I've been pretty interested in the subject of prayer for the past couple of years. Not that I've been good at actually praying per se
, but I've wanted to understand it — what it's for, why we should do it (assuming we should), what it's supposed to accomplish (if anything). My interest became vastly sharpened what with getting cancer and all, which threw me for a few loops (to say the least) in the faith department. Somewhere around the middle of my treatment, I was probably an agnostic, though not at all particularly happy about it.
Anyway, I'm back to being a Christian, if a somewhat conflicted one, but hey, that's been par for the course for about the last decade, so no huge surprises there. Also, I'm back to having a desire to pray (which was lacking through a good part of the past year), and I'm currently a sucker for any writing on the subject. So naturally when I saw the article The Right Way to Pray?
on the nytimes.com
Web site, I clicked on it immediately. And was almost immediately discouraged, thanks to the following quote by a man named Daniel Henderson: Prayer is a lot more than reciting words. It requires mastering both theory and technique.
Because I don't know about you, but I can't think of anything I need more than another set of theories and techniques to get me through this crazy thing called life.
Then there was this observation from the editor-in-chief at beliefnet.com
: In a way, prayer has become its own religion in this society.
Hmm. So let me get this straight — prayer, which was once supposed to be the conduit to God, simply a form of communication, is now possibly replacing God as an object of worship. Which is weird, but welcome to the world of religion.
I have a book on prayer by Richard Foster. It lists out the many different types of prayer and explains each one, along with suggestions for how to practice it. At some point as I made my way through the book, I was like, how on earth are you supposed to pray all these different kinds of prayers? I mean what, do you make a schedule: Monday = Prayer of Examen; Tuesday = Prayer of Tears (yes, that's a type of prayer, apparently); Wednesday = Simple Prayer (no, there isn't a type called "Complicated Prayer", surprisingly enough, though maybe with all these types, the complication comes in naturally on its own); and so on and on and on.
I just want to pray
, for God's sake.
Back to the article, I found myself feeling more and more bummed as I read on, until I got to the last page wherein the reporter goes to a church that prompts the following reaction after he has a few conversations with kids who tell him about the people they've been praying for and who (whom?) they've seen get healed:There are some 300,000 churches in America, and I could have picked any one to attend on Easter morning, but I liked being in this one. Especially the kids. They didn’t need Reverend Henderson’s prayer techniques, or the high-tech mantras of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Their prayers weren’t Rabbi Gellman’s suburban Jewish prayers of Thanks! offered to whom it may concern. They didn’t pray to de-center their egos or find transcendence or to set off on a lifelong therapeutic spiritual journey. They prayed to a God with whom they were on a first-name basis, and they believed their prayers gave them power, which they used on behalf of their asthmatic sisters and infirm grandparents and a kid they knew with burns on his body. Sitting in church on Easter morning, I realized that I was probably never going to become a praying man. But if, by some miracle, I ever do, I hope my prayers will be like the prayers of the kids I met at the Love church in Berkeley Springs. Straight-up Gimme! on behalf of people who really need the help.
That cheered me up. I hope the same thing, on my better days.
Of course, I still don't really "get" prayer. I don't understand why some prayers "work" and others... well, don't. But the truth is, I can't NOT pray. Believe me, I've tried. And at times, I've managed to go quite a long time without it. But eventually I would start again, in spite of myself. I guess I do want to connect with God, if he's there. And maybe that's all prayer really is — a point of connection.
Hmm, I almost wrote contention. Well, it may be that, too, I suppose.
Any thoughts? Mine are a bit rambling at the moment...