If asked if I believe then I would say yes, I do believe in something. I believe there is something out there. Maybe it’s just energy. Maybe what I believe in is a balance to the unbalanced life we live. Maybe it’s just a need to have something on my side, or maybe this is me talking to myself, which is something that I do often. But again, if asked do I believe in prayers then my answer is yes, I do believe in the power of prayer. This is not so much about my belief in God or the lack thereof. It is not even about religion, let alone an organized religion, or about a man or woman who stands on an altar or at a podium and tells me what to say or how and when.
I have friends that do not believe in God whatsoever. They are devout atheists so out of respect for their beliefs, I never tell them about mine. I never argue with them about the existence of God nor do I try to defend my beliefs in something, which they see as wasteful. However, what is wasteful to them is not wasteful to me. It is not wasteful for me to pray or believe in the power of asking for something out loud. I do not see this as wasteful at all. No not in any way whatsoever.
Instead, I see this as me. I see this as my need to open up to the Universe. I see this as me, putting my thoughts into words and asking for something, which transfers energy and allows me to move to a better level of awareness. Even if no one is listening, I put the words out into the atmosphere. I put the energy out there, which to me is far from wasteful. As I see it, this only sharpens my mind.
I see my prayers as actions. I see this as me verbalizing my thoughts to sharpen my focus and open my eyes to something that might have been right in front of me. I see my prayers as a way to keep me aware of opportunities. This is not about my belief system or anyone else’s for that matter. In fact, prayer has less to do with faith and more to do with a voice from the heart.
I firmly believe that if I cannot see what I want or verbalize what I need then I will only wander around, somewhat aimlessly. I need to know what I am asking for. I need to know what my heart desires, which is how I view my prayers. And sure, I’ve prayed for selfish things. I’ve prayed for friends and for loved ones. I’ve prayed for kids and I’ve prayed for adults. I’ve prayed for the sick and asked whomever was listening, “Please just let them live.” I’ve said these prayers, to which the answer has often been “No.”
I do not think that my prayers change fate. I do not think my prayer can change what is destined to happen. No, this is too far out of my control. However, I do believe that the power behind my prayer is something that teaches me to look at life from different perspectives. I believe that my prayer, if anything, is a conversation with the heightened version of my personal spirit. I know who God is. I know God on a personal level. And no, God is not a photograph or painting of an assumed figure.
I have friends that tell me there is no truth that God actually exists. I suppose they are right from their point of view. Then again, I suppose my version of God, or the God that I understand, is much different than the bible stories of say, Noah and his ark. My version of prayer and my relationship with God to me is quite different from the notes on the beginning of time. I am far beyond The Garden of Eden or the apple and the serpent. I see this as metaphors for the truth behind temptation and the revelation of understanding.
As I see it, there are certain powers that man and woman should never understand; hence, they become drunk with them. There are certain revelations that we could certainly live without. However, once we see them and once we experience the pleasure of something which is so-called forbidden it is nearly impossible to unsee what we have seen. Greed, lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, wrath and envy are all part of our nature. It is impossible to erase experience. And sometimes, I see our experience as the devil or better yet, I see our experience as the fight between good and evil. I see us all as individuals that face both angels and demons. I see us all as individuals that face apocalyptic challenges of the prophetic battles between good and evil within ourselves. I see this as the battle within us and that by nature, it is natural to think on the behalf of either good and wholesomeness or selfishness and greed.
What is my prayer?
Please just let me feel a little better today. Let me be a little better than I was yesterday. Let me stand up when I feel like all I can do is fall down. Let me try. Let me fight back. Give me the strength to do the things that will align me with my hopes and dreams.
And what does this do for me?
This opens my eyes and reminds me that I have a purpose. And no, I do not know if there is anyone listening, which is fine. I do not know if the answer I’m looking to find is an all-out and simple “No.” And that’s fine. As I see it, the fact that I ask to be good means I have the desire to be good. The fact that I have the desire to improve means that I will look to improve. And the fact that I can ask for these things, even if my thoughts are only in my head or even if my prayers leave my mouth and become wasted vapor, that’s fine because this means there is truth in me. It’s okay if my prayers go unanswered or at least seem to be.
