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Prayer, Spiritual Survival Strategy: a Fictional Dialogue or Scientific Phenomena?

Updated on October 2, 2017
Endy Noble profile image

Endy is a research enthusiast with passion in religious and social issues.

Prayer

Prayer has been a topic of debate inter and intra-religious wise. Even among people of the same faith, there exist variations in the way prayers are conducted; and these variations had been a topic of debate for years. Whatever our perspective on the topic prayer is, all praying people understand a basic thing about the subject prayer. Philips Yancey puts it best, “Prayer is a universal cry”.

There are arguments about prayer. Among strongest arguments for or against prayer are those of whom prayers are addressed to. Is the very act of praying real? Is it fictional? Is it scientific? Can it be proven? Is it a dialogue or a monologue? Why do we define prayer as communication with God when we can’t hear back from God? Does God answer back? How do we know if he does?

While I might shy away from answering most questions for the fact that I don’t even know their answers. I'll attempt to answer a few I thought are important to the topic prayer. I cannot answer all questions on the topic prayer. I believe everybody should be able to find out some for himself. That’s a research topic each of us has to undertake.

Prayer, Spiritual Survival Strategy

Why do people pray? I could say that people pray for several reasons. Below are some of the reasons why people pray.

• People pray because they are inadequate and helplessness

• People pray to communicate with their God (conversational prayers)

• People pray to deepen their relationship with God

• People pray in Thanksgiving to God

• People pray contending their spiritual battles

• People pray asking for their daily or occasional needs

• People pray interceding for others

• People pray for God’s intervention, blessings, protection, favor, mercy, grace, good health, prosperity, and on it goes.

We all pray. Whatever our reasons for praying. We know prayer occupies a portion of our inner and spiritual lives. For most us, it’s one of the Spiritual weapons we use our inner warfare for spiritual battles and physical supplies. All praying people believe there is a spiritual battle which must be fought through prayers. So prayer becomes to many of us a spiritual survival strategy.

Prayer as a Dialogue

People define prayer as a dialogue. They thought prayer to be a dialogue because they believe there is someone on the other side who listens and return answers. Some especially the skeptics see prayer as a fictional dialogue because the existence of the person on the other side cannot be proven.

So they ask, is prayer really a dialogue? Is it between two people? How can we come to terms with the existence of the other party? If His existence can't be proven, aren't people speak to vacuum? People must be engaging in some fictional dialogue. So they think.

Well, whether prayer is a dialogue or not I believe in prayer and the existence of an authority higher than those of men—that I called God. Personally, I do express helplessness to God and believe He hears and answers. This is likely to be same for a great percentage of praying people.

When a doctoral student at Princeton asked, ‘what is there left in the world for original dissertation research?’ Albert Einstein replied, ‘Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer.

— Philip Yancey

Prayer: a Scientific Phenomena

Science is able to prove the existence of a chemical substance or a form of energy called ether. The vast space between the sun, moons, stars and other planets of the universe they said is filled with ether. Scientists believed ether makes vibration through waves possible. According to Napoleon Hill, ideas enter our mind because of the vibration made possible through the ether. Is there any possibility of prayers passing through the ether to reach up to God? What about ideas that enter our minds? How and from where do they come? There must be a generating source for this signal which we are at the receiving end.

David said, “I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom” Psalm 35:13. Where did the prayer return from; and through what media? Can it be possible it returns from another source (Spirit), and through this same ether?

Also, the law of Karma and retaliation point to a fact a receiver exists in the universe and that the receiver of what we sent into the universe sends the same back to us. If these laws hold, as we believe, it proves prayer also has a receiver.

Hill wrote, “The divine economy is automatic and very simple: we receive only that which we give.” All these imply either natural reverberations or spiritual links. If this is true, then three components can be deduced; and each proves scientific nature of prayer. The components are; the pray~er (the person who offers the prayer), the medium through which the offers prayer passes, and the receiver of the offered prayer (who possible addresses and send a feedback). These components scientifically validate prayer as a scientific phenomenon.

“Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”

— Paul, Romans 8:26

Prayer, an Obligation or a Need?

Prayer is defined by most people as communication with God. If we attempt to answer this question above from communication perspective, prayer should be a need, not possibly an obligation. Let's look at it this way, is our human communication obligations or needs? Do we need to adopt particular posture? Do we need to be in a specific place to able to communicate with people? How about communicating with the Omnipresence, God?

Let’s addressed some questions based on our human relationships and communications. In human communications, we have casual and official communications. Casual communication needs no special formula or adopted posture. One can communication from anywhere or position base on disposition and needs. Official communication requires posture, procedures, and formula as considered appropriate for occasions and times. The above gives us insight into whether prayer should be a need or an obligation.

