Mar. 1st, 2010

lotusbiosm: (god bless)
And now that things have calmed down a bit (last couple of weeks have been taken up by chaos of helping friends move), here's the first Lenten entry. I'll try to get caught up by the end of the week.

The sermon I listened to was The Purpose of Prayer by Rev. Lyngood (link goes to mp3 of sermon).

I'm going to start by quoting Dawson's Creek, because I'm a dork. There's an episode where Jen (played by Michelle Williams), is talking to her grandmother, who's a devout Christian, and they're talking about prayer, and Jen's questioning if prayer actually changes God. Her Gran's answer is "prayer doesn't change God. It changes me."

So, being a good Unitarian Universalist, my faith has a certain level of scepticism to it. But I am of the opinion that the objective truth of one's faith is less important than the effect that said faith as on a person's life. If being a Christian makes you feed the hungry and visit the lonely and sleep peacefully at night, you should be a Christian. If it makes you start Crusades against the infidels, not so much.

And likewise, while we certainly hope that someone is listening and will grant our petitions, frequently the purpose of prayer is what it does to the pray-er. It can be grounding, meditative, relaxing, calming, etc. Prayers of thanksgiving help cultivate a grateful heart, which makes you see opportunity and blessing everywhere, and generally creates a happier outlook on life. Prayers for friends and family and yourself can help you sort out what it is that you're worried about, where your concerns are. When we feel helpless, prayer gives us something active to do. My grandmother can't get me a job or keep me safe, but she can pray for me, and it makes her feel better to do so. When we feel weak, prayer can make us strong. And does it matter if that strength comes from our own inner resolve or from a higher power? I also find that repetitive prayer can be very calming and soothing. Repeating well-known words over and over helps calm my mind down. I do it when I don't feel well, I do it when I can't sleep. I sing hymns to myself or say the Hail Mary or the Our Father, and it helps. And yeah, a folk song or a poem would probably do the same thing (I've recited "The Walrus and the Carpenter" to myself when I needed a distraction too), but there's something about saying a prayer that's got a little extra kick.

In this sermon, Rev. Lynngood also talks about how UUs often get caught up with not knowing to whom they should pray. There's a joke that UUs pray "to whom it may concern." Which I have actually done. I don't believe that I have the knowledge or wisdom to know for sure which gods do or don't exist or all of their names, and sometimes you just need help from whatever quarter it may come from. If it serves Loki's purpose to help me out of a jam (and said help comes without strings, which with tricksters it generally doesn't), I'm not going to turn it down. There are names I know better, but I've also read too many fairy tales to not suspect that there may be listeners I don't know. Of course, I also function with the belief that ultimately all gods are just different manifestations of the same divine force, so it really doesn't matter what name we call it. One of my favorite invocations is the one Neil Gaiman uses in Blueberry Girl: Ladies of light, ladies of darkness, and ladies of never-you-mind. I will also sometimes add in the one common in Catholic Mass that calls upon the Blessed Virgin and all the saints and angels.

But ultimately, again, I think it matters less who you're praying to and more who and what you're praying for, and what that does to you.

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November 2012

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