I no longer pray.
At least, not in the traditional sense that people have of prayer — of verbally talking to a god, whether to ask for something or to praise or adore. Being brought up in a Christian background, I was taught that prayer is powerful and that it can move mountains. I read about great men of prayer who would spend hours on their knees each day. I learned to pray for great things and small things, for healing a relative from disease to asking for an Atari game console (my generation’s equivalent of today’s Xbox or Playstation).
Over time, I’ve had a few of my prayers were answered but many more went unanswered, and I began to ask questions. But then I was told that I had to pray “by faith”, and that prayer had to be “according to God’s will”. And then I thought, well, if it’s God’s will, why should I pray about it then? It’s going to happen anyway because, I mean, who can thwart God’s will, right? But still I was told to continue praying because God loves it when we come to him and ask in prayer.
And for a long while I just accepted that.
But then I thought, why would God want me to keep asking him for things that aren’t his will (which I only have a vague idea about)? I mean, what if I had a relative who was dying of brain cancer. And so I pray for healing. But then it is actually God’s will for this relative to pass on. Will he now change his will (as they say, his “good and perfect” will) just to give in to my request? That would seem silly, especially since his will is already perfect. So why bother praying? Because he just wants me to ask? He wants me to keep looking and feeling like an idiot? He wants me to keep making excuses for him about why my prayer isn’t being answered?
This made me shift my attitude towards prayer, and to life. Instead of looking at life as a constant struggle between good and evil, for which I have to keep battling by praying for the good forces to win, I have come to accept life as it comes.
Everything is good, even if it doesn’t feel good at that time. The universe gives us what we need from moment to moment, and the way to live is to be grateful for each moment. Prayer is not a ritual, not a grocery list of petitions, nor fancy-sounding words of praise. The best prayer is not made with words, but in living life head-on, without regrets, always learning, always thankful.
I live — and that is all the prayer I need.