PRAYER AND PRAYING—Do you pray? If so, to whom do you pray, and for what purpose—what expectations do you have from your prayer? Have you ever been disappointed or felt rejected because your prayers ‘weren’t answered?—I have many, many times.
As a small child, through adolescence, and teen-age to adulthood, I was taught to pray incessantly. I was taught that there were basically four types of prayer—contrition, whereby we acknowledge our sins, beg forgiveness, and vow to never sin again—petition whereby we beg God for favors—thanksgiving whereby we thank God for the favors we have received and, more importantly—intercession, whereby we beg the Virgin Mary and other Saints in heaven to implore God to hear and honor our prayer requests.
Early on in my life, all of that seemed logical basically because I was taught that way. I spent thousands of hours on my knees begging God and the saints for everything imaginable. I can vividly remember dozens of times kneeling on the hard wood floor of our little tin-roofed, three room shack saying the rosary begging Mary too intercede with God to protect us from terrible lightening, wind and hail storms. Parenthetically, I might add, if you have never been in such a building during a heavy hail storm, you have no idea what a terrible sound that is—it would frighten the wits out of the devil, so to speak. By the way, our little house never got blown away nor struck by lightening—so, the assumption was that God was answering our prayers.
As I grew and became educated in basic physics, I came to realize that it would have been literally impossible for lightening to strike our house—there were trees ninety to one hundred feet tall standing near-by—they certainly would have sent up a charged plume directing the bolt to them. On the other hand, I can still hear the twang of lightening bolts hitting the railroad rails that ran only a few yards in front of our house—that twang could be heard running along those rails for miles. In light of all the ‘science’ which we didn’t know at the time, prayers got the credit for our house being protected—note how assumptions can be so erroneous at times—very often may get us in trouble.
About the time I became nine to ten years old, I became an altar boy in the Catholic church—that meant a whole lot more kneeling on hard-wood altar steps. But I was dedicated and just knew that the more I hurt, the more God loved me. After two or three years of that intense praying, and observing that the overt things we prayed for, even as an entire congregation, never even once came to fruition, I began questioning why God was not answering our prayers—after all, we were the ‘one true church’ founded by Jesus and perpetuated by the apostles—why would God not respond to us? I hadn’t even heard of Islam yet. I did, however, know that the Jews were unbelievably wicked people because they killed Jesus. So, I asked my priest for whom I had great respect. He told me, ‘it was God’s will’.
I was thirteen at the time and had already begun to think clearly and independently. It occurred to me that, if God’s will couldn’t be changed by all that praying, we were not only wasting our time and effort, but maybe we were actually offending God by begging him for something he didn’t want to do—I was analyzing.
At that very moment, I began questioning the nature of my God—who exactly was this God I had been taught about so rigorously and vigorously? I was well aware of the open animosity exhibited by many local Protestant preachers against Catholicism—the local radio stations carried their messages daily. They preached about the biblical God incessantly, and were always railing against Catholics—how come? We had the Bible also—what was different between ours and theirs—was their God different from ours? Because I didn’t know the answers to any of them, each of those observations and questions lingered with me and pestered me continually. The only thing I did believe (know) was that God’s will (whoever he was) could not be changed.
I was like ‘lost in a fog’—I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of the ‘God situation’. Oh I had been well indoctrinated in all of the Church rituals surrounding Christmas, Wise men (astrologers), Holy Week, Jesus’ Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, the Immaculate Conception of Mary’s mother, Mary’s Assumption into heaven, plus all of the Holy Days which mandated attendance at Mass—they all mandated prayers of extreme contrition, petition, and vigorous intercession—not a whole lot of thanksgiving except on Thanksgiving Day. Of course, the Catholic Mass is a ‘sacrificial offering’ as appeasement to an ‘angry God’. I was confused by all the mystery and ‘magic’ surrounding the God issue and religion.
Even though I wasn’t aware of Islam per se, I was well aware of the Mohammedans (Moors) who had conquered the Holy Land and even invaded Europe all the way to Portugal. I was taught extensively in Catholic religion class about the Crusades and their ‘justification’. In addition, I had already learned about the existence of Hindus and Buddhists but didn’t know much about their religion—it didn’t matter much because they all were wrong—at least that’s what I was told.
As I entered college and studied philosophy including Logic, I came to understand clearly that nothing has ‘meaning’ without a clear ‘essential definition’. I immediately went looking for an essential definition of God—I couldn’t find one—there wasn’t one. I didn’t know it at the time, but no one had ever been able to define God’s essence—many had tried; all failed. I vowed that I would—it took sixty years and a whole lot of luck but I did.
Driven by a continual curiosity ‘frame of mind’ of, I stumbled upon a video course in Quantum Mechanics (particle physics). Oh, I had been well educated in Chemistry, Classical Physics, Biology, etc.—I knew that atoms were composed of protons, neutron, and electrons, but I didn’t know what the protons and neutrons were composed of. I knew that light was composed of photons which traveled in wave form, but I didn’t know that a photon could and does exist in a particle (quantum) state. It was a very long course—24 forty five minute video lectures.
What I discovered in that course was startling—suddenly I knew who God is—God is a Perfect Rational being. That Perfection is exhibited in everything in existence. There is absolutely nothing in existence that is not a perfect example of what it was intended to be. Likewise everything in existence is prefect in function—everything functions exactly as it was designed for its state of existence. More importantly, each quantum of energy is identical to its counterparts—they, being perfect, unchanging and unchangeable already and always have existed in eternity—they are God.
So, with that knowledge and understanding, what legitimate prayers do we have—lets examine:
Contrition—What is its value? Only when we confess to ourselves—when we admit to ourselves our extreme greed (selfishness) in whatever way it has manifested itself in us, and we vow to ourselves to change our ‘wicked ways’, does it have value. Putting the burden of our sin on God by blasphemously asking him to ‘change us’ is ‘putting the cart before the horse’. God is perfect—he cannot possibly change or be changed. God has already accepted (forgiven) our sin through Jesus.
Petition—another misdirected form of nonsense. You’re only setting yourself up for either disappointment or disillusionment. Either way, if you pray and it doesn’t happen, you may think God doesn’t love you or that you didn’t pray hard enough or that you weren’t worthy—both d– and d–. If you pray and it does happen, you may think you’re ‘special’ in God’s eyes. Its like praying that your child’s appendectomy will be successful and it is; did your prayer cause that? What if you hadn’t prayed and it was successful, what is that? What if you prayed and it wasn’t successful—your child died, or if you didn’t pray and your child died and you feel guilty? Again both d– and d–.
Intercession—Now here’s a really good one; begging someone else who may have more influence to intercede for you. The same principle applies as petition—the only difference is the middle-man/woman.
Thanksgiving—now here’s a really interesting one. We know that God, being perfect, is perfect love. That means that he loves (accepts) us the way we are without any ‘strings attached’—he proved that through Jesus. Human nature, being as it is, would demand that grateful people express an attitude of appreciation. While God has absolutely no expectation of returned thanks, I believe it would do us good and maybe make us a little more loving (accepting) of our neighbor if we at least occasionally contemplated God’s perfect love and expressed our gratitude to him. In light of that I believe our only truly justifiable prayer is ‘Thank you Lord God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit (will of God) for my life, for my sustenance, and for my eternal salvation. Amen, Amen, Amen’.
I am aware that many of you have read my two books, Wilderness Cry and Peace in Spirituality and are tired of hearing about them, but for the few who haven’t, my philosophy is laid out clearly in them. You may want to investigate.