Why do you pray? That’s a tough and touchy question. No doubt it is also a very personal one. People pray for all kinds of reasons. For some it is a sense of devotion or responsibility, and there is nothing wrong with that. Others pray because they need something: healing, peace of mind, forgiveness . . . insert human need here. Again there is nothing wrong with that. Still others may pray because it gives them a spiritual high or it makes them feel close to God. There are probably a lot of us that have experienced something similar to this. But is this reason enough to pray?
I must confess that I have been thinking a lot about this question of why pray. We throw around the concept of prayer so lightly sometimes. I know I get bombarded by prayer requests, but not just from parishioners who have legitimate needs and concerns. My inbox is often filled with all kinds of forwarded requests from folks I don’t know. Facebook is the newest form of prayer sharing. My news feed is often filled with shared prayer requests from people that I never would have thought to be people of faith. We often say we will pray for someone, which is again not a bad thing in itself. But is that the only reason we pray?
Maybe the more important question is what does why we pray say about God? Is God some divine wish granter who gives us everything we ask for? Or is everything so pre-ordained by the all powerful deity that our prayers do little more than to make us feel good about ourselves? I must admit I have no definitive answers, and confess that these questions cause me to lose sleep if not faith. Why pray?
The other night at our latest visit in our Sacred Space Odyssey we were given a wonderful presentation on Sikh spirituality by a woman at the local Gurdwara. It was a very personal and powerful talk, filled with emotion that any revivalist preacher would be proud of. When she finished I asked her the question: why do Sikhs pray? She paused for only a second and then gave me an admittedly personal, but no less poignant answer. In essence she said prayer is something we keep doing until we figure out what it is we’re supposed to be doing. Let that sink in for a while.
Maybe I’ve been fretting over the wrong question. Perhaps why we pray is not that important or maybe prayer is the reason why we pray. Prayer is a process, or journey. In the great in between of unknowing and knowing, we pray. We are not promised all of the answers in this life so maybe prayer is not a bad response. So until we get it all figured out, let us pray!