In the Old Testament, when Sarah laughed at the angel who said she'd bear a child in her old age, was she also praying?
The first book in the Bible records an incident in which Sarah, the wife of Abraham, sat in a tent eavesdropping on a conversation her husband was having with God. When God announced that ninety-year-old Sarah would soon have a child, she laughed (Genesis 18:12). Having a child at her age was a preposterous idea to her, so she laughed. And, when her child was born, he was named Isaac, a name that means “he (or she) laughs.”
Though Sarah’s laughter may have been a symptom of unbelief, it can also be seen as an indication that laughter can be a form of prayer—one that reaches God’s ears . . . and heart.
Many of my friends responded to a question I posted on Facebook, saying that they experienced laughter-as-prayer. My friend Robin says, “I wasn't raised in the church but I became a Christian when I was nine. I never knew there were ways I was ‘supposed’ to talk with God so I just talked to Him like I did anyone I respected. And we would laugh about things sometimes. And now we laugh a lot about things I do and say. For example, just yesterday I looked up to God, saying, ‘You knew I was going to get myself in that pickle, didn't you?’ I laughed. . . and I'm pretty sure He did, too.”
Kaja, who lives in Germany, says she always believed in God as a child, but never committed her life to Jesus Christ in prayer. “So when I was twelve, I told my mom, and we prayed together. and while I was repeating what my mom said, I started to have to laugh, and I tried to hold it back, but I really couldn’t. I was just so happy.”
Another friend, Toni, recalls a time when she responded to God’s attention with laughter. “When I was in college,” she says, “I was walking around campus in a terrible mood. I was worried about everything and wondering what else could go wrong. I was praying while walking and finally felt like I needed to sit down. The sun was shining and I lifted my face and closed my eyes, still pleading with God to help me sort everything out. A popular song of the time called “Send Me an Angel” was playing in my mind. Finally, someone walking past me said, "Must be nice to sit there sunning yourself without a care in the world.” I opened my eyes and laughed with her—and with God. He did indeed send me an "angel" who pretty much told me there was nothing to worry about at all!
Sonya, whom I’ve known all her life, says, “I only remember laughing during one prayer and that was when I was driving home after cuddling my new nephew for hours, crying to God, asking why He wouldn't bless me and my husband with a child of our own. In the middle of my hysterics I felt a calm I had never felt before and I started laughing. It wasn't a hysterical laugh but one of complete realization, an aha moment. I told God that, in that moment, I could see for the first time in my life, a happy future with just me and my husband, even without children. I felt complete peace about it. I went home and told everyone about the experience. Then, five days later, I learned I was pregnant with our first son and instantly understood why God gave me the gift of peace that night.”
Sometimes laughter is a prayer of thanksgiving for answered prayer. My long-time friend, Leslie, says, “When God has answered a prayer, I have been known to laugh out loud as I go to Him in prayer with thanksgiving, awe, and joy at what He did. Laughter is an outward sign of joy! I just can't help it sometimes, like I can't hold it in!”
A writer friend of mine, Paula, answered my question this way: “Since God and I often have conversations like two friends (and that's not to say I don't address Him with respect), we often have a dialogue including a funny line or two. One time I asked God a question to which I needed a serious answer. He said–I kid you not–“Mind your own business.” He spoke to me as Jesus spoke to Peter in John 21 in regard to John's future: “What is that to you? You must follow me.” He was being quite serious with me, but I had to laugh because God knows me so well, this is how He chooses to address me sometimes. That is one prayer I will never forget.”
There are so many ways to pray, and God hears them all. Maybe you’ve never thought of laughter as prayer, but why not? After all, as my friend Robert commented, “I laughed talking to my natural father. Why shouldn’t I share a laugh now and then with my Father in heaven?”