Why Pray? - Page 2
For me, I also don't see a reason to pray but not because of a bible verse that some interpret differently and that I can't even recall. I just feel that what is meant to be will happen whether I make my needs and wants known to a G-d I'm not sure I believe in. I believe in just being a good person and being honest with those around me physically and everything else will fall in line.
I think praying is a good thing though. We spoke with a speaker at our UU fellowship about it once. He said he saw it more as having a conversation with a friend. Just a reminder to keep the relationship open and going, and a reminder to ourselves to work at getting what we need/want rather than expecting it to happen just because we tell G-d even if we don't but in any of our own work. I like that. Regardless of what you believe, I think that if you do pray (no matter why or how) it should also be a reminder to also put in the work you can to get to where you need to be because your G-d will only do so much and only as He deems fit most likely.
When it gets right down to it, I think prayer.. the belief that prayer works specifically... works for more reasons than just because G-d heard and answered (if that is true at all.) I think it works for the same reasons good thoughts and placibos work as well... we put out good energy and believe in good things.. and things naturally fall into place. Whether G-d encourages that or adds to it is beyond me.
My husband was telling me once that there is actually a verse in the bible that says something about how we don't need to pray or it is unecessary or we shouldn't or something. I can't for the life of me remember which one it was even though I have looked at it. He always tells me though that he sees no reason to pray because Jesus said not to.
Matthew 6: 5-15
5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9"This, then, is how you should pray:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.[a]' 14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Well, I guess I view it as prayer is just basically talking to God. And, there are many different types of prayer -- adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. So while sometimes we are asking God things, we are also praising and thanking him.
Also, one of the things I've come to realize is that prayer doesn't necessarily change the situation, but it often changes my perspective.
yes, this. especially the last part. I haven't yet read past this response, but for me prayer is also clarifying for me. The more I "talk" the more I can understand the root of my issue and hone in on it. I may start out in one place and over the course of praying either have this issue resolve, change, or I understand why I'm struggling. For me it's rarely about what I need God to do, but about how I can shift with God's help. Basically, more than anything prayer gives me space to process where I don't feel alone.
I am with many of the pps in feeling that prayer is most important for the pray-er. For me it is sort of like trying to align myself with God, be more conscious of his presence. I also really like pre-formed prayers as I feel solidarity with everyone else in the world praying them, and also how they keep all of humanity in their intentions, not just "me." The "our" and "us" in the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary, for example, are really powerful for me.
I recently got some really good fellowship about this very matter. I was thinking to post it, but then this old thread popped up. My friend's question was similar. She asked, If people are predestinated then are our prayers for them wasted?
In John's gospel (Chapter 14? or 15) it speaks about Him being the vine and we are the branches. So the life flowing through out the vine and the branches is the same life juice. Christ is the Head, we the Body, and He is flowing His life juice to us. On God's side, He is always willing to flow out Himself by His Spirit into us to be our supply. On our side we have to be the best receivers of this divine life flowing out. Sometimes we cannot receive His flowing out grace to us because of various reasons, like sin/darkness, hard heart, turned away heart, the stubborn self, proud self, etc. He is flowing out and we are blocking it. Although we as the Body are joined to the Head and the flow is there, we may be blocking it in some way. Prayer reestablishes this flow and unblocks whatever was blocking it. Objectively, we know that we are connected to the vine, but subjectively we can experience this connection through prayer.
It also brings us into another realm. Factually, the Bible says that Christ is in us and that we are in Christ. But experiencially, we may be in our mind or our emotions, rather than in our spirit where God dwells. Once we pray and touch our human spirit where the Spirit of God dwells, then we enter into this realm of Christ experiencially.
I may need to give a little background on the human spirit. In the Greek there are three words for life. English only has one word for life. According to 1 Thes 5:23 we have a body, soul and spirit. Our body (Gk. bios-life) is made to contact the physical realm. Our soul (Gk. psueke-life) is for the psychological realm, Our spirit (Gk. zoe-life) is for the divine life and is where God as Spirit dwells.
So at anytime we can experience bouncing in and out of these different realms. The gospels speak of denying our soul-life. Sometimes I am just in my soul life (not denying it) exercising my emotions or my mind without any contact with the Lord. Then I turn and I begin to exercise my spirit to touch the living God inside me. If I begin to pray, sing, read the word, I begin to feel the Lord bubbling up in my spirit. If I am struggling in my mind and my anxieties, I can be freed from my anxieties just by exercising my spirit to touch the Lord, enter into this realm of Christ and be saved from my over anxious mind. God's Spirit is in my human spirit and I can contact Him any time.
Corinthians says, he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. We are joined to the Lord but we have to exercise the right organ, our human spirit, in order to experience this joining. Our human spirit is our spiritual organ that we have to use and exercise to contact God. We use our mind to contain knowledge, our stomach to contain food, and our spirit to contain and contact God.
Finally, I think someone touched on this matter of prayer moving God's hand. Yes, God has everything worked out in the sense of an Architect has a blueprint. The blueprint can show a building in it's completion. But we humans are under construction. God needs our cooperation to complete His building. He hasn't come back yet and the disciples thought He would return any moment. Why hasn't Christ returned after 2000 years? We have to make our self ready by cooperating with the divine life within us to become His spotless bride. Then He will return. Prayer does this...it gains our cooperation for His building.
