Prayer

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Hey, so this is my first R&P thread, and it's really mostly aimed at religious types, but I suppose everyone is welcome.

So, like the title, prayer. I'm Catholic, and have always seen prayer as a type of meditation. It's a quiet time to reflect on your life, to be thankful for what you have, reassign your priorities, get some perspective on things. It's a handy little relaxation technique, in all it's forms (solitary, singing, etc.)

So my question is, how do you see/experience prayer? Is it a conversation with god/gods, meditation, what? If you don't pray, do you have trouble understanding why people do?

EDIT: There's actually something I'll just throw in here; I believe that prayer is beneficial whether or not God exists. For example, the "giving thanks" thing is about appreciating life, yours, that of those around you and the world in general. This is a healthy state of mind. See what I'm getting at?

Meditation with some self-reflection and self-actualization thrown in. i can't believe that God, if he exists, ever interacts with the world in an observable way.

Only when hes ticked.

While self reflection is a good thing.
I don't need a big daddy looking over my shoulder.

If God is omniscient, he knows your thoughts anyway. Direct Prayer, especially the kind you seen in large groups, is logically unnecessary.

As such, you could probably spend your time doing something more worthwhile.

Ditto for hymns.

Prayer is useless.

If God is supposed to be all knowing and omniscient, he knows your thoughts and wants all ready.

Why spend 5 minutes a day or however long you people do it directing your thoughts to a supposed omniscient being?

Besides, why give thanks to someone who hasn't done anything?

Prayer is the biggest waste of time I can think of. It's not just wasting your time, it's wasting your time and thinking you're being productive. Meditation on the other hand I have no problem with.

When I was still religious, I always though of prayer as like writing a letter to God in your head. I would think the words of my prayer and then "send them up," however that worked.

Now I know better.

I suppose it can help calm people down who are so inclined.

Prayer is the desperate measure of desperate people with nowhere left to turn.

However if you do it regularly for all the little things that barely matter I have a message from "God": Shut up.

Prayer, as a form of meditation, seems like it could be quite useful to people. Because you might as well be talking to yourself in solitude, but hey, whatever works.

Julianking93:
Prayer is useless.

If God is supposed to be all knowing and omniscient, he knows your thoughts and wants all ready.

Why spend 5 minutes a day or however long you people do it directing your thoughts to a supposed omniscient being?

Besides, why give thanks to someone who hasn't done anything?

Amnestic:
If God is omniscient, he knows your thoughts anyway. Direct Prayer, especially the kind you seen in large groups, is logically unnecessary.

As such, you could probably spend your time doing something more worthwhile.

Ditto for hymns.

You guys are both missing a great deal of the point of prayer, here. It's not just -or even mostly- about telling God what's on your mind- as you point out, omniscience implies that He already knows.

Rather, the main purpose of prayer is to align yourself with God's plan, to hear what He says to you, and to take it into your heart. This is why, in certain denominations -Quakers, for example- prayer explicitly takes the form of silent reflection, with people only rising to speak aloud when "the Spirit moves them".

And yes, this does nevertheless sometimes involve asking God for things, but not so much because God has to hear it, as because you do. You know that thing that happens, where something makes a certain sense when it's only in your head, but when you say it aloud, it has some totally different meaning to your ears and that of those around you? That sort of thing is what's at work, where a particular phrasing in a prayer or hymn may suddenly resonate with you in a way it hadn't before, and reveal a different perspective on whatever you were kicking around in your head.

Now, there's also intercessory prayer, which rather breaks this model, but the above is, at least as far as I've always understood it, the main basis of prayer.

Err, whoops! What I meant to say, was:

Rawr! Prayer is lame! Theism is lame! I'm an transgressive and independent-minded free thinker who happens to uncritically parrot Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens at every opportunity!

yrogerg:

You guys are both missing a great deal of the point of prayer, here. It's not just -or even mostly- about telling God what's on your mind- as you point out, omniscience implies that He already knows.

Rather, the main purpose of prayer is to align yourself with God's plan, to hear what He says to you, and to take it into your heart. This is why, in certain denominations -Quakers, for example- prayer explicitly takes the form of silent reflection, with people only rising to speak aloud when "the Spirit moves them".

