Many years ago, when I was in my 20s, I had the opportunity to travel with a student group in Europe.
On that first trip, I attended worship services in many of the famous cathedrals and noted that the small number of people present were usually quite elderly. I remember wondering how many years would pass before these churches would be completely empty.
I realized through time that these churches would not close as I had feared; rather, every generation of elderly worshippers was being replaced by a new generation of seniors.
Now that I am entering that older age group myself, I have a better understanding of why seniors find their way back to houses of worship.
One factor is likely that many older folk, looking back on a long life, realize how much they have to be thankful for.
Of course, there is a flip side to gratitude, and that is worry. Those who are older look at the numerous issues facing their families, their communities, their nation and their world and wonder if such massive brokenness can ever be healed.
Once again, a house of worship is one of the few places where people can kneel or bow their heads and share the weight of those burdens with God.
The older I become, the more I feel that there is yet another reason why people of my age group worship. I was taught from an early age to pray to God, and in seminary and graduate school, I learned that God does not need our prayers. It is we who need to pray to God.
During the past 10 years, I have rethought this view of God. Perhaps it is one of the gifts of aging that I now believe that we can not only pray to God but pray for God. We who are older find it easy to empathize with a God who loves us beyond what we can imagine.
Most of all, those of us who are older pray for God not to give up on us, especially in believing that we can change.
David Carlson is a professor of philosophy and religion at Franklin College. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Carlson is a professor of philosophy and religion at Franklin College and the author of “Peace Be with You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World” available in bookstores or on Amazon.com. Send comments to email@example.com.