There are religions that advise prayer must be done three times a day while there are faiths that proclaim just once a week is the minimum amount of prayer needed. The religions of the world may advise to pray to St. Anthony to find what has been lost or pray to Guru Nanak at the Sikh Temple. Islam will proclaim all prayers must be made in the direction to Mecca while smaller groups may have faith in the ancient pantheons of the gods to pray to either Odin or Zeus. All faiths and religions of the world, from the smallest sect in the far corners of the world to the Holy See in Rome, have one theme in common: prayer to/with a higher power.
In the earlier post, Religions of the World: The Different Names of God, we discussed random samples of different names for God and how the different names may be the same omnipotent, all powerful Higher Power – though this notion may be up for debate in many circles. As there is an all powerful Higher Power as the creator of all, with the path for peace same in goal but different in paths (as discussed in The Balance Starts with You), prayer is a fundamental common theme found in all faiths in the path for peace and balance.
No matter if you were raised going to the Mosque, Church, Temple, or to a shrine in the forest or the desert, since a young age many of us have been taught to pray to the Kachinas, the Saints, the gods, the Almighty Father, Allah, Waheguru, and The Universe. As prayer has been with us for thousands of years in a variety of faiths, of course science took into consideration the study of prayer’s effect on the person. In a study form the American Psychology Association (APA), they found prayer helps regulate emotions and “[prayer’s] calming effects did not vary by gender, religious affiliation, frequency of religious service attendance or whether, or how often a participant prayed.”
With All faiths and religions of the world advising prayer to God/The Higher power and with a psychological study supporting the benefits of prayer, this leads to my conclusion that prayer is a key fundamental aspect of humanity as is or ingenuity in creating new technologies. Although in my previous post, Money is not God – Only God is God, the golden calf may be trying yet again to take the place of God/The Higher power, our prayers and faiths to the true higher power is a power humanity has that can never be replaced by a green piece of paper.
There is one caveat with a view of prayer that I have. With us being many connections between the Higher Power, the Earth, and all Life around us, we are continuously on a path to peace and closeness with God/The Higher Power. Majority of prayers have us praying to the Higher Power. In my mind, this stimulates a mentality of a simple two way road: Pray to God and you get an answer in reply.
I find God is smarter than that to keep prayer just a two way road with just room for one set of sender/receiver dialogue, so to speak. As there are so many faiths and religions, there are many ways God/The Higher power can communicate to us and us to God/The Higher Power. When I walk my dog, I will look up to the sky, look at the trees, look to the river, and sometimes say as with conversing with a good friend, “God, thank you for what you’ve given me. Life is beautiful.” God/The Higher Power is not as far away as we may presume.
To, in the English language, means directing at or of. Praying to God means we are sending a solemn request/thanks at the direction of or at God. This contradicts other sayings such as “May the peace of the Lord be with you all” or “God’s with us!” I find we should change our mindset on praying and pray with God, rather than pray to God – where with, in the English language, means accompanied by, so when we Pray with God/The Higher Power, we are praying while accompanied by God.
Prayer as with God, not to God
Scenario 1: Imagine you are living in the 1800’s – no cell phone, no computer, no email – and imagine you are writing a letter to a long lost relative. You are living in Jackson, Mississippi, and you are writing to your bank a solemn request. The bank just sent you a notice of eviction for unpaid bills on the estate and have given you 30 days to pay up or to leave. You write to the bank in distress, “Have mercy, I have no money! Please allow me more time.”
Scenario 2: Imagine the same scenario, but instead of writing to the bank, you arrive at the bank with statements of your consistent and on time payment history of the mortgage you took out ten years ago and only the past two months you fell behind. You say to the bank in a friendly manner, “I understand you gave me an eviction notice, but I would like to work with you on this. As you can see, I have been consistent all these years and just fell on hard time. I think if we make a payment plan to assist me in getting caught up, you will still collect your agreed to dues and I get to keep my home.”
The difference between these two scenarios is simple: Scenario 1 has you writing to the bank in a plea of mercy while Scenario 2 has you understanding your current connection with the bank and began a dialogue with the bank. The plea may not give you the answer you are working for while the dialogue you have with the bank may gain the answer you are looking for.
Let us apply this to my previous post, We are the Connection, when we work with the bank on a debt – though there is a current Dark Side to Debt – we are understanding our connection and seeing how we can better this connection, working out ways to better a negative scenario, and will ultimately find a more positive outcome. Seeing you opening a dialogue and referencing your history with the bank, the bank may be more compliant in working with you rather than responding to a plea of mercy. This plea of mercy may communicate your fear of losing your home and this fear may be used as an advantage of the bank to leverage more of their power for you to pay all on time rather than work with you in installments.
