The other day I posed a question – Do you pray? And if you do, do you view praying as a religious experience.
I wasn’t surprised to find how the introduction of the word ‘religious’ caused quite a riot and stirred quite a few disdained replies. Associating almost anything these days with a religious connotation, whether it may be a religious practice, a religious tradition or faith seems to be looked upon with dismay. We, almost, as a collective, dismiss and stay away from what the term, concept and practice of religion has brought upon us. We fear indoctrination, violence in the name of unseen forces, harsh rules or in other words – oppression.
Religion, it seems, belongs in the past. To an era when our understanding of our selves, of the nature of reality was limited. We had fewer answers, life was more mysterious and so, out of feeling small and somewhat insecure, many believe we have invented God or gods to sooth our fears and make us feel we are, after all, not alone.
The proclamation that ‘God is Dead’ wasn’t coming only from Nietzsche. It was prevalent and became more and more common among free thinkers, philosophers and those exploring the nature of life. It seemed almost ridiculous to consider having an all powerful, all knowing, all present – yet unseen, parent figure in the sky, keeping score and awarding the righteous or punishing the wicked.
With the development of science and technology, we became connected and conscious of each other. News traveled quickly through out the earth and was no longer reliant upon traveling merchants or storytellers. Photography was invented, phones and television, and of course, a little later, the Internet. As a specie, we became more globally aware. Knowledge of the commonality of disaster became our daily reality and has become as accessible as lifting your hand and looking at your own phone.
On one hand, we got to marvel at ourselves. Witness our rapid growth, our powers of invention, technology and art. Incredible advancements in literally every field, from agriculture to satellite communication, from fast flying jets to laser printing human organs. We seem to have surpassed any dream or idea we had of ourselves.
We, in a way, became or at least seem to becoming god-like. We architect and design our own reality. We philosophize and ponder quantum physics and have solid theories as to the nature of the universe.
We know more than we ever did. And yet, all that we ask is leading to further questions. All we discover is leaving us more puzzled and confused. We might no longer look at the stars for answers, but we haven’t theorized, realized nor found a single answer that quenches the human thirst for love, fulfillment and belonging.
The truth is that our minds, our logic, our technology give us comfort, prolong our lives, and in theory make our world a better place, but it does not explain the mystery of who, how, what and why we are. We might think we are closer to finding answers, but if you feel into these questions, and truly observe the nature of your soul, you know, deep down, that you really don’t know.
At least at a certain moment in your life you have felt a void. A sense of aloneness, separation. You’ve felt heart broken and empty. We all did and all do. We usually replace that feeling with an action. We – do – something about it. We feel too uncomfortable to stay within that void. If we can’t find a passion that will drive us, we’ll have to medicate, drug ourselves, eat to comfort and avoid, sometimes at any cost feeling lost.
Religion might fill that void, but it would be no different than medication, food or other actionable items on a to-do list. Praying to unseen forces to lift our fears and pain might give us hope but deep down, for most of us, the fear, the separation still persists.
But what if… just if… prayer was a form of expression that comes from an overflowing heart. Not out of emptiness, but out of profound fullness. From being so immensely grateful that the sense of self becomes too small. That when you look out the window, you feel, you know, the sun is smiling at you; the trees are dancing with your every breath. Religion in its original Latin root means re-ligari – reconnect. A sense of separation that allows you to feel connected to life. A type of unity that celebrates a harmonious balance between the one and the other.
Prayer, like the sense of gratitude, allows us to feel separate. Prayer allows us to feel small. But that feeling… is a beautiful thing. It brings about a knowing that you are a part of such a magnificent symphony. That no matter how advanced we will be, you, I, we… will never know. We pray to the infinite mystery that is within us and within every being, every creature, and every thing.
You might dislike or fear using the word god, with or without a capital G. That question, revolving the existence of an all-powerful being, conscious and aware of our reality is actually meaningless for a passionate prayerful heart. In the same way that we are “programmed” or “made” or “created” to have emotions such as fear, happiness and even anger, the human heart was made to have a place for the sense of devotion.
Living through life without knowing devotion, is like living without love. It becomes dull, mundane. Having all the answers will never fill your heart with joy. Surrendering to the mystery… will. Marveling at how much you’ll never know, being inspired to live within the unknown, that… will inspire an overflowing heart. Admiring the way life conspires on your behalf will fill you with an immense sense of gratitude.
And so… I propose a new form of prayer. The ‘Sacrilegious Prayer’. It’s not sacrilegious out of disrespect nor does it involve blasphemy or blame. It just doesn’t revolve around any specific deity, figure or even a sense of self. It is the sound of a bubbling brook. The shimmer of a dewdrop with the morning sun. A song of unknowing and an oceanic mystery. A reminder of the beauty of our fragile existence and how interdependent this whole universe truly is.
If you choose to stay clear of religion, I respect your choice, I deeply do. But please go on praying. Become a sacrilegious prayer. Live in awe and embrace this enigma we call life. Live with a prayerful heart so you’ll beckon others to shine from within. Your prayers shape reality. Your overflow fills the space between us. Your bursting heart changes life and brings forth change.
With all of my heart I pray for you. With all of who I am becoming, I pray and pray often. I let my soul spill into my actions. My heart into my words. I pray for our fragility, for our perfect imperfections. I pray to keep unknowing and to always marvel at an unfolding truth. I pray for you my friend, will you… pray for me?