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#1 of 36 Old 06-19-2010, 11:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I recently had this question posed to me by a friend who identifies as a secular humanist and it has sparked a very interesting discussion between us.

She originally wondered why bother praying if you believe in an all knowing, all powerful God. Why would you need to ask Him for help if you believe he already knows that you need it? Why would many people praying (blanket prayer requests of a mass group) be more effective than only one person's prayer? How does God decide to answer prayer?

I am Roman Catholic, I have responded to her from my own religious perspective. I am curious how people from all other faiths (and denominations within Christianity) would answer her basic question.

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#2 of 36 Old 06-20-2010, 12:37 AM
 
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I would say that prayer is about your relationship with God, not just a request line. You want to talk with someone because you love them, even if they already know things right? So we talk with God and tell him the things that are inportant to us, because we love him and he loves us.
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#3 of 36 Old 06-20-2010, 12:40 AM
 
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It is about relationship where prayer a mean of communication within that relationship.
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#4 of 36 Old 06-20-2010, 12:43 AM
 
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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.

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#5 of 36 Old 06-20-2010, 12:52 AM
 
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I don't have time to give this an answer right now but want to make sure I come back to it tomorrow....

so hold that thought

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#6 of 36 Old 06-20-2010, 01:55 AM
 
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She originally wondered why bother praying if you believe in an all knowing, all powerful God.
I'm not sure I do beleive in an all-knowing, all-powerful G-d. In fact, I'm pretty sure that doesn't at all describe the G-d I beleive in. Can G-d do anything... not so much. We have free will after all. G-d cannot make us do many things. I'm not sure I beleive that G-d can, for instance, know my thoughts. Maybe sometimes, but it's not like I think G-d is inside my head all the time or anything. I'm not sure I really thing G-d... cares on that level, or is that personal, to be constantly "monitering" any given person.

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Why would you need to ask Him for help if you believe he already knows that you need it?
Because asking for help is powerful. It is admited you NEED help. And it's comforting. To ask g-d is to feel that you don't have to do it alone, that there is something/someone else there to help you. Someone listening to you, and be with you.

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Why would many people praying (blanket prayer requests of a mass group) be more effective than only one person's prayer?
I don't know whether or not it is. what I do know is that praying the same thing in a group can be powerful for the pray-ers. Does G-d hear it more or listen closer? I haven't a clue, though it makes sense that G-d might, that more people praying together would be spiritually "louder".

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How does God decide to answer prayer?
Haven't the least clue. I do know/beleive that there are certain prayers/times etc that gets through to g-ds ear particualrly well. Whether g-d answers them more... I don't know. For instance, prayers that are so heartfelt you are moved to tears, are supposed to go straight to the ear of G-d. I don't know if it's true, I do know that when something is overwhelming and upsetting, crying out to G-d, and asking for help/strength/whatever, telling G-d you can't take it anymore is cathartic. A woman after she light's the shabbos candles, it's a special time where her prayer's have extra power. I don't know if it's true, but it's a very special moment, and a great peaceful moment of connectedness. the first time I lit candles, I felt connected to all of the other jewish women in the world lighting candles, who ever had and ever will. I'll remember it all my life. A woman on her wedding day, between the mikvah at night and the wedding has extra power to her prayers. Is it true? I don't know, I'm not married yet. I sure plan on praying a lot then, and taking some time away from getting ready physically etc, to sit and pray and ask for blessings and meditate. A woman in labor has extra power to her prayers. No kids yet, but I imagine it's true.

So, in answer to the question "why pray", I do feel it's as much for the pray-er as for the divine. Or more. When I pray and ask for help, I feel stronger by not being alone, by asking for help, by sharing my worries. When I pray to praise/bless G-d, I am uplifted. And when I pray traditional prayers that have been said for millenia, I am connected to my people as well as G-d, past and present. I pray because through prayer, I connect to G-d. I can connect to G-d and the divine through meditation, but prayer is also powerful, transformative, and important.

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#7 of 36 Old 06-20-2010, 02:02 AM
 
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The short answer would be because god asked us to.

A longer answer would probably be something along the lines of, in my particular little "revealed faith" world at least, god having expressed not only the specific request to pray but the more general request to be remembered, and remembered as the source of all we know. That he said remembering him and what he is, even in the limited capacity we are able, is valuable to us. And that praying, and praying for things, no matter how big or small ... arguably especially for that which is small ... are ways of expressing that remembrance and reminding ourselves.

I've never thought much of the notion that prayers are sort of like petitions ... the more people you can get to sign on the more likely it is your request will be met. I can't imagine it working that way. But I can perceive of the act of prayer itself doing something for me. In my faith people like to talk up the concept of taqwa -- god-consciousness, essentially being aware of god at all times and making choices in life in accordance with that awareness. The concept is taqwa builds good character, and sincere regular prayer builds taqwa.
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#8 of 36 Old 06-20-2010, 05:36 AM
 
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The short answer would be because god asked us to.
My answer exactly. I get asked a similar thing as a Calvinist - why evangelise if God is ultimately in control of who gets saved? Same answer. He told us to. And (with both evangelism and prayer) it's the means by which He works out His will.

