Wednesday, April 3, 2013

If Chimps Could Talk

Chimpanzees have actually been taught how to use sign language, and what they have to say is revealing. Stephen Pinker, in his book The Language Instinct, talks about chimps expressing their thoughts through sign language. A chimp named Nim gave this message: "Nim eat Nim eat. Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you."

Examining the chimp's messages, two things stand out. First, Nim tends to say the same things over and over. Second, nearly every sentence Nim utters is a personal request. (Marv Hinten, Light & Life, March/April 2004)

Now suppose that chimps were taught to pray to God. What would their prayers sound like? Reflecting on Nim's examples, we can assume chimp prayers would be repetitive and self-centered. "Me banana You banana me You give banana me eat." That sounds a lot like human prayers!

I'll admit that I sometimes sound like Nim when I pray.  I've prayed monkey prayers, repeatedly telling God what I want.  Jesus instructed us to not get caught in that trap. "And when you are praying do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do" (Matt. 6:7).

Perhaps we need to learn to pray in a new way.  Instead of repeatedly telling God what we want (you give banana me eat), maybe we need to intercede for someone we've never prayed for before. Can you think of someone on this planet who needs your prayers? Anyone? Maybe if we'll spend more time interceding for others, God will also give us what we want, even if we don't ask for it.

Coming April 30, 2013: Slaying Your Giants by Kent Crockett (Hendrickson Publishers)