Saturday, December 18, 2010

the power of prayer.

    Not so long ago I received a lecture from someone about NOT letting them know the exact time of a certain difficult event so that they could be praying for me... at the exact time it was happening.  To tell the truth,  I found this very puzzling.  In my way of thinking, if the outcome is already determined by God, why do they need to know all the direct details for prayer purposes?  Does praying really need to be that organized and scheduled?
     That event got me thinking about prayer, and how it can mean so many different things and take on so many forms.  It made me ask myself the question: Why do we pray?
      Now don't get me wrong.  I appreciate it any time when any of my fellow human beings are caring enough to put in a thought or request on my behalf to the Higher Authority,  but it is so strange to me how some people go about it.  I guess for discussion purposes maybe we could divide prayer into two categories, altruistic prayer and selfish prayer.
     Selfish prayer takes on many different forms. Take for example the control freak prayer.  This is the person who believes that the whole world will fall apart unless they know everyones' bizz-nass so they can act as a direct go-between for all their acquaintances and God. These prayers are usually asking for specific outcomes (what the pray-er personally believes the outcome of the situation SHOULD be). I think this prayer must inevitably lead to disappointment and frustration on the part of the pray-er when things don't work out to their plan. 
     Then there is the prayer of disapproval. This type of "praying" is when a person disapproves of something you are doing and they punish you by stating in a pitying or judgmental tone, "I'll be praying for you."  And you know that they are mentally tacking the word "sinner" on to the end of that statement.
     The third type of selfish prayer (and I am DEFINITELY guilty of this on occasion) is the bargaining chip prayer.  This one is the "dear God, if you just make _________ happen, then I promise I will never do____________ again."
     It is easy to pray selfishly, given our human-ness, and I think God understands that--she/he designed us after all.
     I often find myself praying when the universe seems to be spinning out of control and I need to focus and meditate.  When I pray for a person in difficult circumstances I try to focus directly on them and send them love/healing/strength/courage... whatever it is that may be appropriate to their trial.  Frequently throughout the day I think of my family and loved ones and send a quick message of gratitude to the creator for blessing me with such a rich life and so many people to love.  When I am outdoors I feel like I am inadvertently offering a continual prayer of gratitude.  The beauty of nature never ceases to make my soul feel overflowing with joy. Sometimes my prayers are selfish, due to my limited world view. My prayers are always very informal.  
     But to get back to my original thought about how God has a plan, and can we really change his plan (aka the outcome) by praying hard enough?  I don't think we can.  In spite of our most heart-felt prayers, good people still die, horrible things still happen in the world, sometimes it seems like evil wins.  Do our prayers even matter?
     I think they do.  I think part of the Creator's bigger plan is that we as humans lift each other up in love.  That is altruistic prayer, I believe.  Maybe the collective love that exists in our prayers for each other is enough to lighten the load, and light the way on this long and windy path that all humans walk on.  Someday, I hope we all get to see what the grander scheme really looks like, but until we have that perspective we should continue to lift each other up unselfishly, in mindfulness and love, regardless of our race, credo or religious affiliations.  Maybe that is the TRUE power of prayer.

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