Someone asked me a while back if I still pray since I don’t believe in God. One would think that I don’t pray. After all, it’s a religious thing isn’t it? But the fact is, that I do pray. I still pray a lot. It’s just that my notion of what God is has changed so much since my youth, that I don’t want to equate it with the God of the Bible or of the Roman Catholic Church in which I was raised.
I don’t see God is a magician who makes things appear and disappear. I don’t treat him as my last hope, turning to prayer when it seems that there’s no way out of an impossible situation. Nor do I see God as some sort of a Santa Claus who has lists upon lists of who is naughty and nice. God doesn’t measure my ‘faith’, nor are my petitions granted only if I attain a certain level of devotion. God is not Facebook and doesn’t respond to the number of likes he gets.
My understanding of a “Higher Power” has changed over the years and I believe that trying to define God, puts limits on whatever “It” happens to be. Sufficient to say that as long as my “God” doesn’t stare back at me when I look in the mirror each morning, I’m good. So if I don’t pray to God, then why would I pray?
“The function of Prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Søren Kierkegaard.
Recovery literature says that if you have anger toward someone, to pray for them every night for two weeks. This same literature says that whenever we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, we need to look at ourselves for the cause of our disturbance. Finally it says that we cannot control people, places or things; our response to something is the only thing that we can control. In a nut shell: I am the one who needs to change and I pray in order to make that change. When I take the focus off of the other person, the offense or a need, I open myself up to change. I would have a small god indeed if he needed my help to influence his actions.
I pray because prayer changes me. Whether it’s rote prayer, meditation, or contemplation, when I pray I move away from my Ego-centrism. Slowly I begin to focus, even just for a second, on the present moment and my connection to something other than myself. It doesn’t matter if I call it my spiritual nature, or my connection with others; prayer takes me away from, well, me. When I do that, when I step away from myself I start to see things for another perspective and that opens me up, little by little, to make a change, a change in me. So, yes, I do pray. I pray for understanding and I pray to accept things as they are.
Prayer allows me to step away from the world around me and quiet my mind for a moment from the challenges I face each day. In these moments I can unite my mind and my heart in a moment of peace. I can do this at a church or temple, by a stream or ocean, in a chair or on a cushion. The how is not important. Being present in the moment and being one with one’s self is prayer however you do it.
I don’t need a Biblical God in order to accomplish this. I only need to acknowledge that I am not the “be all and end all of everything.” In prayer, I connect to the “Spirit of the Universe” or “Higher Power” which more closely aligns with my current understanding of God. This also connects me and keeps me conscious of other people as well. And that, for me, is prayer.