“I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him,” the book begins. Julian Barnes, an atheist turned agnostic, has decided at the age of 62 to address his fear of death — why should an agnostic fear death who has no faith in an afterlife? How can you be frightened of Nothing? On this simple question Barnes has hung an elegant memoir and meditation, a deep seismic tremor of a book that keeps rumbling and grumbling in the mind for weeks thereafter.
There is something about that first line that captivates me. Perhaps it is because this man, who is a self-proclaimed agnostic, seems to want to believe but just doesn’t. Some of us could say that we do believe in God but at the same time we miss him. In other words, some of us claim to believe in God, yet we behave as if he is absent and nowhere to be found.
Perhaps this is most evident in our prayers. Some of us pray almost anemic prayers. We pray but only ask God to do what seems reasonable or normal. We don’t pray for anything large or incredible because it just seems impossible. Consequently, our prayers are not God-sized. In fact, we may find ourselves praying for something that really doesn’t seem to require God’s divine intervention. In the words of one person, "I’m sure everything is going to work out nicely, but it can’t hurt to pray."
Do you relate to this? Do you find yourself praying for only what seems reasonable or normal?