Praying like a monkey?

30 10 2011

I’ve finally managed to sit down and watch the first episode of “Fry’s Planet Word”, which is a five part documentry with the marvellous Stephen Fry all about language. I’d tell you more about it, but so far I’m only 15 minutes into the first episode!

(It turns out this episode is only available on iPlayer til 9pm tonight, but can also be found here.)

What’s really struck me is a piece near the beginning (around 10min in) about a monkey called Lana. She’s been taught to make sentences on a machine: things like “please machine give piece of apple fullstop” and “please machine give chocolate fullstop”. Fry tells us that while this is clever it’s not using language like a human does. Lana can construct a basic sentence, but can’t initiate conversation. She just request things; tries to get what she wants.

Fry says that this is different to humans, and a lot of the time that’s completely the case. But I think there are times we can, unintentionally, be just like this! Maybe it’s just me, but when I pray, sometimes it’s so easy to just focus on what I want. It might be asking for something selfishly, or it might be something as well-meaning as asking for healing for a friend, but either way, it’s so easy to come to God with a shopping list of requests, and not be focussing on developing a relationship with our God as our Lord and Friend.

Sometimes, in prayer, our language skills can be very chimp like indeed!

(As an aside, I’m now 45min in and there’s a fascinating sign language segment – very worth watching!)