What You Do On Your Knees
Article ID: 13979
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,365
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Author: Fire Lyte
Posted: July 25th. 2010
Times Viewed: 2,795
Controversy seems to happen a lot when you get on your knees, but not more so than when what we’re doing on our knees is praying. The basic definition of prayer is a solemn request or thanksgiving to God or an object of worship.
Prayer is what happens when people talk to themselves and hope somebody is listening. But, then again, it’s not. Prayer is also a powerful exchange of energy. There are many aspects of prayer to consider, but let’s first look at the two sides of what prayer is:
The actual act of prayer ranges from the simple bowed head and fervent thought to the complicated rituals of meditation and transcendent projection of more ceremonial prayer. In its simplest form, prayer is done by voicing (internally or externally) a thought that either asks for something for yourself, asks for something for somebody else, gives thanks to whomever or whatever the petitioner considers the divine (or, otherwise, the recipient of that prayer) , or simply a focusing on that divine - these come, typically, in the form of mantras.
Ok, before we get to the other component, I’d like to inform you of something: praying is universal. Name a spiritual path, and I can guarantee you that its adherents pray. Buddhists don’t believe in a god like most people think of god, but they still pray. Jains don’t believe deities can assist or intervene in people’s lives, but they do pray for knowledge and insight into situations. So, if everybody is praying, and not everybody is praying to the same god or force, then something else has to be happening.
Now, on the flip side is the mystical component of prayer. The mystical component of prayer has to do with the sending of energy - i.e. raising energy with intention and sending that out to the universe in general. Many pagans equate prayer with spells, and there is something to that. I’d call prayers spell-lite. They are a sort of programmed energy, but they are not the focused, mystical equivalent of spells. At least - and this should go without saying - in my opinion. Prayers are typically sent out to the universe, to ‘god’, to the earth.
Quick clarification: spells are not prayers in the sense that spells specifically state an intended goal and then don’t wait for a middle man/god/force to get the results done. You are taking matters into your own hands instead of hoping somebody/something else does it for you.
However, prayer has been around since at least the time man recorded the events of life. One could say that prayer is as old as god (dess) . Since the concept of the divine came into the minds of man, man decided we should have a conversation. Because, you know, god doesn’t have anything better to do than gab with 7 billion people. And in these conversations, we’re asking for favors or special treatment, insight, etc., and people are convinced that prayers are answered.
Let’s be honest, prayers are hardly ever answered. When I was growing up in the Christian church, I was told this is because sometimes the answer is ‘No.’ Sometimes, though, the questions wasn’t a distinct yes or no question. Sometimes I was a 14-year-old boy begging for guidance, because I was having these different feelings from other boys and that wasn’t ok in East Texas. And, when that guidance didn’t really come…what then? When I call my mom and I tell her I’m sick, her response is that she’ll keep me in my prayers. Likewise, when I have an interview, an important meeting, an expectation of response from a publisher, or anything else that could go on in my life, her answer is prayer.
Why? Really, why? Prayer is one of the most ineffective measured forms of accomplishing anything. We have been studying the efficacy - or the effectiveness - of prayer since the late 1800s. Now, I could site several studies to make a point. I could site a mid 1990s study that claims prayer actually benefited heart patients’ recovery. This would be especially helpful if I were writing a paper on how the benefits of prayer are medically proven. Findings such as these are held on to tightly by many in the religious community who want to feel that prayer is mankind’s best method of combating the ills of the physical world.
Findings such as these make us believe in the miraculous. One study done over 6 years (1990-1996) from Israel found that those who were given intercessory prayer - that is prayer that is done on behalf of someone else - had shorter hospital stays and duration of fever. These results might seem divine. The more you pray, the more you get a response. Right?
Then you have studies like the 2006 prayer study done in association with Harvard Medical School that found 59% of cardiac patients that were certain they were receiving prayer actually worsened. This study found that individuals who were told they were being prayed for had a higher expectancy of recovery and were more distraught when hearing unwanted results. It was felt that the expectancy of getting better had a kind of pressure put on it by the patient that was counterproductive to their healing process.
Results like these seem to suggest prayer is bad. Not only does prayer not work, but when something doesn’t happen to our liking fast enough we get worse. There’s something to that, too.
When you buy a new plant, and you’re a new gardener, and you’re so excited about growing your first herb, what do you do? You overwater the damn thing. You’re staring at its leaves and limbs waiting on it to grow, watching it for signs of flourishing. You’re imposing your expectancy on the plant, when all it needs is time and a good foundation to grow. The minute a leaf looks limp or the top grains of soil get dry, you pour more water into the pot. More and more and more until the plant just can’t take it... it can’t live up to the expectations you put on it. The bits of unwanted results combined with your overcompensation killed the plant.
That’s exactly what this 2006 study found. We get so bent out of shape because our leaves get a little droopy, so we overcompensate, because we’re not getting the results we feel we should be - especially after talking to the One In Charge.
Then there are the dozens of studies in between that found prayer didn’t really affect patients one way or the other. No significant detriment, and no significant improvement. Prayer was a nice thing to do, probably, but it didn’t make a lick of difference.
And what about all of those miracles?
You almost can’t swing a pitchfork without hitting someone who claims they’ve received some form of miracle. The lame walking, the blind seeing, the afflicted being…not so afflicted. A miracle is defined as a welcome event unexplained by natural science and therefore thought of as being wrought by a divine agent. This is really what everybody is praying for, isn’t it? Or, is that a cynical view of things? When you’re praying for your son’s illness to go away, don’t you really mean immediately? When you’re praying for the money to pay your bills, don’t you need it today?
The miracle is the epitome of prayerful desire. They are also the statistical outliers when it comes to the plotting of the effect of prayer. For, whatever the average of success to failure ratio is when it comes to prayer, every now and then you get that miracle. Questions, though, arise from pondering why Joe down the road got the miracle, and Bill didn’t. I can’t answer this, nor can anybody else. We know from study that neither the amount of time, nor the quantity of prayers, nor the number of people praying, nor any other factor significantly helps or hinders the chance of prayer taking hold.
But, to the point of study, should we even be doing it when it comes to prayer? Does it take something away from the mystery of prayer to quantify or qualify its modalities and efficacy? This is actually a subject of contention for many philosophers. One of the big issues some philosophers have is that prayer seems to be akin to humans telling the divine what to do. This can truly be a problem, as prayer has displayed an incredible type of cyclical evolution. In its inception, prayer seems to have been a simple conversation with the elements: praying to the fire to last longer, the sky to rain, etc. Then we decided at various times in history that either we or the divine were better than the other, making decrees to the least powerful entity.
We tell the divine what to do sometimes. Sometimes we wait for instruction. Neither of these seems to be getting us anywhere.
The most acceptable and modern interpretation of prayer is that it should be a conversation. Whether you’re talking to your higher self, the universe, the spirit of nature, the divine, or a specific deity, a conversation with that entity - in which you are both talking AND listening - seems to be the most beneficial. Sure, you might not get everything you want, but you might just develop an understanding of why things are the way they are. You’ll understand that life isn’t about getting and giving, but about being a part of the entire system.
No man is an island, and nobody merits special, standout treatment by the divine. We quite deserve, however, a relationship with the divine. This is what prayer is for and what it should be. Never commanding or whimpering or begging or direct, but a friendship, a love relationship with the universe.
Copyright: (c) 2010 - Fire Lyte - Inciting A Riot
Location: Chicago, Illinois
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