• Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

Biased Prayers?

Confirmation Bias is a known human tendency. We have a tendency to resist or reject information or truths that conflict with our preferred beliefs. We also have a tendency to accept misinformation or untruths that match our current beliefs.


We are seeing this tendency in great detail this year under the microscope of the pandemic. Disinformation and misinformation are being shared more than careful journalistic information. Conspiracy theories are being forwarded and believed at rates much higher than validated science or professional advice. Truths are called hoaxes. Debunked accusations are repeated as proof. Lies are confronted with facts, those facts are waved away, and the lies are repeated more loudly.


In the Presbyterian Church USA Book of Order, under the foundational principles of being church (F-3.0104), is this line:


"...no opinion can either be more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a (person's) opinions are."


In this time of Advent, preparation and waiting, I lift up this tendency to help us be aware of it in ourselves.


In prayer, we intentionally open ourselves to God. There will likely be something about who this God is and what this God is doing that may not match our beliefs or expectations. In prayer, we will hopefully receive glimpses and nudges from the God who is the way, truth, and light.


Will we receive in prayer only those attributes of God that match what we want or believe, and dismiss the other messages from God that do not fit in our box? If so, we will not change. We will not become more like the persons God created us to be. We will not be able to help God's kingdom come on earth as it is already in the heavens.


As you pray this Advent season, I invite you to give even more attention to the truths God might reveal to you that you resist or do not feel true. If you feel a gut reaction against something shown to you in prayer, pause, breathe, and listen to it again for the truth that changes you and leads you to change the world around you for the better.

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In 2002, I left my corporate career, and went to seminary. Since 2005, I've been serving churches, and trying to follow Jesus, and lead others in doing the same...

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