I was trying to think about what would make a good topic for a blog entry, and I decided to settle on something that was recently brought up again between myself and my sister. The topic of Prayer.
Many religions, believe that prayer is an integral part of connecting with God. You need to be able to talk to your God, to tell him/her/it/them what is bothering you and what you are grateful for. Many belief systems also include a specific wording to the prayers that should be spoken, whether the prayers themselves are written in a book, memorized, sung, chanted, and so on and so forth.
Research has been done to show that prayer even improves your mind in a number of different ways and that the mere act of focusing on one thing for a period of time can effect your mental and physical reality.
I, personally, think that this is wonderful, but when asked if I pray regularly, I'd have to say "no".
The reason that I do not pray lies in something my mother used to say to me when she saw someone reading from a prayer book. She'd say, "I just don't know if God really wants us to say the same thing, every day, without putting any real thought into it." In that instance, I think she may be right.
Now, I understand that religions do not want their believers to forget anything improtant when they are talking to their God, however, I feel that when you are saying the exact same thing, from the exact same book, in the exact same way, every day, it is too easy for your prayers to become rote.
I have seen it so many times. A person can be sitting on a bus, prayer book open, staring out the window, checking messages on their phone, all the while mumbling the words of their prayers. What is the point of this? They obviously know the words by heart- they don't even have to look at the book except to turn the page where appropriate. And if they are checking phone messages, and staring out the window at the world going by, are they really concentrating on their connection to God? Maybe, but somehow, I doubt it.
Think about it this way; When you are talking with your friends, family, co-workers, do you say the exact same things every time you see them? With the exception of co-workers (and hopefully not even then) I would assume you don't. One day you might talk about important facts of life, the next you might talk about your flower garden's new white picket fence. The point is to relay the details of something that is important to you.
Why can we not do the same with God? Wouldn't it make more sense to pray to God in our own words, to relay to Him/her/it/them what is happening in our lives? Wouldn't it make more sense to spend your time focused on your actual connection with God, than trying to get the words right and cover all your bases so that you can go on with your day?
If you do feel the need to pray out of a book, I have a suggestion for you;
Slow down, take the time to really think about the words you are saying. What do they mean individually? What do they mean in the context they are presented? How do they make you feel when you consider that you are saying them to your God? What kind of connection do they build between you and God?
I think that if you take the time to do this right, it will make your prayertimes a lot more meaningful.
Personally, I prefer meditation over prayer. I sit down, close my eyes, clear my mind and actually focus on what God is to me. I ask myself questions like, "How could God be everything and nothing at the same time?" and try to imagine it. Once I feel like I have made a connection with God (a term I use loosely for my belief system) I then tell it everything that I am experiencing, what I am grateful for, what I would like to experience...
This is the way I pray, and I don't do it every day, just when I feel the need to re-connect to my God.