In my ongoing efforts to find some sort of middle ground for us all, I thought I’d take a crack that this peculiar puppy!
Prayer. What does it bring to mind for you? Bowed heads? Clasped hands? Sore knees? Foreheads on the mat facing Mecca? Odd how the physical view we all have has little to do with it in the end. What about unanswered questions? Disappointment? Abandonment? Many must feel that way. Or, connection? Communion? Closeness? Miracles? Others would go that route as well. And for many religious folks, the reality is that it is probably a significant combination of almost all of these possibilities.
And me, who sits here spouting off on just about anything? Have I prayed? Sure. Have my prayers been answered? Yes, no, maybe. I have prayed as a kid, with gusto. And usually selfishly. Because let’s face it folks, praying is really about you. How often does it really involve God or Jesus or Allah or Yahweh? We usually want something. Most often for us though the better people in this world actually pray for others. But we all pray for things we want. It’s human nature.
And how do you pray? Do you save it for church figuring you have a better shot there? Do you save it for bed when its quiet and dark figuring you’ll be heard better (by the way I’ve had more than one story where people fall asleep talking to God – I just imagine waking and going ‘oh shit God, sorry!)? Do you recite rote phrases before the begging begins? Or do you wait until you walk the dog figuring the dog is a better person than you and might get you access?
Do you talk to God in fear? Does guilt consume you as you put it out there? Do you feel judged? Do you feel as loathed by God as you do about you? Do you pray for forgiveness assuming you’ll never get it? Is it a formal relationship where you have to recite biblical canon before you say anything? Do you still use the childhood favourites? Now I lay me down to sleep, a bag of peanuts at my feet, if I should die before I wake, give them to my brother Jake. Are you a Lord’s Prayer enthusiast?
Do you only talk to God? What about Jesus? Moses? Mary? Do you speak to dead relatives? Dead celebrities (Dear Elvis, can you make sure I get the new super-enhanced and remastered 1968 comeback special on limited edition Blue Ray dvd? Amen)? Is talking to a dead relative considered prayer? Or is it insanity? Or is it just sweet?
So what exactly is prayer? For the religious, it is a method to talk to God. Some people schedule their time (assuming the all powerful has a Blackberry to keep track). Others will talk all day, sharing everything. The question remains, what exactly are we doing? And why?
I’m going to ignore those who see prayer as a formal ritual simply thanking God for whatever. I have a hard time picturing an all powerful entity requiring endless praise unless he has serious mental deficiencies. So let’s focus on real prayer…the conversation.
I don’t look at prayer as something negative. Quite contrary, I think prayer may be one of the most sane things human beings do. Not because I think anyone is out there listening. Relieving one’s burdens is important. Being able to articulate problems and air them is a critical element for human mental health. And when you have things that you may find difficult to share with another human being, I think that maybe you open a door to it by saying it to yourself.
Humans have a lot of trouble with self-honesty. We lie to ourselves all the time. And if we can sit down, find a quiet moment, or simply take a moment and we can say to ourselves ‘wow, that was stupid’ or ‘I can’t believe I did that’. And sometimes it can take the opposite tack. If we can say ‘That was a good thing to do, maybe I’m not so bad after all’, where’s the issue. Maybe someone will thank you and you will be able to acknowledge yourself for a change.
Sadly, so much of the world today does not focus taking responsibilites upon ourselves. We live in a selfish, self-righteous society that is about what we have more than who we are. So how do we do good and feel good inside? How do we deal with mistakes we make? The first step is self awareness. Knowing what we do that is right. Knowing what we do that’s wrong. being able to see ourselves through the fog of banality, greed and sex that fills our days.
I believe prayer is one answer, though hardly the only one. Let’s call it a good start. It is a mental diary. A place we can be fully honest without judgement or direct consequence. We don’t have to be a shallow, squalid race. We can rise above the din and be better. But we can’t do that without addressing a key question. Who am I? What do I need? What do I want? Not in terms of money or things. But in terms of our humanity. How can I step up and be better. How can I do more to help. What do I need for me to move forward.
Psychiatrists will tell you that a diary is a good way to evaluate things. Counselling can help anyone. I know, I’ve been. I will go again too. Having a secure place to talk without fear is a critical step for all of us. And maybe as a way to get past the stigma around the mental health profession, prayer is a facility for you to see the benefits.
So whether you believe in God, Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu or whoever. Or nothing. I am asking you to join the millions. Try it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Nothing! But maybe you’ll start to see some benefit. Maybe you’ll become a little more self aware. Maybe you’ll realize you are missing something in your life. Maybe you’ll realize you need help. Maybe you’ll realize you can help. All I’m saying is that prayer is not necessarily the answer to what ails you. Maybe it’s just a facility, a method you can use to help yourself move forward in life. Maybe it’s a good step to moving beyond the bullshit that is much of our lives. Do me a favour and try it. And trust me. This is not a time-limited, once in a lifetime deal. This is a lifetime, unlimited opportunity for you. Take advantage.
Dear whoever, I hope someone out there reads this and gets some benefit from it. I write so much stuff but you never really see the result. I often wonder who’s paying attention (I know a few that do). That’s a selfish statement. As much as I write for myself because it is important to me, I would like to think that every once in a blue moon, someone takes something important away from it. Can words change people? I hope so. They have changed me. I don’t need to know that something I wrote helped someone but my selfishness asks the question. Anyway, this was great exercise for me. I hope it matters. Amen.