Praying for Specific Needs

We all have specific needs which press on us. These needs which might even include the need to pray itself, force us to pray. What this category of needs does is that they create a surge or an urge to pray. Such urge might come suddenly or gradually. One very important part of specific prayer is that its aim and purpose are clearly defined to the pray~er.

The urge tells exactly what to pray about. For instance, the sudden urge to pray against accident while driving or the urge to suddenly pray for a neighbor, a colleague, friend or relative. These categories of prayers had wrought wonder and save countless dangerous situations, unknown to the pray~er and the one prayed for.

Specific need prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It's a proof of the claims that Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings. It validates the fact that we're possessive of God's Holy Spirit—an evidence of our divine connection with the Supreme Being. The Bible said something profound about this type of prayer in Romans 8:26.

The utterance of the Spirit is perhaps what create sudden urge to pray at any spot irrespective of our disposition or readiness. It is communicated to us through emotional intelligence. For us to be fully aware the Spirit, we have to understand the power of our emotions.

As Don Nori said, “When you are certain that you have heard God tell His will to you, then you will automatically begin to pray specifically as He has shown”. This is an important kind of prayer for me because it borders on immediate needs.

Obligatory (Regular Temple Mount) Prayers

In our individual lives, we have our Temple Mounts just like the Jewish or Israeli people. Some religion designates place and prayer time. Others have meeting timetable for prayers. These categories of prayers are institutionalized as traditions or doctrines. They're dogmas for people who feel they have obligations to be at a particular place, at a particular time to pray to God. Here the Omnipresence of God is ignored.

While I am not against having a Temple Mount or a timetable for prayer. I think the immediate needs should be the paramount thing.

A Professor once told us a story. He said he was traveling with a colleague for an important function on behave of a University Community. They had stopped on their way to get a crucial document. Before they could come, the driver had gone to pray. They had to wait thirty minutes plus before the driver returned. By the time they got to their destination, they were twenty minutes late and lost the opportunity. “Will God answer the driver’s prayers?” he asked.

Well, whether God will answer that prayer or not, isn't ours to judge. The point he wanted to make was the driver could talk to God right in the car without going to a Temple. God's Omnipresence actually means we can talk to him anywhere.

Does God Answer Prayers?

This is one question often asked by people of all faiths and religions. I'm scared to say yes or no. One thing I can boldly say is that God answers prayers before we offer them. Really? Does God answer all our prayers? Yes! God answered all our prayers in His creation. This may sound absurd, however, let’s consider these points.

What can we pray for that God hasn’t provided? Can you think of one? Personally, I can’t think of any, and I'll be glad to hear from you if you have any. (Scroll to the comment box and write one thing you think man need and pray for, that God hasn’t provided). If God answered our prayers in His creation, the question of "Does God answers prayers?" do not arise.

Genesis chapter 1 and 2 recorded the creation story. The man was the last thing God created before resting on the seventh day. This indicates that the entire work of creation starting from light through to the creation of the beast of the fields was done and intended to provide for man. God made all the provisions so that man can enjoy the beauty and value of the creation.

He didn’t stop there. He went further to give the man He created what I call ‘God's First Command’. God said to the man He made, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” Genesis 1:28.

Then, God gave man brain help him to ‘replenish whatever was lost’ and solve every problem we shall encounter. This is God’s answer all our problems giving us the key to answering ourselves—through thinking, researching and discovery.

Now let me be quick to add that God made these provisions for the man to enjoy. However, the man instead of freely enjoying these gifts began personalizing and taking ownership. That’s another field entirely where men’s unanswered prayers stem from.

O Gracious and Holy Father

O gracious and Holy father,

give us wisdom to perceive Thee,

intelligence to understand Thee,

diligence to seek Thee,

patience to wait for Thee,

eyes to behold Thee,

a heart to meditate upon Thee,

and a life to proclaim Thee;

through the power of the Spirit

of Jesus Christ our Lord.

---------Benedict of Nursia

Can Worries Be Acts of Praying? Understanding the Difference

Worrying, an act of thinking aimlessly over something not being able to take one’s mind off is a common phenomenon. It's a self-draining process which leads to exhaustion. Is worrying the same act of praying? Can one stop worrying? Why is worry consider a bad thing? Can it be helpful in any way?

The answers to these are simple: and hang on our understanding of the word prayer. Worrying is in most cases considered a bad thing because it focuses on the wrong while the right thing is left unattended. It happens in two ways: either the wrong thing is occupying the center of the mind or the right thing is wrongly concentrated.

