Prayer is the only form of direct communication that you and I can have with God. As we saw in religiosity, we are a society that depends on God and calls on Him to fulfill our needs and wants. We live most of our lives learning about God and wanting to learn more about what we can do to please Him and to live according to His will. God loves all of us just the way we are, and Jesus Christ, His son, loves us just for being ourselves. God is love, and the more one grows and discovers life, the more you feel the presence of God.
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Prayer has been around for millennia, and even before the birth of Jesus, there was prayer in one form or another. Prayer can be structured as in the Catholic faith and can become guided by several set or written prayers. These include the Lord’s prayer, Our Father prayer, the apostle’s creed, Hail Mary, among others. On the other hand, prayer can be randomized or unstructured like in protestant faith, where prayer gets done as per one’s conviction. The Catholic faith is also fond of the rosary and having graphical or physical depictions of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. Protestant denominations, however, are less inclined to have physical or graphical representations of Jesus Christ. Instead, there are sermon, prayer, or song material that may have pictures of Jesus. Protestant faiths are not inclined to set prayers but can have some specific prayers that are structured or written as per the particular church and its theology.
Hymnbooks get used in all Christianity. Catholics will also have prayers that become structured for various occasions or events. There are prayers for baptism and prayers for the deceased, for instance. The structuring of prayers and writing them down could be as a way to encourage uniformity and to adopt various prayers in a structured and well-documented manner. Prayer is prayer, and in my view, personal prayer does not have to be as structured or restructured as per particular the tenets of the Christian faith. Prayer is a way to speak directly to God, and I think we forget that sometimes. In other religions such as Islam, prayer is very much a daily undertaking and gets structured as per particular times. Different prayers at different times allow for in-depth one-on-ones with Allah. Prayer is very crucial to the Muslim faith and requires a lot of dedication and commitment. Moreover, in Islam, prayers can only be done while kneeling and laying one’s head on the ground and depending on the point of the prayer, standing up, and then kneeling
When it comes to other faiths such as Buddhism, prayer is very much an occasion, and it gets conducted while sitting in a meditative position and with several guides or spiritual leaders all directing prayer. In most times, the guru is one and leads the prayer, and mostly, such prayer or meditation is unguided. Moreover, the individual chooses the prayer or the contents of the prayer. Hinduism is very similar and entails a lot of hums while praying. Depending on the particular faith, there will be statues of gods and goddesses and items or objects signifying the faith. These can include carvings of Buddha for Buddhism and flowers or flower necklaces that get used as part of prayer in Hinduism. In some parts of India, several occasions will also include a lot of colors and foods that become dedicated to several gods and goddesses. The same can holds for Islam during special occasions where there are festivities, food, and sharing. Christianity lacks a structured way to interact with or appreciate food, and the celebrations of Christianity become mostly guided by the cultural underpinnings of the believers themselves. Additionally, Christians pray while standing or sitting and in some parts of worship, kneeling.
Prayer works, and I think this is the most under-emphasized part or truth of prayer. Prayer works, and it does so superfluously. I don’t think any of us has any idea the effect that prayer has on us and our relationship with God or with one’s Supreme Being. God hears all our prayers and responds to them by giving us what we pray for. We may not see God working on us, but we can become assured that God is and will always be there for all of us. I also don’t think that we understand what it means to be loved by God. God has immense power and kindness. The love of God is receiving these, and much more, in a way that reflects the nature of God. Immediately I think of the late Mother Teresa as an excellent example of an individual who had been given the love of God in a way that was visible and comprehensible.
We cannot truly know or understand God, and prayer is our way to reach out and to recognize and worship God. I imagine that we cannot imagine how God interacts with our prayers, but I believe God is everywhere, omnipresent, and all-powerful, omnipotent. He is everywhere at all times and hears our prayers to Him. His goodness and love for us are beyond what our human minds and hearts can imagine, and even when we feel alone, God is always there with us. Especially when we are facing trouble, grief, or a difficult situation, God is with us and carries us through. I remember reading somewhere that an individual thought that God had abandoned them in their time of difficulty. They cited being alone as they could only see one set of footsteps. However, they had not realized that those were God’s footsteps, and the whole time God was carrying them. God loves us, and we can only show our love for God by living according to His will.
I think of Buddhism, and as I cited in the religiosity article, Buddha died, and his teachings remained. Buddhists believe that Buddha reincarnated or reincarnates into an unknown individual within the society or community. As such, since they do not know who the reincarnated Buddha is, they call on everyone to treat each other as they would treat Buddha. Buddhists are encouraged to treat each other in the best way possible as the person next to you, or your neighbor could be Buddha reincarnated. The subject of reincarnation or transmigration and the possibility and cycle of rebirth is something that requires intense research. However, the point is to treat and love your neighbor as you would yourself. Doing this would please God and would ensure that you live according to His will.
Prayer not only works as a mode of communication and can be very impactful on the individual and their psyche. Prayer and meditation help the brain reorganize and process information. Think of it this way, the in-tray of your brain contains a lot of random and unorganized information. Through prayer and meditation, all of this information gets arranged. It is processed and put out to the out-tray as structured and well-organized information. Beyond this, during prayer and meditation, our brains look for inner or deeper meanings to various events, occurrences, or ideas. For instance, if one feels regret, during prayer and meditation, they can soul-search and look for the reasons behind such emotion or feeling, and in the process, the individual gets to know themselves better.
Meditation, on its own, is a huge part of health and wellness and has become cited as a way to ensure and facilitate mindfulness. Meditation is somewhat a learned skill, and like everything else in life, it gets perfect the more the individual practices. Yoga also can be very beneficial in terms of balance and stamina. For the past few decades, yoga has become somewhat mainstream. It is a massive part of the practices of health enthusiasts who want to learn more about faith, culture, and religion, moreover, on how they relate to health and mindfulness. In my view, yoga is an art form, and a higher-order form of meditation and interested individuals can learn and become better over time. We mostly think that our bodies only exist in the physical form. However, there is a whole space where the physical and spiritual forms of ourselves can interact and blend.
Prayer is wonderful, and I honestly don’t think that one would make it in life if they lacked prayerfulness. There is a lot of peace in prayer and also hope. Faith does move mountains, and you cannot believe what impact prayer can have on your life. As such, learn to be prayerful if you are not already. God loves you. Jesus loves you, and your prayers are essential. You are important. In God’s eyes, there is none like you, and indeed every one of us is unique. The best way to show your love for God is to extend it to others. Let everyone around you know that God loves them, Jesus loves them and they are important. We all need each other to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.
By being there for others and showing them God’s love, we fulfill the will of God and share in His abundance. Always seek to be prayerful. I would recommend learning prayer and saying it at least once a day. It may seem frivolous to you, but your prayers get heard. God sees you and hears you when you pray. Even when you turn your back on God, He welcomes you back for His love is unmatched. In the current pandemic and ensuing lockdown, please do what you can to help those who are vulnerable in society. By helping others, we can extend the kindness and love that God has given to us. Amen.