Applying this to the power of prayer, I find similar results can be seen. In my previous post, We Are Individuals Part of the Whole Pt. 2: Rebuilding Family and Forgiveness, I shared how my family was nearly destroyed by addiction. During this time, I was praying to God/The Higher power asking for forgiveness for my family member. Day in and day out, I pleaded to God for my family to get better in a variety of ways. When I didn’t see the results I was looking for after a few months of praying at God, I knew I could not just give up on God/The Higher Power in my life in dismay. I decided to try a different path.
Christianity and many other religions of the world advise to pray to God. When I found this wasn’t working in my family’s dire situation, a thought came to mind and I prayed as if I was talking to an old friend, “I know you’re a part of me and I know I’m a part of you, too. I know the love of God is within me, humbly do I ask to share this love with my family.”
Instead of pleading to God to help as if it was an outside force disconnected from my family’s current situation, I began praying as though I understood God/The Higher Power has always been with my family. This allowed my sorrow-filled mind to better my connection with the Higher Power, find more positive ways to grow this connection. During this change of process, my family member went to a rehab center for 30 days.
During this time, I thanked God for the help and continued praying with God always on my mind and in my heart, as though The Higher Power is always with me. My family member came home clean, cut all ties to the people that would lead them to addiction, got rid of their car where memories of addiction took place, and rebuilt their lives to something more positive: over four years clean and a family to be content with.
Not only did I thank God/The Higher Power for helping my family in our time of need, I found the power of prayer to be beyond a simple two-way interaction where one message is sent and one message is received in return. Just as how our technology has evolved to the massive channels of communication as they are today, I find our way of praying should be evolved to be more than what it has been known as.
Views on Prayer
Instead of sending a letter and waiting weeks for a reply from a bank like in the 1800’s, we can have a dialogue through email, Slack, Microsoft Teams and text and get twenty more replies in a matter of seconds. Prayers may not be able to evolve through our technological advancement, but they can evolve from our current perspective on prayer.
“So offer your prayers to Him, the Giver of Peace, the Destroyer of fear. Showing His Mercy, the Merciful Master shall resolve your affairs.” Sikhism, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, pg. 44.
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Christianity, New Testament, Bible, Mark 11:24.
“”And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Judaism, Bible, Job 42:10.
“When you are with them, and lead the Salat (Contact Prayer) for them, let a group of them stand with you and let them hold their weapons, and let them stand behind you as you prostrate. Then, let the other group that has not prayed take their turn praying with you, while the others stand guard and hold their weapons.” Islam, Quran, 4:102.
“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.” – Buddha
“May all I say and all I think be in harmony with thee, God within me, God beyond me, maker of the trees.” Chinook Native American Prayer
“Prayer, when done with the right awareness and intention and in moderation, can be beneficial in a number of ways…And remember, by repeating a series of meaningful, positive, lifting, and thankful phrases, you can retrain your brain to be more positive, be aware, be able to focus and concentrate and to let go of unwanted thoughts. ” Psychology, Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD, The Positive Psychological Effects of Prayer
“A 2009 study by Koenig and colleagues found that six weekly in-person Christian prayer sessions with patients at a primary care office lowered their depression and anxiety symptoms and increased their optimism.” Psychology, Shawn Radcliffe, Does Prayer Help or Harm our Health?
All faiths, religions of the world, and different psychological studies have advised the important and benefits of prayer. With statements from various religious texts/prayers dating back thousands of years and with psychological studies confirming the benefits of prayer from recent history, this leads me to conclude the power of prayer is an integral part of human nature that should be practiced. With this in mind, how can prayer be evolved from the way we currently see prayer now?
Discussed earlier, the first step I find to evolving prayer is replacing the word to and use the word with, instead. When you are with a friend, you don’t talk to them, you talk with them. A conversation always involves at least two people sharing their thoughts with one another. When we pray with God/The Higher power, we do not just send a message and wait for a reply, knowing that God/The Higher Power is with us when we pray may allow us to better build our connection to the Higher Power.
While writing this post, the famous musical Fiddler on the Roof comes to mind. Throughout the musical, the main character Tevye will be walking with his horse and looking at the sky, sharing his thoughts with God and would crack jokes to God as if God was his dear friend. During all his troubles throughout the story, the main constant was talking with God allowed Tevye to have peace of mind when faced with difficult choices and topics.
Though Fiddler on the Roof was a fictional story, the perception of God/The Higher power is with us when we pray is a perception that our current form of prayer can be evolved to. Even random thoughts that remind you God/The Higher power is with you may provide a reminder of your connection to the Higher Power and allow you to make it stronger. Some days, I would just pray really quick as if God is sitting next to me on my dining room table, “God, thanks for the happiness in my life.”
While the process of prayer varies between the religions of the world, the way you pray may be different than the way I pray, but the connection and goal of peace/balance with the Higher Power may be the same. In my view, to evolve prayer not only allows us to see that God/The Higher Power is with us when we pray, it also allows us to continually benefit from the power of prayer. The way I see it, a change in perspective can start with changing a two letter word to a four letter word that holds more meaning.
More to Come on this.
Be Well and Be Safe & Healthy.