I have been thinking a lot about the idea of being blessed, praying for others, and sending out prayers. That’s kind of a weird thing for me to be thinking about, to be honest, since I have been an agnostic for most of my life, and not someone who “believes in” a particular deity.* Organized religion has always made me uncomfortable, even when I was actively participating in Unitarian Universalism and getting a lot out of membership in my church.
I have had a real issue with “praying” my whole life, which has led me to examine my own prejudices and beliefs. I have a visceral reaction when people talk about praying about a situation or for a person. Why is that?
(And why am I illustrating this post with filters applied to my face? I guess to bring something funny to a serious musing.)
Back in the days of childhood, I went to Sunday School, basically because everyone in my working-class Gainesville neighborhood went to Sunday School. We got to be Presbyterians, because that was the closest church that wasn’t Catholic (Mom had issues with her upbringing). So, I listened to those nice people pray a lot. They always asked God for stuff, so that was what I thought praying was for. I always thought I ought to at least try to get stuff for myself.
Now, some of my religious educators said praying was like talking to God, and since I already talked to a lot of imaginary beings (very active fantasy life as a child) I liked this kind of praying. You weren’t necessarily trying to tell God what to do, just chatting about your issues.
As I got older, I kept being invited to other people’s churches. Some of them asked God for stuff, while others asked God to do things to people they didn’t like or to change other people’s minds about things. I liked that method even less. Then, when I made some evangelical friends as I got older, they began to inform me that they were praying for me and my soul. They wanted to change ME.
About that time, I stopped attending Christian church services unless there was a wedding or a funeral. I didn’t like the idea of asking the deity to play favorites or follow your instructions. My deities weren’t all involved in my day-to-day squabbles.
As I got older
I really don’t know how it got to this, but as I got older, it rubbed me the wrong way more and more when people informed me they were praying for me, or when they responded to anyone’s issue with “prayers!” I would internally grumble, don’t just talk to your deity, DO something about it, something your deity has empowered you to do! I also resented the implication that, because I was a European-American, cis-gender,stay-at-home mother, I would be just dandy with all this praying.
It got popular to knock people who responded to others with “thoughts and prayers,” which made a little bell go off in my head. I realized that, in my own personal path, I felt comforted when people said they were sending good energy or vibes (etc.) my way. Excuse ME, Suna, but isn’t that the same thing as praying, but just from a different religious perspective?
Yeah, I think it IS. Sure, when I send thoughts out to someone who needs energy or calm or healing, I’m sending them from me, and not asking for a deity to intervene. AHA. In my tradition, we are all part of the deity (Gaia or the Universe or Spirit or many other names). So, I guess the Divine is involved when I’m thinking of friends in need.
Let us pray (lettuce spray as I used to say as a kid)
So, as with so many of the things that used to rub me the wrong way or irritate me, I now see that I was just unwilling to think things true in my zeal to brand the “other” as not as good as me. I was totally wrong, at least in the fact that sending love however you want to send it is good.
I’m still not fond of the idea of trying to change other people with my mind, or praying for people to change. But that’s internally consistent. I firmly believe that you could pray like crazy or send “be different” vibes as hard as you want to, but unless someone is willing to change and ready to do so, it isn’t going to work. I’ll just compromise and send warm thoughts that people who need to change will become open to it.
So, I humbly accept all prayers and thoughts that are sent my way, and am not going to judge them just for coming from a person whose religious beliefs differ from me. Just don’t try to convert me, okay?
Let me pray?
One more little anecdote before I stop externalizing my internal monologue. I always maintained I didn’t pray. I especially didn’t participate in public prayers where someone is telling their Lord to bless various things, like football players, dinner, or whatever. And I never sat down and prayed to the Spirit to share my burdens or needs.
But the joke’s on me. I pray in the privacy of my own car all the time. Every time I see an animal that’s been run over on the side of the road, I feel compelled to send a little blessing to the spirit of that being. It’s like I just want to acknowledge that I see them, and I care. I cannot stop myself from doing this. I sure hope anyone who saw Brody on the side of the road before I found him last week did the same.
Blessings, blessed be, and loving thoughts to anyone who read this!
*Note that my being an agnostic does not mean I look down at anyone whose spiritual path involves belief in a god or goddess or who prays often. I respect everyone’s beliefs, and am certain that organized religions bring a lot of comfort and purpose to their lives.