Why and How Prayer Works

6 03 2010

I have said many times, in the course of this very young blog, that prayer works.  Furthermore, I have asserted that chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo works.  I will go further and assert that affirmations work, that repeating a sentence 10 times in the shower every morning, like “I will have a good day today” works, that writing on a piece of paper 100 times everyday “I will get the job of my dreams” works, and that everyone from Mary Baker Eddy to Louise Hay are onto something when they say that the fervent application of prayer or affirmation can heal you.  This is NOT to say that you should stop taking your meds or refuse medical advice if you are ill.  Very clearly, allow me to say that the physical sciences, including medicine, biology, chemistry and phyics should not be ignored.  But neither should the metaphysical.

Let’s start with some definitions.  In this wide and wonderful universe, there is matter, there is energy and there is space, and that particular trinity makes up the whole of the physical universe.  There is nothing else there.  And, by its very existence, matter exerts force on its surroundings: in the physical universe, every piece of matter exerts a force on every other piece of matter. 

However, if we live as if that is all there is, simply because that is all that science that show us exists, we lose our humanity.  Because, indeed, quite a lot exists outside the physical realm of the universe.  This includes life, information, and emotions.  And it includes belief, faith and grace.  Where is the science when a mother looks into her baby son’s eyes and feels love?  Where is the science when you see a person who has fallen upon hard times and feel pity?  What “use” is there in laughter, in joy, or in sorrow? 

Every single emotion that you feel that makes you human is dismissed by a culture which simply wants to see science, where every human is a very finely crafted machine, which can be fixed when broken, for the right price; but says to the unfortunate, “you are a burden”.  This is a zero sum view of the world where the more one has, the less another does, and if one has very little, it is better to forfeit all so that those with more can have yet more; as if there was finite bread in the world and better the weak forfeit their crumbs so the strong can survive… better that some should live than all should die.

In fact, the physical world and the metaphysical world are interwoven, and everything exerts its influence on every other thing.  Prayer works because the metaphysical exerts an influence on the physical.

As in the physical universe, the metaphysical universe has a concept of gravity as well.  Your “gravitational force” is strongest on the people around you, the people you influence most, and if your personality is “big”, it exerts a stronger force than those people whose personality is “small”; but, even the least amongst us has a gravitational force on even the greatest or those at the farthest distance.  And, so if you pray for someone close at hand, or whom you know well, that prayer is stronger than if you pray for someone you don’t know at all, or whom you have not seen in many years.

Still, while the gravitational forces are similar in nature, they have no concept of size.  So, when a little baby laughs, his mother feels joy.  The strength of the bond has no bearing on the size of the parties involved or in the length of their relationship. 

In the metaphysical world, there is no zero sum game.  When that little baby laughed and his mother’s heart swelled with gladness, no one suffered.  Her joy did not mandate someone else’s sorrow.  When people are glad, we all benefit, and  when they suffer, we are all lessened.  The metaphysical world is not a tug of war with winners and losers, rather it is like a room that we are trying to keep warm and comfortable, and the best thing we can do if we all want to stay warm is to plug the holes where the cold comes in.

Let us look, now, at prayer.  There are only so many ways that we can pray: meditation, recitation, contemplation, repetition, and by physical acts.  These physical acts can range drastically from singing songs in glory of the Supernatural to sacrifice, which, in turn can be physical in nature (sacrificing a goat) or metaphysical in nature (deprivation of something which we desire), or some combination thereof (mortification of the flesh thereby causing pain, fear and distress).  But what you are doing when you pray is exerting your energy to a greater or lesser degree, according to your own fervency, and you are putting that energy into the universal whole.  You are literally building a universal energy corresponding to your own prayer.  This energy can be directed to aid the cause you are praying for, or it can be undirected and simply be put into the universe, to plug the universal holes, as it were; to make the universe a better place for everyone. 

If your energy is directed, and the cause you are praying for only needs a little oomph to succeed, then you may very well have provided that oomph, and, poof!, your prayer has been answered.  If many many people simultaneously pray for a single directed result, say, world peace, which requires far more than a little oomph, still that energy is sitting out there aiding that cause.  And, because energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in form, it sits on that cosmic scale until it provides the difference between success and failure.  And if energy alone will never be enough to provide the difference between success and failure, the prayer will go unanswered, as so many have before it.  If you pray every night that you will never die, that prayer will never succeed, because the physics of the universe are stacked against you.  In these cases, it doesn’t matter how hard you pray, your prayer will never be answered.

But the success or failure of a particular prayer does not mean that the act of prayer itself is worthless.  Indeed, what you are doing when you pray is providing a little extra energy in the universe to help make your life, or the life of someone you know, of the universe as a whole, just a little better.  And, a stone, no matter how small, cast into a sea, no matter how vast, still causes a ripple.  That ripple is the equal and opposite reaction to the prayer that you have put forth.

I love it when Religionists assert that if you believe in prayer, you must acknowledge the existence of the God to which you are praying, as if the success of the prayer is proof of God’s existence, and ignoring the myriad of prayers that are never answered.  But even if they are right, are we to think so poorly of God that he revels in being told how wonderful He is that He would create a universe so vast simply to hear songs in praise of Him?  That He would allow terrible sueffering just to see who would pray to Him and who would not?  No.  If God is all-knowing and all-powerful and the Source of all love, He would not need to see who prays and who does not, because He would *know*; and he would certainly not withhold the answers of prayers from those who need it most.  Indeed, if you believe in a great and powerful and loving God, you do so in spite of prayers going unanswered rather than because of prayers being answered.

Rather, I say, that prayer is like throwing a tennis ball at a wall.  If the wall is close, and the ball is thrown with sufficient strength, it will come back to you.  But the act of prayer itself is the act of strengthening hope in the universe; and the act of praying, whether or not your prayers are ever answered, is never a waste.




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