PBP 29 P is for Prayer. EDIT: Okay, PBP is acutely on O, sorry I’m clearly out of the loop. Anyway, I’m leaving this here. Will have a regularly scheduled O post next week hopefully. I’m not sure what’s up with the PBP website, or why my last PBP entry was removed from the line up. I’ve given it some thought and I challenged myself to blog regularly so I’m still “in.” I don’t like to cause problems or anything but well, this is my blog and I can do run it however I please. Fridays will be PBP day and I will try to keep on schedule. I also may makeup my missing L and N posts when I feel I have the time and inspiration.
Prayer is usually thought of as a Christian or generally Abrahamic thing, but as a Pagan I pray too. Most of the time, I have little difference in the act of praying than most Christians only I wouldn’t say “amen” and obviously I would not use a prayer that’s specifically Christian. I pray to different gods for much the same reasons Christians who talk about the “power of prayer” pray to their god: to manifest things in my life, for spiritual discipline, to remind myself to be spiritual daily, as a daily practice, when I need help, for direction, for forgiveness, etc. There are a ton of reasons to pray. It’s true, that as Pagans I think we have more leeway in possible acceptable practices that do fall outside of what I would consider “prayer.” For example, if I need direction, my first instinct is not necessarily to pray but more likely I’ll go to a divination method (usually tarot). To be spiritual daily I do yoga because I like to multitask; until I started this Couch to 5K thing I needed to remind myself to be active daily. I don’t pray for spiritual discipline, but more I think prayer can be a form of spiritual discipline. I do other things for this like light candles, keep altars, etc. Now, I have all of these other outlets and there’s no reason a Christian, Muslim, or Jewish person could not do the same thing in all instances, but prayer in the literature seems to fill these kinds of things.
For me, as a Pagan with a multitude of solitary spiritual practices available to me for my spiritual fulfillment and “right” worship of my gods, prayer is personal. To me, praying is a kind of direct communication to a deity, archetype, or other spiritual being. I only pray to those beings I have an established relationship, except for in extreme circumstances. I pray mostly to Dionysos, Hecate, and Aphrodite. They are the deities I have on my contacts list, I don’t feel like it’s inappropriate for me to ask them directly for help with issues in my life. Now, sometimes they answer (Hecate more often these days) and sometimes they don’t. I get it, sometimes part of your lesson is to learn how to do it “on your own.” I sometimes still pray to Jesus – I still think he is a worthy spiritual figure though I am not Christian. I especially pray to Jesus, Mary, or Mary Magdalen when I am offering prayers for my Christian friends because I feel like if I am asking for healing for them, the deities we share a relationship with would be the *best* place to bring that energy. Not that my gods wouldn’t help someone I love, but more like why I am asking one of my friends to help someone when we have a mutual friend?
In my practice, prayer is not ritualized it’s just something I “do.” Sometimes prayer is followed by offerings of candles, incense, or other offerings but most likely not. Daily devotionals are something I would like to work up to but I think for me it would be a good goal simply to practice weekly devotionals on Fridays (I seem to have chosen deities that favor Fridays). Devotionals are for “worship” time though, time to honor my deities and thank them for helping me and blessing me with many things; prayer, is more like a conversation. Sometimes prayers are one-sided “Jesus, please help my high school teacher survive her cancer treatments.” Sometimes prayers are conversational: “Hecate, please help me find my way – I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.” The first prayer example doesn’t need any kind of response, at least not to me. The second prayer would open an invitation for communication back to you. The same as if you sent an e-mail or left a voicemail. Prayer can be used to thank deities, but mostly I use offerings for that. I have got interesting responses lately. As a Pagan, that’s my perspective on praying: it’s one of many tools we have to communicate with gods, but it’s also a very intimate form of communication best used for gods who you already have, or wish to establish, a relationship with.
However useful on a personal and spiritual level I think prayer can be, I have to end this entry with a little disclaimer. Just because prayer is helpful to keep on focused, connected to your unconscious or a deity, whatever, does not mean that prayer is some supernatural phenomena. I don’t think prayer alone has the power to heal anyone, and it certainly should not be used in this way. I think prayer can be helpful and “praying” for people in times of need is helpful – because it sends them extra “love” and positive energy, but that won’t make cancer go away or ease pain. So, you know, prayer is a nice feel good practice, but it’s not medicine, it’s not a substitute for having a job, or doing things in the real world. It does however make those things easier.