However, we can bring the right thing to the right place. Bringing the right thing to the center of attention turns our worries into an act of prayer. Consider or think of times you were worried about things. What occupied the center of your mind? Isn’t there anything more important or better that should have taken its place? If there is any, then a shuffling by putting that important thing into its rightful place changes every bit of the initial meaning.

Replacing Worries with Prayers

There is a number of ways worries can be replaced with prayers. The points below summarize some of the ways:

• Realized that the thought taking the center of your mind is the most important or helpful option available to you for that situation.

• When you realize this, find what ought to be and then replace it.

• Realize that worrying is a form of prayer, and try to bring God into that act. Doing this means you’ve chosen a partner to offer up your thoughts.

• By bringing God into your thoughts, offering Him your thoughts, you’ve brought into the picture one who possesses the power to enlighten your mind. Don't hesitate to tell God how helpless you’re; and how you can’t stop being helpless.

• Tell God what you think you should occupy your mind but has bruised aside because you can’t take your mind off the needless one

• Realize that a shift of thought, of energy, of attention or of mind makes a big difference, then take the needed step to overcome yourself.

• Chose action over worry no matter how little or indirect this action might be. It's better than staying stocked worrying.

• Do what you can instead of what you cannot. This is important because attempting to do what can't or have no power is the reason you are worried in the first place.

• Finally, realize our entire life as we live every second, minute, hour or day is a prayer offered to God. This will help you to offer everything without fear of condemnation.

Your ability to divert your thoughts and redirect them to the most valuable or important things means a lot in the switch of meaning. Sometimes our understanding of the concepts of prayer holds great keys to our approach to prayer. Paul, the apostle of Christ said to the Thessalonians “Pray without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. What do those words mean to you? How do you understand the words ‘pray’ from that context?

Understanding of the word ‘pray’ will go a long way to enhance our understanding of Paul's injunction. “Pray without ceasing” actually living every second as an act of prayer. If we understand verb, ‘pray’, from which the noun prayer is coined. We might stop separating the action of praying from our daily life activities. We might not separate or give prayer a different time and place from other activities as we often do. Prayer will no longer mean an event, which happens at a specific time. Rather prayer will be what happens every second of our lives. It's only then we can offer our entire lives and activities as a prayer to God.

It's absolutely absurd not heeding the injunction 'pray without ceasing' because that means we're definitely not aware of God's presence in every situation. Praying without ceasing may eliminate the need for prayer timetable. It means saying, “It’s time for prayer no matter the time or task”. Obviously, we won't be skipping prayer.

If we understand prayers only as moments of kneeling in our individual Temple Mounts, churches or mosques, what happens those moments we step out or we are no longer kneeling in our Temple Mounts? Do we still pray or we cease to pray? What about moments we sleep, do we cease to pray?

You can see how our understanding affects our prayer life. Here are ways to live a faith-based prayer live.

• Our lives and the way we live is a prayer offered unto God. We must, therefore, live every second in a consciousness of God—His mercy, blessings, reproaches, awareness of who we are and his continual love for us.

• Our daily exchange of carbon and oxygen is a prayer offered to God. We should not forget that “In him, we live and move and have our being.”

• We must realize hiding and come out, waiting and driving forward, going about our life's activities and the life itself are all gifts of God; live in God and with God.

• If we understand our walking, running, sleeping, sneaking around and winning is of God, we'll adjust our lives to align with God's. When we realize our entirety is in or with God, we offer everything we are unto God without fear. This is the kind of knowledge that keeps us perpetually in God’s presence—not the type that tempts us to conceal ourselves and sinful nature away from him.

As Simone Weil wrote, “Prayer consists of attention. It’s the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable toward God”. That attention could include our worries, sins, unfaithfulness, and pride all addressed to God. If we pray don’t because we love God, we might have pray because we're helpless. That’s why prayer has continued to occupy the inner circadian of lives and those of every generation.

Further readings

1. Philip Yancey, “Prayer: Does it make any difference?”

2. Don Nori, “The Prayer God Loves to Answer”

3. Napoleon Hill, “The law of Success”

4. The Bible

© 2017 Ajodo Endurance Uneojo

What does prayer mean to you? Please share with us.

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    • Endy Noble profile image
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      Ajodo Endurance Uneojo 5 weeks ago from Lokoja, Nigeria.

      Scope, prayers helps. Sometimes it is the only way to get over hurts and ill-feelings. I guess we need it.

    • Endy Noble profile image
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      Ajodo Endurance Uneojo 7 weeks ago from Lokoja, Nigeria.

      When a doctoral student at Princeton asked, "What is there left in the world for an original dissertation research?" Albert Einstein replied, "Find out about Prayer. Somebody must find out about Prayer"

      What exactly did Einstein want us to find out about prayers and why?