pray. We simply ask, even in our sin: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

Prayer is Powerful

Prayer is powerful—enough that those who do not pray cannot deny its power: “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good” (1 Kings 18:24). 

Prayer is intense enough that our souls ache for it when we are desperate: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night” (Psalm 42:1-3). It’s also strong enough to raise an army from a stinking heap of rotten bones, hush the raging sea, return a prodigal, restore a marriage, find a job, break an addiction, bring forgiveness, or [fill in your blank].

Pray without Ceasing

Because of this truth, Paul commanded us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Being raised as a Catholic, the thought of that makes my knees hurt! Now I thank God that I understand Paul did not intend that we be on our knees constantly. 

Praying is not about reciting words out loud to God, nor is it commissioning Him with the Great To-Do list (heal my aunt, fix my boss, pay my bills); although, respectfully, and with thanksgiving, prayer can include these requests (Philippians 4:6). More importantly though, praying is being in-tune with a Holy God—a precious liberty we have as receivers of Christ. It is walking in unison with the Holy Spirit, throughout the day, every day, on high days and low days, busy days and lazy days, Sundays and, yes, Mondays too! 

It’s about talking to Him about all the stuff. Should you resign from your job? Buy that new car? Visit the grumpy
relatives? Where did you leave your keys? How should you deal with your betrayer? 

The answer isn’t always easy for us, but God knows and He wants us to seek His wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). Ask Him to direct your career path; surrender your desire for a new car to Him; ask Him to soften the hearts of your grumpy relatives before you visit and to give you a double helping of grace; ask Him where you left your keys; and ask Him for a heart of forgiveness in you for your betrayer. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6). That’s truly praying without ceasing!

Last Words

So across the spectrum of life’s challenges, from the devastating loss of a loved one to the mundane coping with daily routines, God wants to be in the picture. When we connect with our Creator through prayer, a bleak scene of hopelessness can be miraculously turned into a celebration of life. He always cares, He always listens, and He will always be there, as He promises: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13-14). 

Now that’s a big promise from a small prayer!