There is a question that has been running round my head, the last few days, one that is some way beyond my ability to answer.
That question is… When, and why, did the first human beings decide to pray?
Assumptions. By ‘pray’, I mean ‘try and communicate with the divine being or beings, who are clearly ‘distinct’ from the material world: they inhabit some other level of reality. But I could mean ‘experience an awareness of something, some presence or force, that cannot be (easily) attributed to a natural cause.
The only ideas I have at the moment are Rob Bell’s, from his ‘The Gods Aren’t Angry’ speaking tour. Here, Bell makes the argument that we pray and sacrifice to the Gods in order to keep them happy, so that they bless us with food, shelter, victory, and in their anger don’t decide to destroy us. Example: it hasn’t rained, so we sacrifice to the Rain God, so that she will forgive us whatever we’ve done, and make it rain. If it still doesn’t rain, we give more. And more. And more…
(I would highly recommend this lecture, available on Youtube. Bell goes on to describe how the bible’s God upsets this notion of the need for sacrifice. Instead of requiring Abraham to sacrifice his son, he provides a ram in his place. This isn’t a God for whom you have to provide, it’s a God who provides for you…. watch it)
If anyone else has any ideas on this matter, or any literature with which to begin, I would be grateful.