And yes, this does nevertheless sometimes involve asking God for things, but not so much because God has to hear it, as because you do. You know that thing that happens, where something makes a certain sense when it's only in your head, but when you say it aloud, it has some totally different meaning to your ears and that of those around you? That sort of thing is what's at work, where a particular phrasing in a prayer or hymn may suddenly resonate with you in a way it hadn't before, and reveal a different perspective on whatever you were kicking around in your head.

Now, there's also intercessory prayer, which rather breaks this model, but the above is, at least as far as I've always understood it, the main basis of prayer.

Makes a degree of sense, though the whole group prayer thing still rubs wrong with me. Especially when it's a group prayer which is lead by someone. Each person has their own life, ideas, ideals and thoughts, and 'group prayer' has always struck me as...I don't want to say "indoctrinating" as it's too strong but it's like that. Coercive, perhaps. Rather than (to take what you said above) God aligning with you, it's you aligning with the group aligning with God. There's that extra step which is - again, unnecessary - and more than that, a bit intrusive.

yrogerg:

Err, whoops! What I meant to say, was:

Rawr! Prayer is lame! Theism is lame! I'm an transgressive and independent-minded free thinker who happens to uncritically parrot Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens at every opportunity!

Not really what I was getting at :| There are very real and understandable issues with prayer at times (Pray the Gay Away, Prayer Healing - sometimes at the expense of actual medicinal treatment being just two of them) and the way I see it, it hardly requires getting together to align yourself to God, and your time could be better spent either a) helping people or b) enjoying life (or c) working towards one of the aforementioned things).

If Prayer is meant to establish a personal connection with God, the whole 'group' thing irks me so much so that I felt the need to reiterate it again. Hell, there's even a passage in...Matthew, I think, which is all about secluding yourself when praying and not doing it openly.

I do it for calm, and help with school, and most recently help with finding a job. 6 months applying no call backs, started praying every night and in 3 weeks I got calls from Coke, fritolay/pepsico, best buy, and an opportunity for promotion at the job I had. Of course where I see God in actions others don't.

i used to pray for petty things a while ago, but i stopped when i thought that god really doesn't need to waste his time with me.

there are millions of people praying to him everyday, and even an omnipotent being can't and doesn't have to cater to everyone's whim (especially if their wishes contradict each other)
so i decided to not bother him with my problems since most of them can be fixed by myself and they're my own fault for them existing anyway.

whatever can be fixed by humans should be fixed by humans, god's not a wishing well.

if you have to pray to god for something, do it when there's nothing else left you or anyone else can do.

I talk to God from my room when nobody else is around. I verbalize it because it helps me feel more like a conversation. Why do I do it? Because it helps me feel that I'm not alone, it helps to know that when I'm in my room since God is everywhere that he's in there with me and he understands me unlike most people.

Monkeyman8:
Prayer is the biggest waste of time I can think of. It's not just wasting your time, it's wasting your time and thinking you're being productive.

A lot like posting stupid comments on an internet forum. And what of the whole point of my point, i.e. "prayer is meditation"?

Spamoo:
Prayer is the desperate measure of desperate people with nowhere left to turn.

However if you do it regularly for all the little things that barely matter I have a message from "God": Shut up.

That doesn't even make sense. It's honestly hilarious watching people who don't understand prayer try to talk about it, much like watching people who don't understand faith talk about it.

I'd guess it's akin to the hilarity of watching some backwater fundamentalist get everything about evolution wrong during a debate. If you don't get it, don't act like an expert, please. It's just embarassing.

Amnestic:
Not really what I was getting at :| There are very real and understandable issues with prayer at times (Pray the Gay Away, Prayer Healing - sometimes at the expense of actual medicinal treatment being just two of them) and the way I see it, it hardly requires getting together to align yourself to God, and your time could be better spent either a) helping people or b) enjoying life (or c) working towards one of the aforementioned things).

If Prayer is meant to establish a personal connection with God, the whole 'group' thing irks me so much so that I felt the need to reiterate it again. Hell, there's even a passage in...Matthew, I think, which is all about secluding yourself when praying and not doing it openly.

What the hell is pray the gay away? :\ Man I'm glad I live in Australia. It's just about the perfect balance between secularism and religion, i.e. neither side says anything. Except when the dispshits bang on during Easter or one of those worthless athiesm conventions gets held.

Where was I?

