Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thoughts on Prayer

Wow, I am glad I asked, in a post a couple of days ago, about how people feel about being prayed for. Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. I never would have come up with some of that.

I would like to explain what I mean when I might say to someone that I will pray for her. First of all, I don't say this very often and don't say it lightly. One reason is that I know it is easily misconstrued. The person might feel insulted, as one of my readers pointed out, thinking that I feel she is in need of help or intervention.

I never mean that when I want to pray for someone. Almost always when I pray for someone, it is because they are hurting in some way. As a believer in God, I wish for that person to feel God's comfort and love... so that she has a glimmer of hope and can work through whatever it is that hurts. This could be a difficult relationship, job, illness, anger, or anything.

By no means do I ever mean to say "I will pray for you because you are such a loser, and you need to turn your heart to Jesus." No way. I am not a proselytizer.

I believe that all world religions are just offshoots of the same goal: to live humbly, be a source of help and happiness to those you meet, and to actively engage in being kind and good. Therefore I do not believe that a person must be a Christian in order to be happy and well rounded. One can be a wonderful person as a Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, etc. All are trying to live as the God they believe in would wish.

I do think that a spiritual life is an important part of being whole. At least I have found this to be true in my life. So I feel sad that many people have been turned off by the mistakes religions have made (and they are numerous). God in my life has served as a compass, helping me keep in the right direction when I feel in a fog and unsure of my purpose. God has warmed my heart, and I have felt joy through my spiritual quest.

Do those of you who don't believe in God have some sort of compass? What is it? Is it a belief in the strength of the human spirit? A belief in the goodness of humanity? Or a belief that "we are what we are and there is nothing else?" I am curious.

I want also to explain that when I say "I will pray for you," I mean more than "I will think happy thoughts." Even if a person does not believe in God or believe in prayer, I will pray that they somehow feel the presence and support of God -- this could be manifested in the love of friends and family, strangers stepping in when completely unexpected but because the help is necessary, comfort from medical personnel, a kind person willing to sit and hold your hand and quietly be there for support. In my mind, this is all much more than just wishing happy thoughts for a person.

Finally, I will confess that prayer has been a hard thing for me to do. I usually pray "on the fly" - that is, appreciating a beautiful oneness with nature - I feel a connection to it in a special way, and a thankfulness.. not expressed in words such as "I thank you for....lalala" but just a feeling. And even when I tell a person "I will pray for you" I usually don't sit down, fold my hands, bow my head, and think exact thoughts. As part of my normal moving around and thinking happy thoughts for the person, I might also think "may she feel God's presence" and that is what my prayer amounts to.

I liked Jill's suggestion to re-word my statement "I will pray for you." I could say "would it help you to know I would like to pray for you?" Something like that. But now we're back to my beginning confession, that I don't do this lightly nor do I do it often. I usually would feel kind of awkward even bringing it up. However, I am thinking that maybe I should be more honest with my beliefs and my quest.. so I did recently say I would pray for someone, and then was prompted to ask my question of how does this sit with people who don't believe in it?

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses. I'm still a work in progress and it is interesting to hear what others think and believe.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Prayer is something I don't often talk about to others. It's a pretty private thing for me but like you when I see or read about someone going through a difficult time, I will usually tell them that I'll keep them in my thoughts and prayers and like you, my prayers are pretty informal although I've been know to pull out the rosary in troubling times.