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An essay donated by Bindi Gill

Why prayer does not work.
A common sense approach to prayer

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What is prayer?

Prayer can most simply be stated is an act of beseeching a higher power. Prayer should be distinguished from worship. While worship – which can involve prayer – is usually done in a grouping, prayer is usually done alone when one is in solitude and seeking communion with a higher power. Prayer is therefore highly personal while worship is communal.

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Why do people pray?

People pray for a variety of reasons. However all prayers (the personal sort) is usually done for one or more of the following three reasons:-

  1. Seeking intervention of a higher power to ease or solve a problem.

  2. Seeking help from a higher power to attain to a material goal.

  3. Seeking help from a higher power for wisdom and spiritual guidance.

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Do all prayers work?

The answer to this question is both Yes and No. Yes, all prayers work but No, all prayers do not work equally well. By their very nature, some prayers have a higher tendency to work while others have a higher rate of failure.

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What sort of prayers don’t work?

Of the three type of prayers mentioned above, prayers that fall into the first two categories (type 1 and type 2 prayers) have the highest rate of failures. This means prayer that seek divine intervention or help for easing or solving problems and achieve material gain have the higher chance of failure.

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Why prayers don’t work:

The number one reason why type 1 and 2 prayers often don’t work is an over reliance on the higher power to do the actual work. The second stumbling block is the devotees’ over confidence in their faith. While we all like to believe that faith can move mountains, we all know reality to be somewhat different. We all have been bought into the idea that if we believe strong enough, God will come through for us. While in a very few cases this may appear to be true, it would be wise for us to remember the old adage that God works in mysterious ways and no one has figured out what those ways are exactly.

Therefore humility – a great deal of humility – is much called for when we pray. We should pray more and expect less.

The third reason why prayers appear not to work is the failure on part of the devotee to recognize that their prayers have actually been answered! Many a devotee expect the higher power to provide specific answers. Higher powers seldom take instructions from lower life forms. They prefer to answer in their own way, according to their own terms and in their own time. Many a devotee unconsciously make the mistake of assigning an “expiry date to their prayers. When no answer has been received up to the “expiry date, the devotee mistakenly assumes that no answer will be forthcoming. Here then a golden opportunity at receiving an answer is lost. When praying one should always be open to answers. The higher powers often place and provide us with answers in the least expectant of ways. Therefore it will do us good to be vigilant to the “movement of the higher power in our lives.

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What sort of prayers do work?

From the three types of prayers mentioned above, it is the third type that has the highest rate of success. Prayers of this type include prayers for strength, fortitude, wisdom and spiritual guidance.

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Why do prayers work?

The number one reason why prayer of the type 3 mentioned above work best is simply because of the personal involvement and intensity of the devotee. People usually do not pray for strength, fortitude, wisdom and spiritual guidance unless they are in a very distressed state. This distressed state give rise to a state of heighten awareness which is precisely what prayers are for. It is only when the devotee is in an elevated state of awareness do the higher powers have the opportunity to reach across and touch the devotees’ life in a powerful way. This brings about the best impact that a prayer can have and draws the devotee ever closer to their chosen higher power. The devotees’ faith is strengthen and grown. The devotee feels touched and blessed by the higher power and gains renewed energy to go through the ups and downs of life. As such, the devotees’ chances of survival increases tremendously. The prayer has fulfilled its purpose.

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How to improve the chances of my prayers working?

Prayers of type 1 and type 2 mentioned above seeks to alter aspects of reality that are beyond the control of the devotee. The devotee who assumes that the higher power will alter reality simply because he believes it is in their power to do so might actually be assuming too much. It is not difficult to see then why such prayers almost always go unanswered or unfulfilled. Having reality bent to our will is a tall order even for the gods.

By contrast, prayer of type 3 works on the individual’s own psychological level. Prayer of this type can be regarded in a real sense as an exercise is positive reinforcement. Repeated over time – and with a firm believe that a higher power is listening – this type of prayer is in fact rewiring or reprograming the individual’s own brain. In the process new connections are made in the brain. When new connections are made, new thoughts emerge and with them new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. It is not surprising to see prayers of type 3 bringing about profound and lasting changes to an individual.

