If prayer is awkward

Some Pagans find prayer an easy and natural part of their practice. I’m the other sort. I spend a lot of my time writing about things I find difficult, because I find it makes for more fertile explorations. It’s not the easiest sales pitch in the world though! I can’t solve all your problems, there won’t be an easy five minute solution, but if you’re uneasy too, and uncertain, and wondering, then wander with me and maybe something will happen.

Here’s a snippet from When A Pagan Prays.

What is prayer? Prayer is something that people do as a manifestation of religion or as part of a spiritual practice. Beyond that, it is remarkably difficult to pin down, being a term for a vast array of activities. Prayer crops up in religions across the globe, but what exactly it is, and how it works, depends a lot on who is doing it in what context, and why. Prayer runs the full gamut from insidious control method to means of enlightenment. I’ve tried to unpick how some of that works.

As with most things, what you get out of prayer depends a great deal on what you bring. The reason you undertake prayer is going to influence what happens to you. If you are a lovedrenched tree-hugging pacifist, your prayers will probably be full of love and light and at the very least, more feel-good affirmations. If you are a person in pain, or full of anxiety, you’ll pray differently, but that’s no less meaningful. People coming to prayer out of curiosity, a desire for mystery, a hunger for connection, can do all kinds of good work. If, on the other hand, you are a fascist control freak with a desire to torture puppies, you aren’t going the enlightenment route this week and the experience of prayer will probably just reflect your own fantasies back at you.

Mostly what we bring to prayer, is us. Mostly what we do in prayer, is us. If we want to reach out to the cosmos, or some aspect of it in an honourable way, we’ll do that thing. If we want to justify our own greed and bullshit, prayer is a tool to be used.

Dear God, I’m good!

If you are intent on being self-important, are deaf to all criticism and blind to the suffering of others, prayer will not help you much. You get what you bring. If you are willing and able to be open, vulnerable, listening, if you are here to be changed, that’s a very realistic possible outcome, no matter which
tradition you follow or the methods you adopt.

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/when-pagan-prays


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “If prayer is awkward

  • syrbal-labrys

    I’m the other sort, too. I’m not sure anything I do could be called “prayer” — I don’t like mystery much better than I like surprises (not at all, usually!) and I feel we need to answer our own “prayers” our-damned-selves. I listen to what I WANT to pray and then go and GET it!

    • Nimue Brown

      It was thanks to a book by an Anglican priest (!) that I realised petition prayers are just one aspect, and that all kinds of other stuff is available, and then it got interesting… I think it’s petition that puts most Pagans off – dear god, please can I have a puppy – is not for us. These days most of my prayer comes down to 2 words. “Hello universe.” and then holding the silence for as long as I can, just on the offchance.

      • syrbal-labrys

        I enjoyed meditative prayers like the rosary in my attempt at Christianity phase. I felt the value because it increased my empathy and compassion for suffering humans. The “Hello Universe” never struck me as prayer precisely, but more of a communion, an acknowledgment of my part as A part of said universe. But I get the meaning, all the same.

      • Nimue Brown

        It does work that way. It was a surprising journey for me realising how much more open and simple prayer could be than I’d first imagined, especially once I latched onto the idea of less talking and more listening.

  • Eliza Armitage

    Raised Christian, I learned the concept of a god–usually Jesus–who was always there to talk to, the universal therapist so to speak; but I never felt that I got any response, and felt conned instead. Now as a pagan, I’m not sure how to pray! The superficial petitionary prayer isn’t for me, but I’m sure Brighid has better things to do than listen to me ramble…so I’m still finding my way. Less talking and more listening, as you say.

  • Willow

    This is true prayers for come true it is the intend

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