What are we doing when we pray? Are we trying to motivate a being called ‘God’ into action? Does this God only heal the terminally ill only if there is sufficient prayer volume to justify it?
I’m quite sure that most people do not believe G-O-D needs a prod in order to act, assuming of course, that G-O-D acts at all in our world except through people. Therein lies the one reason for prayer: to motivate people into action to follow the will of G-O-D; to be the hands of G-O-D in remodelling the earth.
Individual prayer is really self-examination. We ponder our inner depths in order to discover our compassion and expose the barriers to exercising compassion. The ultimate goal is to seek the good of others, even at the expense of ourselves. We give thanks and praise for that which helps us in this goal, we offer confession for our lack of progress toward it and promise to renew our efforts, and our prayers for others help us identify the specific tasks for which we have responsibility as servants of G-O-D.
A mystical understanding of reality offers a theory of how prayers could be answered. Some, including great minds such as Albert Einstein and Carl Jung, believed that we are not individuals; rather all aspects of creation, including people, are interconnected in a web of life. What happens in one life has repercussions in all other lives. When one life is changed, all lives are changed. It follows that if one person’s prayer has the effect of changing this person’s life, it will change other lives, even if minimally. If many people pray in the same way, and many lives are changed, there will be an even greater effect on other lives.
Here is an example of how not to use prayer, taken from Upworth.com The people from the evangelical church in this instance use ‘prayer’ as a weapon, and the tables are gently turned on them by the author. One hopes that the people involved will go home and, through the use of real prayer, will discover how God wants them to grow.