Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
This is the most common prayer of Christianity, but believers are known to pray for all kinds of things in all kinds of ways. Moreover, prayer plays an important role in almost every major and minor religion. Prayer is used all over the world, but the question is: does it really work?
To start off, there’s no scientific evidence to definitely prove that prayer works. There are indeed thousands of anecdotal stories about the efficacy of prayer, but they are due to two specific logical fallacies that people regularly adopt. One is the confirmation bias, meaning you tend to search for signs of the things you already believe in.
If you interpret some events as signs of a successful prayer, you’ll be even more inclined to pray, because it seems to work. If however you think your prayer hasn’t been heard, you just dismiss it with saying: God works in mysterious ways. The other mistake is the adhoc fallacy, for example when you pray for good health, and then you suddenly get better, you falsely believe that you got better because you prayed.
There are also major logical fallacies with the act of prayer itself. First of all, if God is omniscient, he can know about everything, so you wouldn’t even have to open your mouth for him to know your thoughts. From this perspective, it also seems futile to repeat your prayers over and over, hoping to catch his attention once. For the same reason, mass prayer doesn’t make any sense, because it’s like shouting into his ears when he can supposedly hear even the most silent whisper of one person.
The second logical problem with prayer is that God wouldn’t be God, if you could influence him according to your whims and desires. He supposedly has a divine plan for each and every individual, but those who pray seem to have their own plans for God. It’s very arrogant from a believer to try to correct God’s actions and will.
The real meaning of prayer is none other than surrender. You surrender yourself to something bigger than you, something more powerful, something more essential and true. You realize that you are just a tiny speck of dust in this vast universe, but you also sense an infinite and immortal aspect of existence, and you strive to connect to it. To learn more about this topic, please watch my video titled “The meaning of spiritual surrender”.
Begging to God from fear or greed is not surrender, it’s just the opposite. It’s the ugliest form of prayer, but sadly the most common as well. The word prayer comes from the Latin precari, which means to beg. Putting your hands together, or holding them open with your palms facing upwards is also an evident symbol of begging.
If your prayer is a plead or a petition to the higher authority of God, you are nothing more than a spiritual beggar. And the most ironic thing is, that you are begging for something you already have. The Kingdom of God is already inside you, the problem is that you are not inside. Instead, you turn your attention to the superficial things in life, and hope for salvation when your circumstances get better. But unless you turn inwards, salvation will never arrive.
Do you remember when as a child, you would write letters to Santa Claus, and sit in his lap asking for gifts? If you behaved well, he would grant you your wishes, but if you were a bad child, he would say no. Of course when you grew up, you dismissed the whole thing as a fairytale, as an innocent childish fantasy.
What you don’t realize however, is that you’re still doing the same thing, but in the name of your religion. The only difference is in the identity of the bearded father-figure, and that the reward and the punishment for your actions are much bigger. You became an adult in your body, but you remained childish in your mind. God is the adult-version of Santa Claus.
This kind of prayer is for the lazy believers who want something for nothing. Some of them realize these disproportions, and instead of just asking their gods, they seek to make a deal, a sort of spiritual bargain. The motivation to show a sacrifice stems from this line of thinking, and it was a crucial part of many early religions.
But God is neither a philantrophist nor a businessman. Don’t bother him with your childish wishes and your futile sacrifices. Salvation doesn’t come so cheap. You have to give away everything you’ve got and even more. You have to get rid of your entire self-identity to be in communion with your own godlike nature. The process is painful and often feels like dying, but it’s the only way.
You see, the biggest problem with prayer is that it reaffirms your disconnection from God, instead of serving as a channel for communication. The believer sees prayer as a real person praying to a real god. From the skeptic’s viewpoint, a real person is praying to an imaginary god. But the mystic sees the thing entirely differently. From the mystic’s perspective, an imaginary person, who is in fact a real God, prays to an imaginary god.
God didn’t make man in his own image, but just the opposite: man made God in his own image. Man doesn’t realize that he’s a God himself, so he projects this denied aspect into the Heavens, and now essentially prays to himself. For a more thorough explanation, please see the episode: “Does God really exist?”.
Besides spiritual surrender, there’s one other type of prayer I approve of, which is the rationalist approach. In this view, the ultimate goal of prayer is to help train a person to focus on divinity through philosophy and intellectual contemplation. This kind of prayer is more like an affirmation, a reminder, an expression of dedication to the spiritual path. There’s a prayer of this kind also in Immortology, my own mystery school. To see how it’s practiced, watch my video titled “Prayer in Immortology”.
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