Do you pray? Or send good thoughts or vibes or wishes? What do you pray for? What do you think prayer does? Who hears? Does anyone need to hear you or is it only about your own consciousness or something in between like good energy out into the world? How does it work? Does it have power?
As a "recovering atheist," I am mystified by prayer. In fact, for decades I never prayed, believing that prayers could only be addressed to an identifiable God, in whom I did not believe. But, through meditation, I have become more aware of prayer, more comfortable with it, less rigid in my definition (though, as I understand it, some people say that meditation is not prayer. For me, now, it is). And I'm embracing the mystery. And so I've been reading and synthesizing . . . . my sources were rather haphazardly discovered, not researched in a methodical way (this is in no way a complete bibliography on the analysis of prayer), but perhaps more meaningful because I came across them in that synergy that happens when you are thinking on something.
What is a Prayer?
Rick Hamlin recently asked on HuffPost, "Do you need to believe in God to pray?" Without giving an answer as to how or why or if prayer works, he believes that by "holding a good thought" the universe answers. Even St. Paul, quotes Hamlin, in his letters to the Philippians, said, "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Odd to think of Paul teaching agnostics to pray . . . .
As part of his discussion on "Why 'Do You Believe in God' is the Wrong Question to Ask," (yes, I do read a lot about religion on HuffPost), Rabbi Mitelman says a more meaningful question would be asking about when you are most connected to others. He refers to Jewish theologian Martin Buber, who "taught that the most spiritual moments occur when we are truly in relationship with others . . . . our most powerful and most memorable moments occur when we truly feel "there" with and for another person." Might that also be a prayer? Or the connection created by telling someone, or being told, that you will pray for them?