The concept of prayer has confounded me for years. Let me be more specific: the idea of praying for something. Meditation makes sense. The idea that one pauses to reflect and clear the mind. The idea of emptying all thoughts and then bringing them back in anew. The idea of repetition, a mantra, to ingrain a mind set or character trait. Beyond that, prayer is a strange action that is more akin to insanity in that you are talking to someone who isn't there from a tangible standpoint. You can believe "It" is there but you can walk into any psych ward and find many people who will tell you of the voices.
For example, you can pray for patience. But what happens when you pray for someone to get well? If the person dies is God not answering the prayer? Were you praying for the wrong thing? Were you not "saintly" enough for God to hear your prayer? The Bible says Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.–Matt. 18:20. But what does that mean with respect to answering prayer?
If prayer is evaluated in hindsight then prayer because utilitarian. By that I mean a vehicle through which objective validation becomes the measuring stick. Prayer should be spritually edifying. If you make it something to prove out, the subjective aspect bears nothing to its need.
Karl Barth notes that it is always better to pray for something, even if you think it might be inappropriate, than not to pray at all. But that points to the idea of prayer as a means of establishing a relationship and in turn the outcome should not matter. Is that the goal: a relationship rather than an answer? In that light prayer does not become something that demands the "Other" respond but rather that the "Other" just be there. This of course begs the question of what said presence may be and how you come to conclude there is presence. But here we have the subjective religious experience in which the participant constitutes the "Other". Even if the qualities given are false, it may not necessarily negate presence but rather substance.
To hear someone say "I prayed wrong" or "I prayed for the wrong thing" is merely stating the fact that one cannot know the outcome of events nor can we change them. Furthermore it explicitly claims we do not know what is best with respect to the world as progress. I admit this implies we exist in the best of all possible worlds and accept that. But doesn't everything imply a foundation of which we presuppose something? In this light, prayer really becomes something that is just as intangible as the "Other". It is subjective in process and outcome. And what then becomes the distinction between the psych patient and the football player taking to himself before the play compared to the parishoner on their knees?
This blog is a great read though sadly not updated for years.
The onus of this word salad are 2 simple songs that I have found puts in the proper state of mind. There are many that do but these are special.
Jars of Clay - Surprise
We are so beautiful when we sleep
Hearts of gold and eyes so deep, deep, deep
But love won't cure the chaos
And hope won't hide the loss
And peace is not the heroine that shouts above the cause
And love is wild for reasons
And hope though short in sight
Might be the only thing that wakes you by surprise
Jars of Clay - Oh My God
Oh my God, look around this place
Your fingers reach around the bone
You set the break and set the tone
Flights of grace, and future falls
In present pain
All fools say, "Oh my God"
Oh my God, Why are we so afraid?
We make it worse when we don't bleed
There is no cure for our disease
Turn a phrase, and rise again
Or fake your death and only tell your closest friend
Oh my God.
Oh my God, can I complain?
You take away my firm belief and graft my soul upon your grief
Weddings, boats and alibis
All drift away, and a mother cries
Liars and fools; sons and failures
Thieves will always say
Lost and found; ailing wanderers
Healers always say
Whores and angels; men with problems
Leavers always say
Broken hearted; separated
Orphans always say
War creators; racial haters
Preachers always say
Distant fathers; fallen warriors
Givers always say
Pilgrim saints; lonely widows
Users always say
Fearful mothers; watchful doubters
Saviors always say
Sometimes I cannot forgive
And these days, mercy cuts so deep
If the world was how it should be, maybe I could get some sleep
While I lay, I dream we're better,
Scales were gone and faces light
When we wake, we hate our brother
We still move to hurt each other
Sometimes I can close my eyes,
And all the fear that keeps me silent falls below my heavy breathing,
What makes me so badly bent?
We all have a chance to murder
We all feel the need for wonder
We still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the thunder
Sometimes when I lose my grip, I wonder what to make of heaven
All the times I thought to reach up
All the times I had to give
Babies underneath their beds
Hospitals that cannot treat all the wounds that money causes,
All the comforts of cathedrals
All the cries of thirsty children - this is our inheritance
All the rage of watching mothers - this is our greatest offense
Oh my God
Oh my God
Oh my God