Don't Just Pray or Just Don't Pray?

Since starting this blog, I've pondered covering a number of topics that I feel have placed a strangle-hold on the healthy development of many modern religions ideologically. I agonize over each of these topics for fear of unintentionally misguiding someone into thinking I don't feel that faith has a place in modern life.

Quite the contrary - if anything I'd like to be an advocate for the preservation of many aspects of religious life. I simply don't see how the construct of the organized religion in the modern sense can fool itself into thinking that its existence is sustainable. In my view, we are (as a planet) ready to abandon organized religion and therefore in danger of losing many useful aspects of organized religion as well.

My goal is to examine the aspects of organized religion from an average person's point of view, see what's worth keeping, and start a dialogue about it. I feel it necessary to do this OUTSIDE of the construct of organized religion. Hence the phrase "having faith; leaving church."

This topic (prayer) cuts to the heart of the matter and might tend to lean a bit toward the frustrated, but keep in mind - I still think faith and even prayer can play an important role in modern life.

It would be really easy to turn this blog into a haters blog where all I do is complain about everything that is wrong with modern organized religion and point to the myriad of examples of religious people behaving badly. But I'm trying not to do that.

At it's core, I hoped these articles would provide some solidarity for people who were brought up in any particular organized religion (any of them, really) and who find themselves at personal crossroads with the prospect of keeping elements of religion or ditching the whole kit and caboodle.

But it's also about interfaith cooperation in the broadest sense. There is a lot of good that we can accomplish and we can do it #bettertogether. That goes for folks who are part of traditional religious systems and for those who are not. Those who feel more comfortable with the classification "other" on those awkward surveys of religious persuasion are just as valid to bring to any "interfaith" discussion as are representatives from any particular "organized" faith.

That is a growing category for certain. More and more people are finding it appropriate to let the traditions of old slip into obscurity, perhaps as punishment for the inadequacies of the systems themselves.

Honestly, I'm not sure the world is quite aware of just how many people are ready to chuck it all (or already have.)

One of the highest profile aspects of most religions - prayer - and attitudes about it, provide for a flashpoint of such sentiment, which is why I've chosen to focus on it in this first series of "topic based" posts.

Prayer is where the rubber meets the religious road, to use a driving metaphor. Religion can tend to be overly academic sometimes but prayer seems to be the touchpoint of religion in the life of the average person, at least the idea of it can be.

Prayer is what you do to talk to your god, right? You offer up thanks, or (more commonly, thanks to the innately selfish nature of human perspective) beg for help or intervention.

But this is a problem I've had with prayer since before I began my self-imposed exile from organized religion.

All too often, the mentality that is encouraged, taught, promoted, and publicly perceived goes like this:

Need something? Ask God for it. Sure, there are some finer points, but most times folks leave that to the theologians. Take this bumper sticker and the idea attached to it as evidence:

"Just Pray"

I don't know about you, but this makes me cringe in the same way I just to cringe at Nancy Reagan's "Just say no" anti-drug campaign or Nike's "Just do it" slogan. Nothing is ever that simple, I say to myself when I see it.

If I raised my son to believe that all he needed to do when he needed to go to the bathroom was "just squat," it would create a human with some very messy habits.

I'm not saying prayer has no place. But certainly our attitudes about it's purpose and power seem to encourage people to have some very messy habits - in an interpersonal/relating to others sort of sense.

What I'd like to do in the next few posts is discover the purpose of prayer in a modern context and see if it is indeed something that needs to go "out with the bathwater" or if there is any way it can be useful to the secular modern world.

Do you have thoughts? Opinions? Please join the dialogue here.


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