Another way of looking at it is this, the train is God and our prayers lay the tracks for God to move on this earth.
One more...prayer is spiritual breathing. Just as we need oxygen and we need to release carbon dioxide or we will die, we need to breath spiritually. We pray (breath out) all of our negativity, sorrow, sin, anxieties, and breath in God's life. Through prayer God infuses Himself into our being and washes away all of the old negative stuff. Prayer is divine transaction with the living God. God passes through us and we pass through Him. Afterall, we are joined to Him.
Praying for me is good because it is a time when i focus on things outside myself- like thinking of those that are hurting. thinking of goals for myself (for example "please give me strength to be patient with my kids today"). Thinking of gratitude for the day and giving thanks for whatever i may be feeling grateful for at that moment. Focusing my energies and thoughts on what really matters vrs. cleaning/cooking/etc. Whether or not it is effective to the recipient, it helps me be less self-centered.
As Lizziebits wrote, there's different components of prayer, often divided into:
Adoration & Worship
- G-d, you are amazing and your creation is amazing and I'm in awe
- G-d, I messed up and I'm really sorry
- Thanks for all the great things you have done for me and the world (grace before meals is an example)
- Pls. help me understand, pls. help me get through; pls. help my friend/colleague/relative get through; pls.help this broken messed up world
All of these can also be aligned w/ meditation. As Ursusarctos wrote, a lot of it is aligning or trying to align yourself w/ G-d. So, in some religious traditions life becomes a constant dialogue w/ G-d.
So, I try and talk w/ G-d every day in these different modes.
Once I was talking w/ a friend about prayer and worship and I said that it's because I have this urge to do it. In one of my anthropology classes the term "a sense of the numinous", or a sense of the holy or sacred was used and I feel it somehow and prayer is sometimes my response, and other times my seeking of it.
I'm a Pagan and Buddhist, and prayer is an important part of my life. A Christian friend of mine once said that prayer was a place she could "unburden her heart, soul, and or mind" and I think that rings true for me as well.
I recently finished a book by Kate Braestrup (a UU minister) that was about prayer. She was also the key note speaker at my church's women's retreat and preached at our service on that Sunday. Her sermon was on prayer and it was so beautiful. We were all in tears by the time it was over. If I can find a link to a podcast, I will post it... but basically (and I agree with her) she said that prayer doesn't work to give us everything we ask for, instead it works to open our hearts to be able to recognize and experience Love (her definition of God) all around us, and especially in our darkest moments.
Now, I'm off to look for that podcast... I can post a link to a podcast, can't I?
Here is the podcast... mods if I'm not supposed to post this, I'm sorry... but it's just such a beautiful sermon, on just this topic
P.S. you'll probably want to have a box of tissues handy
To me, prayer is just like talking to J- it keeps the lines of communication open. If I am taking the time to talk to God, and then to be still, I am more open to hearing Him lead me. Even if it's not in that moment, I am still leaving communication open.
And I agree with the PP that broke prayer down into sections.
As a Catholic, though, I want to add one more- Spiritual Warfare. We have the Rosary, a huge weapon against Satan. It is not only a chance for us to meditate on the life of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, but in doing so we are taking away Satan's power- we are totally focusing on Our Lord- His life and His ministry. It's hard to let Satan in when you are making Our Lord the center of your life.
The other day my priest told me a great story about prayer.
A young monk was told by his elder to take an old bushel basket and go draw water from the river. He did as he was told but by the time he returned all the water had of course run out. His elder told him to try again. He tried again and again and each time the result was the same. He asked his elder why he must continue with such a task. He is not seeing any results. He has not managed to get any water back to the elder. The elder responded that it may be true he has not gotten any water back but to look at the basket. How had it changed? The monk replied the it had been caked with dirt and grime but now it was clean. The elder told him that this is how it is with prayer. As our prayers move through us they change the one who bears them. Its not always about the results of the prayers themselves but the work done by the act of saying them. Thats a a paraphase....a bad one but you get the jist hopefully.
In Islam, there are two types of "prayers."
There is du'a... supplication...which you do anytime, anyplace. Those are the, "Oh please God help me pass my calculus test" type things.
Salat is the required prayer that Muslims say five times per day. While one can make du'a after it, the main focus is not on what you need/want but on worshiping God. It's not about you, it's about God. We are supposed to stop what we're doing five times per day and just be grateful for all that we have. It's also a way to stop what you're doing... especially if you're going down the wrong path... and re-evaluate. The positions of prayer in Islam are about submission and humility. During the prayer, you bow at your waist, and say, "Glory to God the Almighty"... then at a later point.. your basically prostrating on the ground, sort of like pose of the child in yoga, saying, "Glory to God the Most High." There's a story that goes basically if you took a bath five times per day, how dirty could you get? By praying five times per day, you're more likely to avoid sin (hopefully).
Salat is also viewed as more blessed if it is done with other people. It's said that God multiplies one's good deeds x27 if one prays with at least one other person. So, it's about community as well. It's about a family joining together ideally five times per day, but realistically maybe 3, to pray together and worship together.
Muslims also say, "Trust in God, but tie your camel." (I guess today we'd say "lock your car.")