I recently heard about a survey revealing that over 90% of people in Australia pray. This is an extraordinary finding as I have seen the results of other surveys that suggest that around 30% of Australians consider themselves atheists. So, this would lead us to presume that even people who do not believe in a deity at all, sometimes call out to the God/dess that ‘does not exist’. Such inconsistency is part of our glorious, intricate humanity!
The visionary book of Revelation, contained in the Greek sacred text (found as the last book in the Bible), states,
And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8)
This piece of sacred writing is set in the dwelling place of God (heaven, if you like) and the Lamb is referring to Christ. The four living creatures are described earlier in the vision, ‘The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle’ (Rev 4:7). And, the elders are seated on thrones, wearing white, and have crowns of gold on their heads. When the four living creatures worship God, the elders get off their thrones, lay down their crowns and fall down in worship of God, ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being’ (Rev 4:11).
So, back to our discussion on prayer. Our prayers (probably regardless of whether we think we believe in God/dess or not), are of great significance to ‘the one who sits upon the throne’ and ‘the Lamb’. They are like sweet-smelling incense. They are worthy to be brought into the presence of ‘the one who created all things’. They are worthy of His/Her attention. They are precious to the heart of God/dess. They are extravagant (and sometimes, desperate) offerings of hope and faith. Our prayers are carried into the ‘holy-of-holies’ by the ‘elders’ and are contained in vessels of gold which speak of the honour in which they are held. And, of the honour in which they are received. Yes, even the desperate cries for mercy that come from the lips of ‘sinners’ and ‘atheists’!
That describes how our prayers are received; with honour, gratitude and sacredness. But, how are our prayers given?
Most commonly, I pray by waiting or weeping. I ask myself the question, ‘Could you not tarry one hour?’ When Jesus was in distress in the Garden of Gethsemane and asked his friends to ‘stay here and keep watch with me’, they fell asleep. Christ saw that they were asleep and said to them ‘could you not watch with me one hour?’ So, for me, setting aside time (sometimes an hour, sometimes less, sometimes more) to simply sit and wait and watch for a person, or a situation, is how I pray. I acknowledge the presence of Loving Creator as I watch/wait and feel (or focus on) the companionship of Christ intimately during these times. Sometimes my mind wanders. That’s OK. I have simply committed to being still and waiting on God/dess as a prayer. It is an expression of my faith and trust that the Divine One is compassionate, merciful, kind, just, attentive and loving towards each one of us.
Weeping is my other common style of prayer. It is natural for me to acknowledge grief and disappointment and frustration and anger by using tears. I pray for myself, others and the world this way, almost daily.
There are many ways to pray. Here is just a small list of verbs that describe the way prayer may manifest within us: weep, wait, cry out, walk, kneel, sing, speak, remain silent, march, prostrate, dance, kneel, fast, feast, write, play music, create, speak in different languages, mime, give financially, rest, listen, read poetry/psalms, read sacred texts, laugh, etc etc.
Remember, whoever you are and however you choose to pray, your requests are received with deep reverence by Creator who is clothed in compassion. Amen.