Prayer and humor lead us to a deeper spiritual place.

“A deeper spiritual place awaits us when we allow prayers and punch lines to unite.” Susan Sparks


“Did you hear the one about Noah?”

“A rabbi, a priest, and a Buddhist monk were in a life raft…”

“So, three nuns were driving down the road…”

When we speak of humor and the sacred, our minds go immediately to Noah jokes and nun puns. However, the humor/sacred combination radiates far beyond the realm of punch lines. The theologian Conrad Hyers once said, “Faith without laughter leads to dogma and laughter without faith to despair.” In these words, we begin to see a tiny glimmer of the power that a merger of prayers and punch lines can bring.

On its most basic level, humor is a gift we share with our creator. Genesis says we were made in the image of the divine. Since human beings have the gift of laughter, we know at least some aspect of the divine is joy and laughter. Yet when we try to commune with God, we tend to check this gift of humor like we check our coats. We need a reminder that to be healed, we have to offer all the pieces: the anger, the tears, the fear, and the laughter – it’s all holy.



Humor also offers us perspective on the stress of our daily lives. As Charlie Chaplin said, “Life in the close-up is a tragedy, but life in the long shot is a comedy.” The ability to step back and laugh at ourselves can help reduce stress by reminding us that we are only human.

Humor also helps us build bridges with others. When you laugh with someone, whether a stranger, a friend, a lover, or an enemy, your worlds overlap for a tiny but significant moment. Then, defenses are lowered, ideas and feelings are shared, and the best in each other gleams forth. Bottom line? If you can laugh at yourself, you can forgive yourself, and if you can forgive yourself, you can forgive others.

Humor and the sacred provide fertile ground for entertainment, but the two also generate a deeper, more universal power that often goes unnoticed. Allow space for laughter in prayer, consider the possibility of humor in Scripture or spiritual teachings, and meditate on a God who smiles. A deeper spiritual place awaits us when we allow prayers and punch lines to unite.

Previously published at Psychology Today. Published with permission.

Yellow Bubbles
Rev. Susan Sparks

Rev. Susan Sparks

A trial lawyer turned standup comedian and Baptist minister, Susan is the senior pastor of the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. She is also a professional comedian touring nationally with the Laugh in Peace Tour. The author of five books, a TEDx speaker, and an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist. Most importantly, Susan and her husband Toby love to fly fish, ride their Harleys, and eat great BBQ. Check out her books Laugh Your Way to Grace and Love, a Tiara, and a Cupcake.

Add a Little Laughter Note Starters

Illness and pain can sometimes shroud the gift of glittering laughter, crushing the embers of our joy. Sometimes all it takes is a quirky pun, a groan-worthy Dad joke, or a play on words to spark a grin. Grab a pen, a Chronic Joy flat card, and share a little bit of #PenToPaper laughter with a friend.

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