Sunday, January 14, 2024

Benefits of Saying Heartfelt and No-Holds-Barred Prayers

Picture of medieval knight in prayer
Prayers work wonders. Our prayers are with you, we see them partly for reassurance, and partly because we believe in their inherent power or potential healing properties. Let’s pray on it and see what happens, we comfort ourselves and others as we are looking for an answer or wholeheartedly desire a specific outcome. Our reactions to and involvement with the act of praying can range from those who devoutly espouse it using prayers before every meal and as part and parcel of their bedtime routine like brushing one’s teeth, and others who vehemently dismiss and reject it, considering it as humbug, a waste of time and a useless activity in wishful thinking; they may shun it like the plague paradoxically treating it as it were the devil incarnate.

Yet replace the words prayer and blessing with gratitude and compassion as well as God with the universe, and all of a sudden, we are all good and fine. Regardless of whether you call it a kindness meditation, a meditation of loving compassion, or a prayer, it can equally arouse positive emotions in the core of your being and increase the feeling of warmth and joy around your heart. We may not speak the same language nor use the same words and practices, but the feeling is essentially the same.

We may resort to prayer or meditative contemplation in situations that are clearly not within our control. Yet in all other cases and situations, this cannot be used as an excuse nor a quick and easy way to assuage our conscience nor a substitute for taking appropriate action. Praying for a good grade without studying is not only futile and misguided but also a waste of time, energy, and resources. And yet, a combination of both may increase your chances and odds or at the very least, it would do no harm. By studying, you decrease your anxiety of failing, and by praying you increase your level of good feeling. Plus, there is also the potential for supernatural help and guidance throughout the process whether you are a believer or not.

In cases and situations that are out and outside of our control, then prayer may be our only hope and comfort. As it does not do any harm but could potentially do good for oneself and by extension for others, why not engage in it? Wishing someone else well has a positive impact on the praying or meditating person by filling them up with positive emotions while at the same time good vibes are being sent out in the direction of the addressee of the prayer, which may or may not be received by them but no matter, it feels good, nonetheless.

For prayers to work wonders indeed, it is important to be honest and authentic in your wishes and desires. In the same vein, our prayers, if seen as an honest and direct communication with God or the universe, ought to be filled with genuine feelings and not just platitudes. Many believers use prayer as a formal expression of thanks. This is a prayer for a shared meal whether it be on special occasions with family members, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, or if it is part of a daily routine around the dinner table.

What they all tend to have in common is a certain level of formality as if we were addressing a cherished and respected member of the family, our ancestors, or an esteemed person with a commanding presence and authority. Worse, it may become as commonplace as plates and cutlery or a simple repetitive behavior at the dinner table, a regurgitation of slogans and empty words.

Of course, if you are praying to God, the Lord, or Jesus, you would want to remain in their graces and not make them angry in any way or manner, intentionally or not. Your life (happiness and sanity) would literally and figuratively and manifestly depend upon it. But since God is watching us 24/7 and knows our secrets and our innermost thoughts and feelings, why would we not want to utter them freely and without restraint?

I understand that you would not want to air all your grievances, anger, frustration, and dirty laundry in front of your family members but what about those intimate moments when you are asking the Almighty for wishes and personal favors. In a sense, we are like children addressing a parent and if we can point out and remind them how good we are, we would feel deserving of the gift or reward. Our tone and attitude become of importance. We would never demand or ask with a harsh demanding tone because that would anger God and, in all fairness, the Bible does present Him with a rather short fuse.

In the same way, we want to be on the good side with our bosses and supervisors and upper management in general, all of whom may be key and instrumental to us keeping our jobs or getting a much sought-after promotion, we would not want to mess with the ultimate big honcho authority who at a single whim or finger snap can not only make our life miserable and a living hell but our death an eternity of burning flames and endless pain and suffering.

But here’s a crazy idea: Why not regard the Lord as your friend? If you are uncomfortable with talking to the heavenly father in friendly terms, then address his beloved son. With a dear friend, you would not hold anything back but share your true feelings and desires alongside your innermost frustrations and pain. Nothing is off limits because you open yourself up truly and wholeheartedly to a cherished true friend.

What if you replaced all your wishes and desires with how you really feel about things, what really goes on in that head of yours, and what is weighing down your heart? Is that not a sign of trust by confiding everything to the one whom you love and who loves you unconditionally especially considering he has access to everything you are, you have been and you shall be. Does a being who forgives sinners and who loves you all the way not have enough thick skin to handle your minor slights and reproaches?  

If there were anyone you could open your heart and innermost desires as well as your secret thoughts to, it would have to be the powers that be and that can. We are rarely fully ourselves except when we are jotting down our thoughts and feelings in our journals but even then, we are vigilant, slightly paranoid, and even self-censor as we worry that they could fall into someone else’s hand and be read by them; moreover, there may be thoughts that we do not want to acknowledge to ourselves or that we fail to see and notice.

I was rather surprised but very pleased to hear of a Jesuit prayer and practice that involves picturing Jesus with yourself on a boat, which is detailed in Father James Martin’s outstanding book Come Forth. During this imaginary boat ride, you would engage in a conversation with the Lord and tell him all about your sorrows, worries, fears, and anxieties as if you were chatting with a very close friend whom you trusted wholeheartedly. Since Jesus would also be the one in charge of the universe, one could potentially also ask him any favor under the sky and the sky itself would not be the limit either.

This is not meant as a practice of self-indulgence but an openness that we often lack with and within ourselves, others, and even the being we choose to pray to. Pray, if you cannot be yourself with others, then should you not be open and honest and your true authentic self when everyone else is gone? And should you not be honest with the Almighty who is supposed to already know everything on and about you? If you are hiding anything, would it not be an evident act of futility?

And on the other hand, if you can open your heart and reveal your innermost desires in your prayer, would that not open the door for you to become honest with yourself and then by extension with others that matter in your life? It is worth a try and a practice that would be most beneficial to absolutely everyone at hand.