Also, I wonder if your friend isn't bound by the "vending machine" concept of prayer. Prayer isn't just about asking for stuff. There's asking God for forgiveness, for instance - and, like any person, just because God knows you're sorry doesn't mean saying sorry is meaningless. Similarly, it isn't a waste of time to tell someone you love Him, even if He already knows.

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#9 of 36 Old 06-20-2010, 10:00 AM
 
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Prayer is an act of worship. It is acknowledgement that God is the center of the universe and should be the focus of our entire lives. Mainly I pray because I am a sinner. I pray to be forgiven and for help that I can become closer to God because I need help badly. And I pray that all others become closer to God, as well. It is an act of love toward God and to others. I believe we are created to worship and glorify God, and prayer is essential to this end.
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#10 of 36 Old 06-22-2010, 10:29 PM
 
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The most basic and I think foundational sort of prayer says something like "Oh God, you are God". Clearly God does not need us to tell him that, nor anything else that is true in his creation. Prayer is for us, and has a number of functions. Because we are creatures of flesh, we can't just think things, we must do them. Because we are living in time, we must set aside times for different tasks. Prayer is one way in which we act out our convictions in time and space. Prayer is didactic, when we do it according to proscribed guidelines, or even use "prepared" prayers, it instructs us in right action and belief.

Prayer in groups also reveals truths to us and is an important anchor. It provides structure which can be important, especially during times of stress or difficulty. It provides a community to help us realize our prayers further. It emphasizes that we are organs in the Body of Christ, and cannot set ourselves up independently, because we are interdependent.

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#11 of 36 Old 06-23-2010, 01:02 AM
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A good secular humanist answer is that double-blind medical studies have demonstrated prayer to be an effective healing tool. People report feeling better even when they don't know that someone was praying for them in secret...compared with a control group who were not being prayed for.

Prayer is a type of meditation that reveals inner truths to us. Prayer is known to have a calming effect on the person praying, which has all sorts of health benefits.

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#12 of 36 Old 06-23-2010, 01:07 AM
 
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I'm Hindu. We belive that praying is good for us, not good for god. It refines the prayer, so to speak.

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#13 of 36 Old 06-24-2010, 01:11 AM
 
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A good secular humanist answer is that double-blind medical studies have demonstrated prayer to be an effective healing tool. People report feeling better even when they don't know that someone was praying for them in secret...compared with a control group who were not being prayed for.
How would one be able to determine that no-one in the control group was being prayed for? All it'd take is for someone to pray for "all the people with cancer" (or whatever the illness was), or for "everyone in the state of Texas" (or wherever), or a grandmother several generations back to pray for her children and grandchildren... you just don't know. You can't isolate people from prayer, particularly if you consider that some religious groups pray for things that happened in the past, or that future prayers could impact the past by God working within eternity... and so on. I mean, it's a nice thought, but it's not exactly rock-hard science. Interestingly, Richard Dawkins once used a study measuring rates of cancer recovery in prayed-for and non-prayed-for groups in order to prove that prayer didn't work. I was a little appalled by his ignorance of the scientific method there, and promptly invalidated his experiment by praying for the control group (which, yeah, passive-aggressive and not particularly spiritual, perhaps, but come on!).

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#14 of 36 Old 06-24-2010, 01:32 AM
 
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I don't think prayer so much provides God (who as OP said is all-knowing) with something. It provides the one who prays with something. Pause, acknowledgment of what matters, focus on beauty and goodness, awareness of truth, a process of coming to terms with life and releasing control and fear, a spirit of gratitude. Praying for others creates an invisible connection that has powers not precisely known. I rarely pray for specific outcomes, because I feel God knows better than me what outcome should happen. But I pray for things to be resolved, for help and guidance.

Even if someone knows what you need and want, it's better if you stick your neck out and ask. It shows them the relationship matters and you give it attention and effort. It also shows YOU the relationship matters.

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#15 of 36 Old 06-24-2010, 01:34 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
The most basic and I think foundational sort of prayer says something like "Oh God, you are God". Clearly God does not need us to tell him that, nor anything else that is true in his creation. Prayer is for us, and has a number of functions. Because we are creatures of flesh, we can't just think things, we must do them. Because we are living in time, we must set aside times for different tasks. Prayer is one way in which we act out our convictions in time and space. Prayer is didactic, when we do it according to proscribed guidelines, or even use "prepared" prayers, it instructs us in right action and belief.

Prayer in groups also reveals truths to us and is an important anchor. It provides structure which can be important, especially during times of stress or difficulty. It provides a community to help us realize our prayers further. It emphasizes that we are organs in the Body of Christ, and cannot set ourselves up independently, because we are interdependent.
Love this!

