Wednesday, February 03, 2010


I'm feeling the need to explain how I think about prayer. Twice in the past week, I've told someone that I would pray for them, or keep them in my prayers. And I feel somewhat guilty about this, but not for the reason you might think. Even though I don't really believe in God, I still believe in prayer. I can't explain how it works. But I believe that praying for someone helps them in some way. Is it just that you've told them you're praying for them, so that in itself offers moral support and they feel buoyed? Is it some sort of mental intention, a focusing of attention, that actually does give them a boost of some sort? Is there an actual exchange of personal energy that goes on? Is there a being, supreme or otherwise, that we address when we pray that can distribute help from a vast supply of spiritual/emotional resources? What I think is some sort of combination of those, but I have no idea how it actually works, and certainly no way to prove it. I just know that I don't feel hypocritical when I tell someone that I will pray for them. (And I do pray for them.) The thing that makes me feel a little guilty is that I know when I say it, often it means something to them that it doesn't mean to me, leads them to think that I'm doing something that I'm not.

I know I can't control how other people interpret my words. It would be silly to explain in depth precisely what I mean every time I use words in a way that is different than what other people expect. Silly and unwelcome. But there is a fine line to walk here in terms of personal integrity. I'm OK with this one, after having given it a great deal of thought, because it's a common enough phrase that people use it lightly all the time. I've even heard people with no particular religious views at all say something of the same sort. But obviously there's something that doesn't sit quite right because here I am typing this out.


1 comment:

  1. Light switches baffle me. I use them; I trust them to do their jobs. But I don't understand them.------------------------- So I'm okay with praying even though I don't understand it.
    There is an ethical dimension to talk about flipping the switch if my talk will cause someone else's use of the same thing to put them in some kind of danger, say to stand in ankle deep water while flipping a switch. ----------
    The joy of prayer is that the dangers to the users are in some ways out of our hands. Since all prayer is between a person and God, he's in charge of keeping people from getting electrocuted. Sounds like the easy way out, but for me, remembering to let God be god is the hardest part.