Well isn’t that the way it is sometimes – you reach out to the universe &…nothing. Not even an answering machine. No chirpy message, “Hi there, this is God, sorry I’m not in at the moment but I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m able.” Nope, just the big unfathomable Void.
(But at least this time the blogcall went through, right? Take 1 was a test – it’s gratifying to know that some of you out there really read this stuff I post – thank you thank you. Ha, just kidding about the test: what happened is I was trying out the ‘QuickPress’ feature on WordPress, my blog website, & it was a little too quick…I hadn’t yet poured in any content but off it flew…aackk, where’s the undo key?? Too late – it was already making its way into that everyday void of the web.)
So, speaking of voids, I’ve been thinking about prayer. Technically I guess, prayer involves some variety of god toward whom one directs one’s thoughts or pleas (as in, please god, help me [get better][survive this pain][get the job][etc.]). Scientists have shown that various parts of our brains become active depending on the kind of prayer we’re engaged in – for example, if your method of prayer is ‘talking with god’, then the parts of your brain associated with language become more active…kind of like a free version of talk therapy. If, instead, your prayer methodology is visualizing being one with the universe, the parts of your brain associated with vision will become more active – your own cosmic version of YouTube.
I don’t pray. Or rather, I haven’t consciously prayed since I was a child. NowIlaymedown tosleep praythelordmysoultokeep ifIdiebeforeIwake praythelordmysoultotake. “If I die before I wake”?! Whoa, that was some serious praying our Lutheran parents taught us. But it was the subsequent godbless part that I paid attention to as I grew older (& didn’t have to say my prayers out loud): godblessmommy&daddy&linda&nancy& sandy&john&skipper[the dog] eventually evolved to include girlfriends who were mad at me (pleasegod make Gloria like me again), boys I had crushes on (these innocents will go unnamed), objects I coveted (pleasegod I really want an electric blanket for Christmas…whoa, what?!), etc. Did I expect God to answer my prayers & fulfill my desires? Not really – as a general rule it seems those Lutherans had low expectations about God’s availability for their particular problems. Was it helpful for me as a child to have this daily bedtime ritual? You bet. Maybe I can figure out a way for my grandson to pray to the planets each night…hey, our ancestors already did that, didn’t they? Maybe a prayer to Black Holes? (hmmm, not sure about that…) Or maybe we can think about reinventing the term prayer to mean something other than human<->God communication?
As I moved into adolescence, it wasn’t the prayers that led me astray, it was just good old fashioned science (& we didn’t even know about bonobos & plate tectonics back then.) Also, I was increasingly disturbed by the apparent chasm between church & daily life. Uh, still disturbed about that aspect of religion – any religion – & although my prayers have turned into meditation (with the objective of emptying the mind, not engaging it), I don’t regret hanging up on God.
To this day though, I do regret refusing to take my mother to church when she lived nearby – not even once while she was alive did I relent (- she drove herself & a two friends there every Sunday until the day she died). At 83, she refused surgery for an unexpectedly severe heart attack & as she left us, she knew in her heart she was going to be with my father & with God.
I went to my mother’s church for the funeral. We all had her fully in our hearts. Maybe that’s what prayer is, after all.