Practices: Reorienting the Mind: Prayer
“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.”
“I used to pray to God, until I realized that I was praying to myself.”
“Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life
from the highest point of view.
It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Some think it can, and some think that it’s impossible or absurd.
William James saw prayer as central to religious practice – as an act that enables and affirms an intimate connection with the source of all that is. He and others also look at prayer as a way of expressing deep feelings – of gratitude, hope, apology, and resolve – and as something that can lead to insight or revelation.
Without an image of a personal God, prayer can seem like just talking to ourselves. This may be true. But for some, this also may not matter.
Many of the most devout, and many who frequently pray, acknowledge that they have no clear sense of what may be receiving their prayers. They feel that the nature of God cannot be known. But they see no problem, and instead see benefits, in forming thoughts and sending these out.
Some look at prayer like writing a poem, where, in considering something that matters and attempting to express feelings, words may come in return – from the mysterious source of creative insight.
Words in prayer may be for no more than sounds carried on the wind. But, in initiating a process – in forming thoughts or starting to speak – prayer can be a way of inviting and (sometimes) feeling a sense of connection.
As one person put it, (at atheistprayer.blogspot.com):
Direct your unwavering attention to the divine.
Turn to the divine, the holy, the sacred. Always. As often as you can.
Pray just as you’ve prayed in church or temple, but do not address God.
Evoke the feeling states of prayerfulness.
You’ll find it comes naturally.
Prayer is not petition or intercession.
Prayer is adoration without an object to adore.
Don’t pray for. Just pray.