Communion with the True Self
"When you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father, the One in secret. And your Father, the One seeing in secret, will reward you." - Berean Literal Bible
Prayer, one of the oldest religious practices. Its origin is unknown, lost in antiquity. It is very important though, to not assume that the common meaning and practice of prayer in our world today is what was meant hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of years ago.
Prayer seems to have been around since we humans gained enough self-awareness to wonder:
What is this all about?
Where did this all come from?
Why is there so much similarity and so much variation?
What is the reality of all this?
There was a recognition of an intelligence. The universe follows patterns that are obvious and mysterious. It was inevitable that we would ponder deeply the source of that intelligence. It was equally inevitable that we would come up with explanations both sublime and mundane, some born out of insight others born out of cultural control and self-justification.
In this regard science and religion are one. They both seek the answer to the same question. The nature of that answer, (what is the source of all this?) is markedly different, polar opposites actually. But the intent is identical.
Out of each of these approaches to the same questions very different answers were arrived at and, as a result, very different world views, systems of morality, systems of organization and ways of life.
I define prayer differently than the common view. I see prayer as a deep desire to know what is true. In that sense I regard the scientist deep in her research and the monk meditating on the mountaintop both engaged in prayer, both seeking the answer to biggest questions of life and both hoping that a more harmonious existence will emerge out of the answer.
Like pretty much every other religious practice, prayer has been distorted and abused:
Praying for the destruction of our enemies and that god will give us the spoils of conquest
Praying that you win (and they lose) the big game
Praying in gratitude that you are not like those other unfortunate ones, if they only believed like you do then all their problems would dissolve
Praying to win the lottery
Praying that God will shower you with blessings and protect you, even when others suffer
Praying that you will be among the fortunate elect
I am reminded of a story of a woman gushing with religious fervor when she discovered that her mother had died in a fire that had destroyed the entire house. But her Bible, that sat on her beside table, was untouched. "It's a miracle." she proclaimed. And they wonder why atheists think they are totally nuts.
So what about prayer? Is prayer to be dismissed as an artifact, a leftover from a more superstitious time? A lot of it, yes. But, prayer, like all true spiritual teaching, can and should evolve to meet the needs of the times.
And it has...
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