On this anniversary, June 10, a dear friend experienced another death. It was that of a tiny rabbit she had rescued, but despite all her best efforts the little bunny died. I wanted to say I would pray for her sadness to become happiness soon, but then it struck me - are thoughts the same as prayers? You see I could only offer my very best thoughts on this. Do they "count" as prayers?
Churches I have known
My parents believed in exposing me to a multitude of different churches. I don't remember them going to church at all. None of us were baptized. They figured when we'd determined which church we liked we'd be able to do that anyway. They never really reinforced any religion at home, but any time I showed an interest in a new church, I was free to go and "try it out."
I really liked this, as any curious child would. There were a number of churches in my Zululand village where I grew up. At various times I attended the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, and, somewhat more obscure, The Path of Truth. The latter was memorable because they had one segment of the service devoted to meditation, and I discovered that was quite enjoyable. Nothing like closing your eyes to really focus on peacefulness.
I missed out on the Baptist one until much later in life when I came to Canada. They are nice people, and I loved their music. Their praying was quite different though - more like uninhibited exhortation, but very powerful stuff.
Actually, I do remember my mother attending The Path of Truth one with me at least twice, probably because it seemed a bit over the top, after my reports to her. But mostly my memories were concerned with joy at wearing my best clothes and hats. I adored wearing the hats, and remember them in detail. Whatever happened to them, I wonder?
The other highlight at the Methodist Sunday school was gazing in fascination at the beautiful little text cards with illustrations that I was supposed to learn during the week for the next Sunday. I loved those texts, and found it quite easy to repeat them. Going on from there, I liked reading the pages they came from in the Bible. So ultimately, I could make some pretty good quotes from the Book.
At school we always said the daily prayer - psalm 23. So that was a prayer? The voices of children, in unison, saying words without enthusiasm, by rote, still ring in my ears today. 'They probably all know how to pray properly,' I thought. I never confessed to anyone that I really had no idea how to pray, or even worse, that I couldn't imagine what God looked like.
But I entered into the spirit of it all, although I realise now my specialty was bargaining with God. I'd mentally say things like, "If you'll see that there are baked potatoes and sausages in the Aga oven for lunch, I promise I'll walk home without going anywhere else along the way." Or, "If you'll stop my brother from punching me, I'll even walk on the same side of the street with him." So you could say, my prayer methods were strictly home grown.
Sometimes I'd be allowed to go and stay with an adopted aunt and her family. They were all Italian and devout Catholics. They had a couple of Mother Mary statues in the house, and a shrine. They prayed a lot, and still I couldn't fathom what their God looked like, although they assured me He was listening to their prayers. They used to pray out loud, so you could hear them, as well as God could. "Holy Mary, mother of God . . ." They'd start. But that seemed a bit strange, because now they'd transferred over from God to Mary. And God, in their minds at least, was a He.
Oh I know, the whole business of religion is very complex, once you start delving into it. But it seems to me they all have the same basic message, that God is Love. That's pretty straightforward, you'd think. So the other thing I've never really understood, is why people go out and hate each other, kill each other by the thousands, millions even, in the name of love for their God? And then they pray, sometimes multiple times in a day. It just doesn't seem to work for me somehow. In fact you'd think it's diametrically opposed to the whole concept of love.
Ways to Pray
It took me many years to figure out something about prayer for myself, just as my parents knew it would. I never have actually "belonged" to a church, much as I've loved the people who feel they do. It just didn't seem necessary. I love the way church religions help people feel connected, part of a family even. How they look after each other in times of need. But as far as prayer goes, I'm still none the wiser.
Some say during their prayers they have a conversation with God. That seems pretty tough, when you don't know what the person even looks like, male or female. I mean, a conversation is usually a back and forth thing - you expect answers, otherwise you get discouraged and leave it.
I normally think about things like this in my garden, where I usually feel a great sense of peace and happiness. Do I actually pray, even though my way seems different? When I, trowel in hand, want something to happen, and I think about it, wishing for it to happen, and focus, then send my thoughts out into the great Universe, is that a prayer? I love that feeling of satisfaction when I do it, so maybe that is?
I have a hard time believing God, if male or female, would be even remotely interested in every action of mine, every day. So surely there just has to be a big driving force behind all that happens, the incredible design of all nature, us as well; are we so arrogant as to believe we are not part of the whole scheme?
Could prayer then be what sets us apart from the other kingdoms of nature in our lives? A turning to the magnificence around us all, provided we can stay out of the rat race. See, there's the perfect example. "Please, God, let me stay away from the things I really don't like. And please, keep me healthy." Nothing fancy, and I have no thoughts of a reply.
Maybe my silent thoughts of appeal and appreciation for what I have are just feelings of peace and oneness with a universal God. Not male or female, not someone "above". A force of goodwill, that makes me want to make my little world around me a better place. "May the force be with you." As in Star Wars. That's okay with me.
The Weeblyhood's latest
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Wishing you a safe and beautiful weekend!