There was a short story I heard last year read on the On Being podcast with Krista Tippett: "The Doctor and the Rabbi," by Aimee Bender*. It's a beautiful story - the full version can be read here. In the story, the doctor is talking to the rabbi about why he doesn't pray. He says he doesn't want his prayer to take up space when he doesn't really believe in it. He imagines there being a line of prayers waiting to be received, and there are lots of prayers said by people who really believe and pray a lot. He doesn't think his prayers should be considered over the prayers of those who are really holding out hope for their prayers to be answered when his are said with such little belief. I have thought often of the rabbi's response since I listened to this story over a year ago:
“The best way I can think to describe it,” she said, “is the way, when you’re driving on the freeway at night, how everyone can see the moon in their window. Every car, on the road. Every car feels the moon is following that car. Even in the other direction, right? Everyone in that entire hemisphere can see the moon and think it is there for them, is following where they go.
This analogy resonated with me so deeply because I personally struggle with viewing prayer in the same way. I guess I don't necessarily see prayers entering a queue or line, but I feel a deeply rooted sense that my prayers aren't meaningful enough to warrant divine attention. This isn't so much about worthiness, but I suppose it's more about there being so much suffering for so many on this planet that it's hard not to categorize my prayers as nice-to-haves.
I love the analogy of prayers being heard being akin to the view of the moon being available for anyone who wants to look up to notice it. Enjoying the light of the moon takes nothing away from anyone else who wants to enjoy it. This helps me feel more power and confidence in my prayers being received. Another things that helps me is to consider prayers as energy. Everything in the universe is energy. All matter is energy, and even thoughts are energy. Science backs this up, and Einstein's theory of relativity only worked once he added the rather nebulous "cosmological constant" - which was a factor he could not account for in the universe but without which the theory wouldn't work. Likewise, quantum theory only works when "dark energy" is accounted for, which is energy that makes the math work but is still theoretical observationally. This energy which makes these theories so precise but about which we can only theorize experientially is mysterious, and personally it makes my understanding of how things "work" expand. It helps me feel more power in my prayers when I consider this energy and imagine/feel that my prayers are being carried rather practically on this energy. It almost gives a sense of tangibility to prayer.
The other "flip side" to my (irrational) internal argument over the value of my prayers is my desire to create and maintain a relationship with the Divine. When I am feeling rather weak in my effectiveness of prayer, my prayers feel very one-sided. I'm putting the thoughts out there and trying to direct them, but I'm not feeling necessarily a strong sense of being heard. But I pray anyway. I pray with the belief that even if I am not completely aligned to have a great prayer experience, I am still being heard. I pray because I want to do my part to maintain my relationship with that higher power - not just when I am in desperate need, but also with gratitude when things are going well and to just attempt to attune myself to that power when things are so-so. And then sometimes I am feeling strong in my prayer capabilities, and I feel more of a connection with the Divine. These sorts of experience are of course preferred, but the reality is that at least for me they are not always a given. The Divine is mysterious in that way.
For me, prayer is a part of every meditation I do. It was not that way in the beginning, but since I opened up to it I have felt an expansion in my heart and a new depth to my meditations. If you have not been including prayer in your meditation, I recommend giving it a try. Enjoy that beautiful moon on the long drive home.
*I highly recommend this beautiful short story, which can be found here.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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