Why pray?

As another year comes to an end, I wonder what I have achieved so far. That my relationship with religious faith has, more or less, come to an end is evident. I am still struggling to find God within all that has transpired over the last year.

My wife had a harrowing, child-birth experience from which she is still recovering: physically and psychologically. Throughout this time, I have longed for her pain to be over. I have wished for the existence of a Benevolent and Merciful God, who would respond to the agonizing cries of my wife and alleviate her suffering.

But, from an atheistic perspective, it has always been wishful thinking. “Of course, there is no God! No super-natural power to answer your prayers.” In my head, I often hear similar sentences in the voice of Richard Dawkins.

In times of utter distress and tragedy, man has yearned for something, for someone that may provide solace and comfort.

Putting the thinking cap on, I know that neither the doctors nor my or my wife’s parents or friends or colleagues can be of much help in healing the wounds of my wife. Yet one hopes for Mother Nature to operate in her mysterious ways and create a ‘medical miracle‘ of sorts.

Ah, well, life is indeed weirder than we can imagine. Though we do not see the so-called laws of Nature be broken every now and then, phenomena do occur that lack the so-called scientific explanation. The occurrence of such phenomena does not prove anything except our very own ignorance about the nature of Nature. However, it does prove – to quote Carl Sagan – that ‘the cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths; of exquisite interrelationships; of the awesome machinery of nature.’

In circumstances such as these, do I feel the need to pray to someone or something? Perhaps. But, then again, what is a prayer? I don’t have a personal definition but to quote Sir Muhammad Iqbal:

Prayer… is an expression of man’s inner yearning for a response in the awful silence of the universe. It is a unique process of discovery whereby the searching ego affirms itself in the very moment of self-negation, and thus discovers its own worth and justification as a dynamic factor in the life of the universe.

Maybe, that’s all I can suggest to my wife: to be optimistic and hopeful by believing in her own-self as a ‘dynamic factor.’ To see herself as an agent of change and free-will in the cosmos, who is capable of overcoming all the obstacles of life.

Perhaps, then, in the quintessential mystical sense, belief in God is tantamount to belief in one’s own self. I find this to be an extremely spiritually uplifting thought. It gives me (and my wife) hope to carry on living no matter how bad things get. After all, life is the greatest gift of Nature…

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5 thoughts on “Why pray?

    1. Thanks for your comment, charles! I agree that my physical and emotional presence means a lot for my wife.
      However, when I talk about praying, I am not referring to the ritualistic side of a prayer that demands us to worship a deity in a specific manner. I am rather talking about the innate yearning human beings have to find comfort in this rather uncomforting Universe. The (only) empirical way, perhaps, to satisfy this yearning, is to believe in one’s own willpower as capable of surmounting any given physical and/or psychological barrier.

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  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is a nice read.
    I hope your wife gets better too and whether God is here or not, our circumstances can always change. Sometimes it just depends on your attitude, I learnt that from Nick Vujicic who was born with no arms and legs.

    It’s also interesting that as far as we know, human beings are the only creatures who can contemplate creation. Animals don’t wake up one morning and think “wow what a beautiful sunrise” nor do they make calculations about the speed of light or understanding pi. A bear won’t look at a seal and think “that seal is so cute, who would want to eat it?”, if that bear was hungry it would dig right in with no hesitation.
    But human beings are different to the animals, we’ve explored the skies and have seen the beauty and complexity of the universe. No wonder so many great scientists in the past could not help but believe in a Creator (many were deists).

    This may not be an answer to your prayers or thoughts but just some insight. I sometimes question whether there is a God out there who hears us too but there are strange phenomenons that occur throughout history that we can’t explain.

    Take care

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  2. Thanks a lot for stopping by, reading and commenting on my post, Marvin. I really appreciate it. I have heard of Viktor Frankl’s book and his ideas really seem interesting. I hope to read the book at some point in the future. Thanks for re-recommending it.

    I definitely agree with “that as far as we know, human beings are the only creatures who can contemplate creation.” I would, nonetheless, be greatly excited to know if it can be proven (empirically) that other creatures in this Universe also contemplate creation. There are definitely phenomena for which we may have no definite explanation and we can only continue to speculate.

    Apart from that, and as I’ve said before, for me, at least, prayer is an act in which the lonely consciousness confronts nothing but its own self and, in the process, discovers in its self, a storehouse of potentiality, capable of changing itself and its surroundings. God, if it emerges anywhere, is but a reflection of the confronting consciousness.

    Anyway, thanks again for your kind words and I hope our respective searches bear fruit in the days to come. Wish you all the best! 🙂

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    1. No worries, I’m still on the 1st chapter of that book but I find his ideas interesting too.

      It would be quite funny to know that someone’s pet dog for example, contemplates the universe at those times when they just seem to stare outside the window.

      I see what you mean about prayer. There is that nice therapeutic effect of having outward or inner dialogue even if it’s just with yourself; can help clear or organise thoughts and lead to more self-awareness and connection with your consciousness.

      I appreciate your kind words also, and yes hopefully that day will come! All the best to you too and this website 🙂

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