You "Don't Pray"? I Beg To Differ!
After the mass murder in Las Vegas, I noticed a post on Facebook that said something like this:
"I don't pray. I do dream and I do hope for gun control. And I will follow this with action."
This is meant as a political statement and I most certainly get the implication - that action, not words, is needed in the face of repeated tragedy. But this statement refers to a lot more than words and although I don't think this was the intention, it actually provides a wonderful example of what prayer is.
If you are dreaming and hoping for something you consider the common good, and following that with behavior and action, then you are most certainly praying ! Of course, it is hoping! Of course, it is dreaming! I love the quote we have on our website from Martin Sheen, the actor and activist who says about prayer: "...that's where it all starts; it starts in my imagination." Of course it does!
If you were standing in line in Las Vegas to give blood, or crossing state lines from California to offer your services as a surgeon, weren't you responding to some powerful pull in yourself to connect with others, to transcend your own heartbreak and the devastation of others? Weren't you hoping and dreaming that your small act would contribute to healing in some way, to your own, and to others? How is that not praying?
Listening to people talk about their own prayer experiences has confirmed my belief that we are all praying in one way or another, although we may not call it prayer. We often insist on forcing this sacred intention into tiny, ill-fitting compartments. What is this human compunction to take thrilling and boundless concepts like "prayer" and "God" and "higher power" and reduce them - to make them small rather than vast, to hog-tie them with narrow definitions and insistence that they be called one thing and not another?
And, why, for heaven's sake, do we do that? If you won't try AA because you "don't believe in a higher power", you forfeit the very real power of the group, which may be more power than you can access on your own, and which may just help relieve your suffering. National nightmares have the power to move us out of this narrower way of thinking and believing; we experience the power in dreaming and hoping together, in ritual, or in impromptu gathering, after personal or public loss and sorrow.
What does it take to ignite that power in us so it blossoms into something we can harness and use for good every day? I don't believe that experiencing tragedy is the only route there. Prayer may be just a "woke" moment that opens us to the possibility of our own divinity and that of our neighbor. You don't have to call it "prayer", but please, keep yourself open to the power of it. The world needs it. We all need it.