So to increase the chances of your prayers working, perform more type 3 prayers and less type 1 and type 2 prayers.

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When should I not pray?

Despite popular believe, not all prayers are good. In fact some prayers should be avoided like the plague. If prayers build character – so they say - then you would be wise to watch what you pray for. Praying for the wrong things and the wrong reasons might not only bring bad karma but be outright counter-productive in the long run. Here then is a list of prayers you should avoid. The list is by no means exhaustive but is meant to give you an idea of what constitute a bad prayer.

  1. You should not pray to seek material gain merely for your own self advancement.

  2. You should not pray to fulfill your religious obligations. The higher powers do live on our prayers. Do not pray because you think the higher power needs it. The higher power need nothing from you. So if your heart is not in the prayer, there is no point doing it.

  3. You should not pray to gain merit to buy a “ticket to paradise or gain a better birth in the next life. If things were that simple, we could all be born as kings!

  4. You should not pray to fulfill a “bargain you made with the higher powers. It’s absurd to think that the higher powers grants you your wish because they are in need of your pathetic prayers. Trust me, you are not doing anyone any favors with this type of prayers.

  5. You should not pray for calamity or misfortune to befall on your enemies or people whom you have an axe to grind with. Any noble higher power worth their salt will never entertain such selfish desires. Besides, your enemies might be praying the same things for you!

  6. You should not pray to gain social standing. Praying to appear religious or boast off your religious credentials is really not praying in any real sense of the word. The only thing such prayer bestow is an inflated ego – and in case your wondering - that is not good!

  7. You should pray to ask for a miracle. Some would argue that there is no harm praying for miracles. They say we can never be sure when the gods might smile on us. Such prayers are condescending and make the gods look stupid. You don’t want to do that – really.

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When should I pray?

You should only pray when and if you have the right prerequisites. Without the right prerequisites, your prayer is not going to be of much use to you or anyone else. The ingredients of a good prayer are:-

  1. Purity of intent. Make sure your prayer is devoid of greed and self-righteousness. This is by far the single most important factor. God does not exist to fulfill your every whim and fancy. If he did, then it is YOU who is the real God.

  2. Right frame of mind. You should only pray when you can concentrate. If concentration if impossible, prayer is also impossible.

  3. Be humble. A humble mind is a teachable mind. A teachable mind can learn anything. When your mind become moldable, you set yourself up to receive insights to your problems and life. These insights will begin to affect great changes to your life. This is the key to unlocking the power of prayer.

  4. Be ready to wait for an answer. If you want instant answers, try a fortune cookie. Otherwise be prepared and open for an answer. It may take some time.

  5. Be persistent but not demanding. You cannot boss around the Big Boss. Trust me.

  6. Accept the answer – even when it’s not what you want. Often times there is hidden wisdom in the answer and if you learn and apply it, you will find the solution to your problem.

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To whom or what should I to pray to?

For many people this seem to be the million dollar question. Actually it’s worth far less than that. Many are they who go around trying out ever new gods and deities hoping to find one that is most responsive to their needs. Trust me no such thing exists. If it did, the world would be beating down on its door. Choose a higher power that you are comfortable with. Nobody has written the last word on what the higher powers are or how they work. Such understanding is still very much a work in progress – regardless of what the religious zealots say. Choose a higher power that appeals to your higher senses. Choose one that speaks to you about what and who you see yourself becoming. Choose one you can aspire to and not one that merely strikes fear and awe. Contrary to popular belief, the choice of a higher power has little role one how effective a prayer will be. The most important criteria in the person doing the praying.

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I hope this article has shed some light on the mysterious topic of prayer. I hope that I have succeded in showing you how common sense can provide answers to some profound questions. I hope you have found it enlightening – and entertaining. Finally I leave you with this words of wisdom: -

"Don't pray for lighter burdens, but for stronger backs."

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Original posting: 2010-FEB-13
Author: Bindi Gill

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