Friday, August 18, 2006

A Question of Prayer

So many people have responded to our recent news with kind thoughts and caring. Many others have assured us that we will be in their prayers that last night I lay in the darkness contemplating exactly what that means.

I am no neophyte when it comes to the concept. I was raised in the Catholic Church and spent hours memorizing the Lord’s Prayer and the rosary. To this day, I have difficulty walking into a Catholic Church and resisting the urge to dip my fingers into the Holy Water to make the sign of the cross. Like many teenagers, I later rebelled against the restrictions and “backward” ideas of this institution and left to find my own path to spirituality. My college years were entirely devoid of any religious experience whatsoever and today I can be most accurately described as an atheist.

Having said all of that, I must confess that as recently as six years ago I resorted to prayer in the most desperate of times “just in case”. I don’t know if it was force of habit or a measure of my true wit’s end, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I have since examined my true beliefs further and have discovered that my sense of spirituality flows more horizontally than vertically. I cherish the connections between people and animals and the earth and fully recognize the intangible strengths arising from those more than I believe in a Creator.

This led me to question the concept of prayer.

'People who pray for miracles usually don't get miracles...But people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very often find their prayers answered. Their prayers helped them tap hidden reserves of faith and courage that were not available to them before.' -- Harold S. Kushner

The above quote made me wonder how much of prayer is simply a meditation that helps us ground ourselves and focus on our strengths rather than a plea to a deity to grant us some special favor. I’ve often questioned the power of prayer, unsure how a single deity (even if s/he is omnipotent) could possibly hear the prayers of millions and then decide which ones to answer in favor of others.

I pray on the principle that wine knocks the cork out of a bottle. There is an inward fermentation, and there must be a vent. ~Henry Ward Beecher

I rather like the idea that praying is more of a solitary reflection on the predicament one is currently in and a way to get back to reality. Relying on an outside force to change our course or alter a certain path has always been difficult for me to accept. I left the Catholic Church largely because of the individuals in my life who abused the notion of confession as giving one a clean slate to transgress over and over again. I reject the idea that one’s beliefs, as opposed to one’s actions, will save a soul.

Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. ~Author Unknown

I am choosing to embrace the notion that the prayers directed toward my family will allow us to recognize our strengths and the connections we have forged throughout our lives. The people who are concerned about us are aiming their positive energies in our direction so that we may discover the love we have cultivated and the strength we possess in order to continue fulfilling our most authentic purpose. Thank you for your prayers, no matter what form they take. We gratefully accept them and you can be sure that ours are with you as well, both in times of need and times of abundance.

6 comments:

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Prayer doesn't change God, it changes us. Our priest tells us that all the time, and I love that. I HIGHLY recommend Warrior of the Light, by Paolo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist. It would be a great read for you right now, and it is SHORT!

Michelle O'Neil said...

Beautiful post Kari.

Miss Devylish said...

I don't know what it was in that, but you so brought tears to my eyes honey.. cuz I also know how hard this is for you and how amazingly strong you are, even when you don't have to be.

I agree w/ all your points - but at least for me.. if there is a God of sorts and s/he is so omnipotent and all loving, there's no reason to choose some amongst our millions of prayers to answer over others. They all get answered - in one way or another in my opinion.

I also like the idea of grounding.. but I do believe in some force.. that when we put the request out for help, for strength/courage/stability.. something.. that something feels that energy and responds in kind. Sometimes it's almost tangible.. sometimes, not, but I'm grateful for it either way.

Love you!xoxo

ammogirl said...

Prayer means whatever that particular person wants it to mean. I wasn't brought up in ANY church, and therefore do not have the belief that many do, but I do believe in the power of life and energy and love.

Kari, you are one of my oldest friends, and right now I am sending all of those things your way: power, energy, love. My prayers are for your strength and courage and tears and your happiness, too. Look for the bright days, because they will keep you going.

I am so very glad we got back in touch.

MadMike said...

This truly is a beautiful piece of writing. I am also a Catholic, albeit a fallen away Catholic. Like yourself I have done many of those "just in case" prayers. I don't know what that says about me, as I have become less of a believer in the Almighty Myth as my education increased. Regardless, when I do mumble that occasional home grown prayer I feel better, so I guess it completes the circle.

jennifer said...

Lovely post, thank you for your honesty and your open heart!

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