This is fine because this is me, pivoting, switching, and changing positions until I find the answer I am looking for. To me, the power of prayer works because prayer is an action. Prayer is personal motivation. This is the true internal dialogue, which comes straight from the heart. My mantra, my thoughts and my prayers are my business. So yes, if asked if I pray then my answer is absolutely.
Sometimes my prayer is to make sense of things that will never make sense and never be natural to me. Sometimes I pray because I will never understand why good things happen to bad people. I will never understand why bad things happen to great people. And I will never understand why great people are taken from us so quickly. Then again, intellectually, I understand that this is life. Life has no laws to follow. We can go at any time. Fate is not always friendly and neither is destiny (if there is such a thing).
All I know is that sometimes I need something to believe in. Sometimes it is good to feel the warmth of something so pure. And sometimes the contrast of purity can sting.
Back in 1990, there was a cold morning I spent in a church one Saturday during the month of late January. Outside was as cold as could be. Inside, the heat was not on so the old Church was cold as well. I could hear the sound of the wind snapping and whistling. The sun was out and the sky was a bright blue with no clouds to interrupt the heavens. The sun was glowing like a yellow orb, bright as ever, except it was vacant of heat.
I was alone in this church and sitting in the back pew. My job was to clean the church, which I did, and I was waiting for my ride to come and get me. There was a large crucifix at the front of the room above the altar with Jesus, pinned to the cross. His head slumped down. A crown of thorns dug into his forehead. There was a sign on the cross INRI which stood for “IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM” which means, “Jesus the Nazarene. King of the Jews.”
No matter where I went in the room, it felt as if Jesus was looking at me. I felt uncomfortable. I felt exposed as if something could see into the truth of my heart, which at the time was otherwise heartless. I was broken and sick. Angry and hateful, I saw no use for God.
It is said that the demons feared the light because the light exposed the darkness of their deeds. It is said that the Devil too knows that God exists and still he trembles. I suppose this means something different to me. I suppose this meaning and moments like this when I was faced with my own ugliness were moments of light, which I ran from because I was afraid to be exposed by the truth of my life.
I was young at the time. I was facing the legal consequences of my behavior. I was paying for what I owed and hateful at best. I knew what I was doing. And the truth is I knew why. I knew about the hate in my heart and where this came from. I also knew that what I was doing was wrong.
I was told to pray about this. I was told to ask God for forgiveness and then it came to me. We are all godlike in the sense that only we can truly pardon ourselves, that none of us are without sin, no one is without pain or regret, and no one can claim to be so virtuous. Even if God were to forgive us all, what would this mean if we never learned to forgive ourselves?
And as for forgiveness, my answer is yes, I’ve prayed for forgiveness. I’ve asked for forgiveness for my repeat offenses. Sometimes I’ve asked to heal my guilt. Sometimes I truly have sorrow for my sins. And sometimes, I talk to myself about this because I know the truth behind my works.
I was told to pray for improvement. I was told to pray for change. I was told to pray for all that I want and all that I have because all of this can be given or taken away at any moment.
I was told about prayer but if asked, my answer is no, prayer does not change all. It even says so in the Bible. It says “Faith without work is dead” because what good is it to believe in something and not do anything about it. What is my faith if I do not put the work into my life. What is change if I do not take the steps to change? I used to look for miracles. I used to doubt their existence. Then again, I never did anything to perpetuate them either and in fact, I never saw myself as miraculous.
To be honest, my belief system is personal to me. So it doesn’t matter what people say or do, think or believe. I don’t know if prayer is nothing more than a coping system but even if it is – then fine. Let this be my coping system because to be honest, I have my share of apocalyptic and prophetic thoughts too.
Like now, for example. I write this because there are things going on in the background. There are people dying from a virus. The world is in trouble. And I don’t blame God for this or the absence thereof. I don’t blame anyone. Besides my prayers have nothing to do with blame.
I’m just a man. Faults and all. I suppose this is why I pray most because sometimes the beasts in me come out. And sometimes my angels fend them off. Sometimes I win. Other times, not so much. I just don’t want to lose more battles this way. I just want peace. So I pray.
I look for the opportunities and whenever possible, I take a shot and hope the good in me wins to outweigh the bad.
I’m only human. But sometimes . . .
being human is a pretty good thing to be.