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#16 of 36 Old 06-24-2010, 09:29 AM
 
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Interestingly, Richard Dawkins once used a study measuring rates of cancer recovery in prayed-for and non-prayed-for groups in order to prove that prayer didn't work. I was a little appalled by his ignorance of the scientific method there, and promptly invalidated his experiment by praying for the control group (which, yeah, passive-aggressive and not particularly spiritual, perhaps, but come on!).
This made me giggle.
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#17 of 36 Old 06-24-2010, 05:44 PM
 
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I don't think prayer so much provides God (who as OP said is all-knowing) with something. It provides the one who prays with something.
That is what I was going to say. God does not require worship, but we benefit from worshipping Him.

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How would one be able to determine that no-one in the control group was being prayed for? All it'd take is for someone to pray for "all the people with cancer" (or whatever the illness was), or for "everyone in the state of Texas" (or wherever), or a grandmother several generations back to pray for her children and grandchildren... you just don't know. You can't isolate people from prayer, particularly if you consider that some religious groups pray for things that happened in the past, or that future prayers could impact the past by God working within eternity... and so on. I mean, it's a nice thought, but it's not exactly rock-hard science.
In addition, according to people in some denominations, we can continue to pray for others after death. In my church, we assume we benefit from the prayers of countless church members who have passed on, and there is no way to keep track of those prayers or their possible effect.
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#18 of 36 Old 06-24-2010, 08:58 PM
 
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How would one be able to determine that no-one in the control group was being prayed for? All it'd take is for someone to pray for "all the people with cancer" (or whatever the illness was), or for "everyone in the state of Texas" (or wherever), or a grandmother several generations back to pray for her children and grandchildren... you just don't know. You can't isolate people from prayer, particularly if you consider that some religious groups pray for things that happened in the past, or that future prayers could impact the past by God working within eternity... and so on. I mean, it's a nice thought, but it's not exactly rock-hard science. Interestingly, Richard Dawkins once used a study measuring rates of cancer recovery in prayed-for and non-prayed-for groups in order to prove that prayer didn't work. I was a little appalled by his ignorance of the scientific method there, and promptly invalidated his experiment by praying for the control group (which, yeah, passive-aggressive and not particularly spiritual, perhaps, but come on!).
Not to mention the spiritual issues - would God really take the prayers of people in such a case seriously? Is it real prayer if you are purposely not praying for someone? And does this not fall under the warning "Do not tempt the Lord thy God"?

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#19 of 36 Old 06-24-2010, 09:12 PM
 
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Well, yeah, it doesn't really engage with the nature of Christian prayer either. But I kind of expected that from Dawkins, whereas I did think he'd have a better handle on the scientific method. Very odd, all told...

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#20 of 36 Old 06-25-2010, 02:44 AM
 
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Well, yeah, it doesn't really engage with the nature of Christian prayer either. But I kind of expected that from Dawkins, whereas I did think he'd have a better handle on the scientific method. Very odd, all told...
Dawkins may be a very rational person normally, but his extreme distaste for religion seems to affect his judgment to some extent.
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#21 of 36 Old 06-25-2010, 11:22 PM
 
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Well, yeah, it doesn't really engage with the nature of Christian prayer either. But I kind of expected that from Dawkins, whereas I did think he'd have a better handle on the scientific method. Very odd, all told...
One would think, but OTOH he is a materialist, which isn't actually compatible with the scientific method. So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising.

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#22 of 36 Old 06-25-2010, 11:36 PM
 
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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.

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.
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#23 of 36 Old 06-26-2010, 08:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
I am curious which verse your husband is thinking of because I can't recall anything of the sort being said by Jesus in the Gospels. The verse right before The Lord's Prayer is Jesus telling us how to pray but He doesn't say to NOT pray.

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.

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#24 of 36 Old 06-26-2010, 09:36 AM
 
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Interesting thread...

Mama to 9 so far:Mother of Joey (20), Dominick (13), Abigail (11), Angelo (8), Mylee (6), Delainey (3), Colton (2) and Baby 8 and Baby 9 coming sometime in July 2013.   If evolution were true, mothers would have three arms!

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#25 of 36 Old 11-14-2010, 11:04 AM
 
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Originally Posted by lizziebits View Post

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.

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#26 of 36 Old 11-15-2010, 01:12 AM
 
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Well, yeah, it doesn't really engage with the nature of Christian prayer either. But I kind of expected that from Dawkins, whereas I did think he'd have a better handle on the scientific method. Very odd, all told...
One would think, but OTOH he is a materialist, which isn't actually compatible with the scientific method. So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising.

 

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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. 
 


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#27 of 36 Old 11-16-2010, 05:49 PM
 
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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.


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#28 of 36 Old 11-17-2010, 04:36 PM
 
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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. 


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#29 of 36 Old 02-07-2011, 07:17 PM
 
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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

 

Confession/Penitence

- G-d, I messed up and I'm really sorry

 

Thanksgiving

 - Thanks for all the great things you have done for me and the world (grace before meals is an example)

 

Intercession-supplication

 - 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.

 

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#30 of 36 Old 02-10-2011, 04:49 PM
 
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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.

Totally.

 

 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.


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