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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for February 28th, 2015

Why do we pray? 4

Posted on February 28, 2015 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 1, 2015 – 12:00am

Lately I’ve been praying again. It is not that I ever stopped. What I mean is I have been praying formally again. I have gone back to the rosary, and to doing a few prayers like the “Prayer of St Ignatius.”

For years, I have been meditating. That was mostly my way of praying. I still meditate. It gives me a sense of peace, calm, silence and an opportunity to get to know myself in a deeper way.

Perhaps it is my wife’s devotion to praying the rosary daily that has led me to take it up again.

I have noticed that there are a few reasons why people pray. One obvious reason is because they are asking God for something. They see God as the great benefactor who can give us anything we want and need.

There is nothing wrong if we pray to God or the saints and ask that our wishes and needs, our Daily Bread be given to us. We all need, want or desire some things which are beyond our capacity to obtain by ourselves. We have questions we want answered. We ask God and saints to step in and intervene in our lives, to bless us and answer our prayers.

Prayers are an invocation to power. We do not have that power over certain situations we are in and we often cannot affect outcomes to be in our favor or interest. And so we turn to God to make it go our way.

We pray that God Himself, the most powerful entity in the universe, shows up and provides what we need.

Another reason for prayer is to express our gratitude for favors granted, for things we already have and for expressing awe as we see the wonder of life unfolding before us.

I do not doubt the power of prayer. I have seen prayers answered quite a few times, mine included.

I notice that to pray for whatever reason demands that we give ourselves humbly to God and ask that our favors be granted, our pleas recognized. Our humility is given not to please the Benefactor; God does not need praise, or anything else. We don’t have to do so since God does not have an ego. We humble ourselves to get out of our own egos and open ourselves to possibilities of divine intervention in our lives.

That is why humility is integral to prayer. We are not demanding. Rather, we are imploring for help, recognizing that we are in a weak position of want and/or need. And humbly, we muster faith and dare to trust that whatever the outcome is God’s will.

Even when we say a prayer of thanks, we still implore with humility. We express gratitude because it was through the Benefactor’s power that we were blessed with what we received.

It is the same in meditation. I feel a sense of humility and wonder about the awesome nature of life and the universe. I find I am in a state of gratitude for having seen the creation of God manifesting everywhere. I feel small and humbled even if I feel the Oneness with everything. I also feel so insignificant since I have disappeared into One. I cannot grasp the entire blessed reality unfolding in front of me and it is probably because I am a mere human.

Lately, I hear and read of so many of my friends getting sick, dying or falling into dire straits. I feel a helplessness since many times, all I can do is send out empathy and compassion to them. I cannot materially help everyone. Often, all I can offer are words of encouragement and prayers.

Sometimes, there is a cynical side to me that thinks all this compassion talk and “niceness” really has no effect on the suffering of others and amounts to nothing. Yet there is a bigger side that says that our prayers and kind words do mean a lot if they are sent with sincerity. And yes, they do alter the situation both for the sender and the receiver. People always remember kindness and it inspires them to pass it on.

Reciting formal prayers and meditation can have the same effect in us. Both lead us deeper into our own interior lives where we discover our weakness and our strengths and come out the better for the experience.

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” So says philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. I find this to be true for me. I continue to deepen my understanding of humility, trust and gratitude especially when prayers are answered. When I feel they are unanswered, I sometimes feel devastated. But after the disappointment sinks in, I either turn cynical, or learn even greater humility and trust as I ponder the idea that perhaps a greater intelligence and plan is unfolding beyond man’s understanding.

It draws me closer to the Divine even as I ask, “Why, God, why?” and “What’s next?”

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