Oh right, praying for healing. Well, if it's for yourself, I see no reason why someone of strong faith can't undergo a placebo sort of thing for something small. As for other people and stuff like cancer, if does seem a bit stupid. The phrase "keep them in our thoughts" is often used for others, so I guess it's meant to remind us of the people suffering and maybe later on they'll stay in our minds and we'll be able to help.

Public prayer is stupid. Group prayer is different to public prayer though. The passage in Matthew was about the people who stood on street corners and loudly prayed to show how holy they were. Group prayer is just a group experience. You're going to feel good when a group of people all enjoy themselves singing and chanting and what have you. It really creates a nice atmosphere, and one that's different to the personal reflective prayer.

yrogerg:
Err, whoops! What I meant to say, was:

Rawr! Prayer is lame! Theism is lame! I'm an transgressive and independent-minded free thinker who happens to uncritically parrot Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens at every opportunity!

I like you, you make me laff :3

I can understand prayer, as long as people realize that whatever help or relief you're gonna get will come from within, and not from some metaphysical being on a cloud. Very much like meditation, in that aspect.

I just play a few games of minesweeper and write in my diary for the same effect, however.

The idea of prayer, in my mind, is to make you feel closer to God or whomever you pray to, or as a form of meditation. Some people believe that prayer makes things happen, but not everyone who prays.

I like to use my time wise, like read the newspaper while taking a dump. But trying to pray to something that dosen't even exist is just wrong. The only prayer you should do is when you are flexing in the mirror after a shower ;) "closest to praying i get".

Do whatever you want. So long as you don't actually think it will heal your little girl of her treatable diabetes.

Yes. It happened.

Amnestic:

yrogerg:

You guys are both missing a great deal of the point of prayer, here. It's not just -or even mostly- about telling God what's on your mind- as you point out, omniscience implies that He already knows.

Rather, the main purpose of prayer is to align yourself with God's plan, to hear what He says to you, and to take it into your heart. This is why, in certain denominations -Quakers, for example- prayer explicitly takes the form of silent reflection, with people only rising to speak aloud when "the Spirit moves them".

And yes, this does nevertheless sometimes involve asking God for things, but not so much because God has to hear it, as because you do. You know that thing that happens, where something makes a certain sense when it's only in your head, but when you say it aloud, it has some totally different meaning to your ears and that of those around you? That sort of thing is what's at work, where a particular phrasing in a prayer or hymn may suddenly resonate with you in a way it hadn't before, and reveal a different perspective on whatever you were kicking around in your head.

Now, there's also intercessory prayer, which rather breaks this model, but the above is, at least as far as I've always understood it, the main basis of prayer.

Makes a degree of sense, though the whole group prayer thing still rubs wrong with me. Especially when it's a group prayer which is lead by someone. Each person has their own life, ideas, ideals and thoughts, and 'group prayer' has always struck me as...I don't want to say "indoctrinating" as it's too strong but it's like that. Coercive, perhaps. Rather than (to take what you said above) God aligning with you, it's you aligning with the group aligning with God. There's that extra step which is - again, unnecessary - and more than that, a bit intrusive.

As a practical matter, fellowship, i.e, group worship, is about reality-testing. Something may occur to you in prayer, but it might still be a good idea to bounce it off someone else. That's really it. Done properly, group-prayer is a great deal less about indoctrination, and a great deal more about not making a jackass of yourself, because of some conclusion that came to you during prayer. I daresay if there was an atheist/secularist equivalent, half the threads on the top page of forum would never have been started.

yrogerg:

Err, whoops! What I meant to say, was:

Rawr! Prayer is lame! Theism is lame! I'm an transgressive and independent-minded free thinker who happens to uncritically parrot Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens at every opportunity!

Not really what I was getting at :| There are very real and understandable issues with prayer at times (Pray the Gay Away, Prayer Healing - sometimes at the expense of actual medicinal treatment being just two of them) and the way I see it, it hardly requires getting together to align yourself to God, and your time could be better spent either a) helping people or b) enjoying life (or c) working towards one of the aforementioned things).

Right, that falls under what I described as "intercessory prayer". As I said, it breaks the paradigm I explained, somewhat, while evangelicals and charismatics certainly claim biblical basis for it, I would probably dispute them somewhat on that point. But, now, we've drifted pretty far afield from "all prayer is dumb" territory, as intercessory prayer is a rather specific subtype of prayer, and not one that all denominations strongly promote. At any rate, my snark was directed more generally at the way any religion topic gets treated here- the OP was rather clearly asking about perspectives on what prayer might mean within a theistic paradigm, so saying "hurr, prayer is pointless because theism is dumb" is even worse threadcrapping than I was engaging in, just now.

