Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why Prayer Matters

Because we are frail beings in an incredibly violent universe, subject to huge forces we barely understand, we really need to appeal to the Creator of All. Our existence is a miracle, and may end at any moment. Life is short, and eternity is long.

When we pray we're stepping up and making ourselves available to God, to be used as needed in this chaotic battlefield of a world. When we do this we become a light shining in the pitch black darkness; for that is how this world appears to God and the good angels.

Forgiveness is an important first step, and the key to effective prayer. "When you stand in prayer, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your Father in heaven may in turn forgive you your transgressions." - Jesus, Mark 11:25.  This can be painful, and it's why so few people pray seriously.  Grudges are a temptation when we're hurting. But we can't have peace of mind while we're stewing in resentment. Try saying to God, "Your will be done" with the injustice you've suffered. It gets a lot easier with practice.

It's an excellent idea to ask yourself if you have a grudge against God for not answering previous prayers, or allowing you to suffer in what seems to be a very unfair way. This author certainly feels that. A virtuous, dedicated, and pious life won't earn us a pass from suffering. On the contrary, people may envy us or hate us for our love of God. We will certainly become targets to some degree for some people, and we can be martyred for our love of God. This is made very clear in the New Testament.

As hard as it may be, start your prayer by thanking God for all the good things in your life. There must be some blessings in even the worst life. Then think of all those people who have a worse time of it than you do. Ask for guidance and light. Trust that you're being heard.

If we volunteer for long enough, and make ourselves a reliable partner with God, we become like a lighthouse on solid rock, above the raging and chaotic sea. A beacon of light and comfort to those who are storm-tossed and in danger; for the shipwrecked souls who are clinging by their fingernails to the flotsam of destroyed lives and dreams.  

Helping others is a powerful tonic for our self healing. Giving help and solace is often easier than isolating oneself, and the good feelings that result can lift our mood amazingly; giving great meaning to our lives. There is justice in the universe, and God judges and punishes, but often not in a way we can know about. It's natural to want justice, but mercy may be far more beneficial to us. We may have forgotten the many hurts and wrongs that we've perpetrated, and in a perfectly just universe we might find ourselves condemned. So ask for mercy and forgiveness first, before praying for punishment of the wicked. 
There is a kind of Zen to Christianity that enriches our understanding of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The way to Salvation comes from working and trying without actually working and trying, ultimately. Heaven comes to us when we allow and trust Christ to work in us: