What happens to a person of faith who can no longer pray? Does it relegate those innermost desires to hopes and wishes? Is that truly a relegation?
I desire so many things but I cannot pray for them. It is like prayer has disappeared from my active vocabulary, no longer in my lexicon. But what replaces it?
I think that a while back, I traded in religion for art. My faith shifted. My mythology was altered. There was as much loss as there was empowerment.
Perhaps prayers should be sung out like hopes into the night. Perhaps they might attract the attention of some natural or unnatural force. Maybe I am just feeling bad that Leonard Cohen has died. His songs were prayers. Were they prayers that could be answered? Are mine? For what do I pray? When I say pray, do I really mean beg?
There are prayers that do not beg. Some implore and some offer bargains. Some make threats and some make promises. How strange to do that silently and internally. It is a bargain that only you know that you’ve made, just you and the eternal whatever that may or may not exist and may or may not care.
Prayer is a choice to believe. Pure prayer is not an obligation but I am not sure what it is. Part of me wants prayer to have power, like those studies that say that people who are prayed for do remarkably better, but how do we know that the others were not prayed for? More privately…In my understanding of prayer, public prayer should not have more power, which means more preferential treatment than private prayer does.
Some may say that the more prayer the more power, but I do not see the advantage in numbers. Prayer is not an election. Prayer must be, if it is at all, a deep expression of a sincerity that is as pure as the person praying can possibly manage, and then some. Prayer must elevate.
What is the difference between prayer and good thoughts? Does the invocation of some superior being have more of an effect than the general well wishes that can emanate from a human being, or perhaps another creature?
The whole idea of some divine being is suspect, but perhaps that belief is not essential to prayer. What is it about me that wants to pray? Is it simply a need to not feel as helpless as a situation might leave you feeling? Perhaps the role of prayer is to combat despair.
There were the prayers of my youth. The Lord’s Prayer is one. The Hail Mary never did it for me. The 23rd Psalm was and can still be like a prayer. When the burden of creating the words is lifted, perhaps the people who are praying are more able to let their spirits soar and become active. Perhaps we just mumble old strings of words.
Suppose prayer an incantation that elicits an almost involuntary response, “and also with you.”
The incantation of prayer seldom works with me these days. I am not sure if it is just less than I can do or a weaker version of the incantation. I’m not even sure if that matters.
The strength of prayer lives on shifting sands, if your mind stays active. One struggles to stand and prays to fly. Is it a struggle without benefit?
There are differences between silent and vocalized prayer that I am not sure about. Silence includes a reverence but the spoken word contains power. Is that what prayer is, a balance between reverence and power?
I have seen written prayers slid between the rocks of a sacred wall. Photography isn’t allowed. Perhaps the signals of prayers should not be captured.
Can a burning candle extend the life of a prayer? Is it the nature of a prayer to wish its life extended? If prayer is a message, after it has been delivered: mission complete. Is that the nature of prayer? But if prayer is a plea? In the words of Bonnie Raitt:
And if I could pray, my prayer would never end
But if you want me to beg, I’ll fall down on my knees
Asking for you to come back, I’d be pleading for you to come back
Begging for you to come back to me
In this case a candle may have power and reverence.
Prayers can bring comfort. My wife prays to deceased relatives in times of opportunity and tragedy. She prays for intercession into the affairs of this world. She trusts the spirit of those to whom she prays. I just get sad if I think of those who are no longer here at these times and wish that they were. There is a fundamental difference. You can wish for things that are impossible, but can you pray for them? I find it difficult to accept that departed spirits have not truly departed. Does that mean that there is nowhere else to go?
Some prayers are unanswered, is it because of their nature, or is it just biology? That would mean that prayers that are not good for us, or are maybe just out of their time, aren’t answered. I wonder if I have been a prayer out of time? Am I out of time or as Bonnie would sing, “scared to run out of time.” Do prayers have fears? Are they themselves alive?
Sometimes I feel like an unanswered prayer. But I think that the lack of answer is really my responsibility. I cannot be impossible and expect to be answered. On the perimeters of prayer, we find their nature in their limitations. At least it seems that way. If prayers are truly miracles then I am mistaken.