If Prayer is meant to establish a personal connection with God, the whole 'group' thing irks me so much so that I felt the need to reiterate it again. Hell, there's even a passage in...Matthew, I think, which is all about secluding yourself when praying and not doing it openly.

There's biblical basis for fellowship, as well, it's worth noting. Those commandments seem contradictory, but it's certainly possible to pray, amongst others, whilst still praying privately and not making grand, public displays of one's piety. There's a fine line, there, but one that Christians are expected to at least try to walk, all the same.

I don't pray. It's not that I don't believe, I just don't believe in an involved God who'll do anything about it. I do meditate, however. I use that ime to think of where I want to be going in life, how to get there, and what I can do to make it a fulfilling experience.

yrogerg:

Err, whoops! What I meant to say, was:

Rawr! Prayer is lame! Theism is lame! I'm an transgressive and independent-minded free thinker who happens to uncritically parrot Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens at every opportunity!

This is one of the best things I have ever read here. I think I'm in love with you :P

yrogerg:
[quote="Julianking93" post="528.185262.5605160"]Prayer is useless.
Err, whoops! What I meant to say, was:

Rawr! Prayer is lame! Theism is lame! I'm an transgressive and independent-minded free thinker who happens to uncritically parrot Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens at every opportunity!

This sums up about 70% of the angst teens in this section.

JimmerDunda:

This sums up about 70% of the angst teens in this section.

Well that's a fallacious statement if there ever was one.

But hey, feel free to generalise atheists on the aspects of a minority.

Funny how religious types are so quick to jump up when we lump people from their religion together, but are so eager to lump atheists - a group held together by...nothing - with one another. And by 'funny' I mean 'sad'.

But do you really want a counter-generalisation with the Catholic Priests, the WBC or the Rapture Ready folks? I mean, as I recall you're Catholic so at least one of those is applicable. Not really the best one either.

Still haven't read anything by Dawkins or Hitchens beyond the quotes that people put on this forum.

yrogerg:
You know that thing that happens, where something makes a certain sense when it's only in your head, but when you say it aloud, it has some totally different meaning to your ears and that of those around you? That sort of thing is what's at work, where a particular phrasing in a prayer or hymn may suddenly resonate with you in a way it hadn't before, and reveal a different perspective on whatever you were kicking around in your head.

No. I really don't.
Maybe this is because the obsessive/compulsive aspect of my personality brings with it a tendency to mull over things long after it ceases being useful. I've certainly noticed that others around me may mull some matters, but do not masticate them as I've been known to do. My psych professor says it's a feature of anxiety disorders.
Whatever the case, I often find myself taking that opportunity to try to see something from a different perspective, or to rethink my philosophical precepts. The only time I can come up with wherein I felt what I think you're describing, however, was when I was speaking to a simulacrum of a ghost. Many ghosts, in time. I became convinced I was a medium. Yet, in the fullness of time, I became certain that I was neither mad nor psychic; I was simply kidding myself.
It is not that I do not believe in the dead. It is that, on long reflection, I was only once or twice surprised by what these "ghosts" had to say.
No, come to think of it, I can think of times when I was truly astonished at what I was saying. The perspective, the words, everything. It was a roleplaying character, from when I was a notorious flirt in online roleplaying chatrooms. I had been playing this character for years, and always he had at least been a mental exercise, or someone through which I could channel wishes, dreams, or even just heroic fantasies.
On a few occasions, however, through him I would say something unexpected. The closest to this I can think of was when I was writing poetry, and the words seemed to fall together in rhythm and rhyme.
Roleplaying, poetry, and the quiet, childhood delusion that I was speaking to the dead.*
I'm not saying that's a fair description of your relationship with God. I can tell you that prayer doesn't seem to do a lot for me. Working magic doesn't, either. If I am to surprise myself, it is in dealing with the creative.
Jung might say this is because I was tapping things inside of me of which I was afraid, things repressed. I know this from reading Ursula K. LeGuin, who spoke of Jung's theories that the way to creativity must pass through the Shadow, and that one must confront and transcend the Shadow in order to reach such things.
Indeed, whether you believe such surprises await us because God exists and speaks with us, or because we repress so much in pursuit of normal living, the result would be the same.

