The right way to pray?

If you pay a computer to say your prayers for you, are you still praying?

The question came up earlier this year when a company started a Web site in which a computer would — using a synthesized speech system — say three prayers a day for anyone willing to pay the $4.95 monthly fee. The price, however, depends on the length of the prayer.

If the computer is our vehicle of prayer, it might give new meaning to the dreaded “blue screen of death.”

Is prayer by computer still prayer? And, if not, does that mean there’s a right way to pray?

The New York Times (online) Magazine takes up that topic today.

“Prayer is like other activities,” the Rev. Daniel Henderson said. “You learn from people who are already good at it.” Henderson is the former senior pastor at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, one of several mega-churches in the Twin Cities. He’s one of several members of the clergy who talked to writer Zev Chafets.

Chafets doesn’t answer his own question, but the anecdotes are priceless:

Evangelical Christians, Pentecostals, they go to church to pray,” (Rabbi Marc) Gellman went on to say. “Why else would they be there? But Jews are different. People come to temple to identify with other Jews, or socialize. The writer Harry Golden once asked his father, who was an atheist, why he went to services every Saturday. The old man told him, ‘My friend Garfinkle goes to talk to God, and I go to talk to Garfinkle.’ There’s a lot of that.”