Pray for me.
Pray for us.
Pray for them.
You’re in my prayers.
The word pray, is one of those words I avoided.
But Facebook brought it back to me, front and center.
I love the sentiment behind prayer — I’ll send you a focused, good thought. But from church, I get the idea that thinking good thoughts for someone and praying for them aren’t the same thing. There’s something about the word “prayer” that brings a third party, the notorious G.O.D. into the picture.
My mom is a champion pray-er. She attends two prayer groups a week, prays first thing in the morning, before each meal and before bed. No one I know attends more church than she does. On top of that, she’s at all of church’s extra-curriculars. The result of all this prayer is that she looks far younger than her 79 years and has a peace in her heart I truly envy.
After Dorothy was born, I had serious anxiety and depression. We were alone and broke and miserable. Mom suggested I pray. At the very least, she said I’d feel better by “throwing it out to the universe and letting the forces that be take care of it.”
I can’t deny it, I did feel better when I stopped taking personal, mental responsibilty for everything happening in our lives at that time and said, “Okay, life, you got me. I’m trusting the Universe to take care of it.” Here, by the Universe, I mean the creative force that brought me and you to this moment on this miraculous earth, not necessarily God.
Or is that God?
I prayed until I was about 11. Mostly, my prayers were a mix of superstition (Hell is scary!) and letters to Santa.
Please, may I get a bra.
Please may I get a stereo for Christmas.
Please may my dad stop being so mean to me.
Fittingly, the brilliant Karen Armstrong has said about God — “We often learn about God at about the same time as we are learning about Santa Claus; but our ideas about Santa Claus change, mature and become more nuanced, whereas our ideas of God can remain at a rather infantile level.”
I’m in the middle of that evolution. I’m not sure my idea of God has evolved that much from that eleven year old me, begging for my first bra. But when I talk about my belief in a creative force that runs through this particular reality, is that what I mean? Is that God? I’m still sussing it out.
After listening to this Invisibilia episode (seriously, go listen), the link between good thoughts and prayers got even more blurry. The first part is about a woman with mirror touch synethesia. When she shares her nearly crippling sensitivity to others’ emotions and physical sensations, she tells us “thoughts are things.” Add to that some of the research coming out from quantum physics, and well, I believe her.
In this world of interconnectedness, I watch the praying and the non-praying collide in the great social experiment of Facebook. I watch the Santa believers and the God believers and the scientists all muddling along on the same plane. I see cancer diagnoses, lottery winners and suicide, all of them paired with requests for prayer and responses of prayer and Blessed Are The Fruits.
I send a good thought, I hold you in my mind, I hope for the best.
But is it prayer?