Indeed, perhaps that's why you can't pray the gay away. "Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." (Wikipedia) Repressing more of yourself would not lead toward either a connection with a higher being, or with the seat of your own power. It would only make the shadow blacker.

Perhaps, no matter the source, that's what you're feeling.

* Look, I'm willing to entertain the notion that there are mediums, and even therefore that it is possible to speak to the dead. I'm saying it wasn't like that for me. My talents (or, for Christians, numina) are more in the precognitive vein if they exist at all.

Amnestic:

JimmerDunda:

This sums up about 70% of the angst teens in this section.

Well that's a fallacious statement if there ever was one.

But hey, feel free to generalise atheists on the aspects of a minority.

Funny how religious types are so quick to jump up when we lump people from their religion together, but are so eager to lump atheists - a group held together by...nothing - with one another. And by 'funny' I mean 'sad'.

But do you really want a counter-generalisation with the Catholic Priests, the WBC or the Rapture Ready folks? I mean, as I recall you're Catholic so at least one of those is applicable. Not really the best one either.

Still haven't read anything by Dawkins or Hitchens beyond the quotes that people put on this forum.

Someone is getting a little pissy about a joke are we?

Funny did I ever say "all atheists are angst teens?" No I was simply referring to angst teens who deny religion for the sole point of being edgy. If you are a respectable atheist who can hold a decent discussion without condeming Christians to be control freaks simply because of shit you hear on Fox news, than this shouldn't really affect you.

The fact you responded this as if it was directed towards you shows you were a bit insecure about this comment are we? Having life issues Amnestic?

JimmerDunda:
Having life issues Amnestic?

Just a bad day.

Amnestic:

JimmerDunda:
Having life issues Amnestic?

Just a bad day.

It's ok buddy. Play some armored core.

JimmerDunda:

Amnestic:

JimmerDunda:
Having life issues Amnestic?

Just a bad day.

It's ok buddy. Play some armored core.

Think I will.

I don't pray necessarily, but I do chant mantras from time to time as I mediate. Makes a good focus and it gives me something meditate upon. Though I would prolly get some looks if I did it in public >->

Lunar Shadow:
I don't pray necessarily, but I do chant mantras from time to time as I mediate. Makes a good focus and it gives me something meditate upon. Though I would prolly get some looks if I did it in public >->

O hai, it's our resident Bhuddist :D

What do you actually do when you meditate? Do you focus on something, or try to clear your mind of everything? If there are different types, please assume I'm talking about the most performed one.

teh_pwning_dude:

Lunar Shadow:
I don't pray necessarily, but I do chant mantras from time to time as I mediate. Makes a good focus and it gives me something meditate upon. Though I would prolly get some looks if I did it in public >->

O hai, it's our resident Bhuddist :D

What do you actually do when you meditate? Do you focus on something, or try to clear your mind of everything? If there are different types, please assume I'm talking about the most performed one.

There are various types of meditation, though I can't say alot on some of the higher forms since I am a lay person and I don't actually have anyone to ask for clarification. The two basic forms however are just to clear your mind, and another where you focus on something like a mantra or koan. The first is self -explanatory, the second is you have a mantra (something like "Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate bodhi svaha"= "Gone gone, gone beyond, forever gone beyond, enlightenment hail") and a koan (a teaching riddle meant to free the mind of constraints i.e. encourage and foster lateral thinking) and study every aspect of your focus to come to your own conclusion. (It's Buddhist btw)

As for what you do. The first you just sit, straight back unsupported, half lid your eyes, and just relax. You then (for beginner's) count your breath as you breath in and out. COunt to 10 then start over. If you have a random thought and lose focus on your breath, start over. Don't zone out, keep focused on your breath and let sensations/thoughts/stimuli br e percieved, but just let them flow and do not let your mind wander off with them. You seek stillness in motion. The mind is a butterfly on a flower, try to make the butterfly stay on the flower and it will fly off. Just observe the butterfly, if it leaves the flower it will return on it's own. The mantra part is just a step up, you clear your mind first and then focus on the mantra. Generally I will only do the first part, just as a way to destress and relax at the end of the day. I do the latter from time to time or when I have something happen to me that I need to reflect on.
Edit: There is a thread knocking about here called "Ask a Buddhist" that I made, post in that if you want to learn.

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