I remember my beloved grandmother teaching me how to say my bedtime prayers when I was little. I liked saying them. They made me feel secure. And for many years, I felt that something was missing and incomplete if I forgot.
Perhaps a certain spiritual longing was always there. Because I also remember relishing the opportunity to go to church with a very religious friend, during my adolescent years.
But then, as a college student — especially as a philosophy student — I encountered all of the arguments against God and later even lectured on Aquinas’ notoriously flawed five proofs for the existence of God, in my own classes. I pointed out all of the irrefutable logical fallacies in those five proofs, to my own students.
During those years, I wondered about the absurdity of it all. God, that is. And by extension, the whole idea of praying to a God. In my logically trained young mind, I wondered about the idea of a God that would proceed with his plans for annihilation and devastation, only to suddenly cancel them at the request of a petitioner. After all, I reasoned, that’s why people pray, to convince God to alter some undesirable course of events. I wondered about the idea that he might change his mind so whimsically.
But then one day, I realized how differently things can look when you flip them around. One day, I flipped around my own viewpoint about it all. Or, it was flipped around for me.
I came to see that God is within, not without.
Additionally, praying isn’t about loving a God out there, somewhere. And changing the course of events is secondary to the understanding of prayer as connection, rather than petition. It is about connecting with that which may be called, infinity, for there is no adequate way to convey the sense of going beyond the confines of what you thought of as your finite self. (Nor is there any adequate way to convey that which is beyond the confines of reason.)
And it isn’t about fear, as in the idea of fearing God, for, there’s no room for fear where divinity lives.
And about the business of changing some course of events; coming to divine consciousness – becoming conscious of our own divine nature – reveals our role in creating that very shift we seek. And that makes it nonetheless incredible, but all the more awe-inspiring and wonderful.
As Zen says, “you create your own universe.” And as Yoga says, “you control the universal consciousness.”
But alas, it isn’t really about personal pleas, petitions and procurement, at all. It is really just the personal expression of gratitude and completeness. Praying, that is. For no other purpose. Like a flower reaching up toward the light, leaning over permanently to one side with time, devotion expresses this feeling of affection and longing, but with no object of desire.