“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” – Søren Kierkegaard
Most people go through life having no clear sense of their true values. Instead, their desires are molded by the culture and the advertisements that bombard them each day from television, radio, magazines, and celebrities. As a result, they find no consistency in life. No unity. Their desires change as fast as the culture and they are quickly swept off their feet by the newest fashion, the most recent technology, or the latest diet fad.
In contrast, a firm conviction of your heart’s values leads to a single life. It is not tossed about by the culture. Instead, it is built on the things that you hold truest to your heart. And no new advertising campaign is able to shake it.
The simple life is found there – in the values you hold dearest. And that is why prayer matters.
Prayer slows our mind, calms our spirit, and centers our heart. It removes our mind from the culture of consumption that surrounds us and centers us on something greater and more important. It calls us to identify our desires and articulate our values.
It offers all the benefits of solitude with one added dimension: “the ask.” In prayer, we ask for the most important things – the most valuable. In prayer, our mind races to our deepest heart values. Consider the fact that rarely, in prayer, do we ask for bigger cars, nicer houses, or a larger wardrobe. Instead, we think of our families, our friends, our health, our significance, and our greatest ambitions.
And that is why prayer matters… even if God doesn’t.
I believe in a God that is cheering for me, helping me, and answering my prayers. For me, prayer is a win-win proposition. It centers my heart and attention on what is most important. It forces my eyes to focus on the invisible rather than the visible. It causes me to remember that true joy is not found in a department store, but is found in relationships with myself, others, and God. And it asks a God who loves answering those requests.
But even for those who do not believe in God, prayer is still a winning proposition. It still centers your heart and attention on what is most important. It still forces your eyes to focus on the invisible rather than the visible. It still causes you to remember that true joy is found in relationships. It still forces “the ask” and focuses your ambition on the most important things.
So find a quiet moment. Find a quiet place. And find a quiet heart. Search it for your greatest desires. And maybe for the first time, make “the ask.” Because it matters… even if God doesn’t.
Joshua! I enjoyed your post. A friend emailed the link to me.
I will take the place of Aitch leaving this blog and I will start following it! You will gain more than you lose by posting encouraging blogs. Don’t let them discourage you.
I know this is an OLD post, but I would like to say thank you. I am atheist, but I am still a spiritual person. I have started to research perspectives on prayer without a deity involved, and I find this post to be quite insightful. Personally, I find that prayer and meditation hold different roles in my life. I use meditation to expel the stresses of the world. I view prayer as a means to express gratitude and for the act of supplication, or as you say “the ask.” Thank you for posting this.
This is very dumb! Why would people who don’t believe in God pray? To whom would they be praying? Prayer by it’s very nature is conversation with God. Unless the One to whom the pray-er is praying is God, then what is happening is something else–I don’t know what, but it’s certainly not prayer.
Pray is only a word made by man. IF our intension is true and you believe by saying something positive .EG. I want my mother to get better and mean it .If that intension is sent with all the love only great things can happen .We are spiritual beings with universal thoughts .Religion is man made
I pray to the universe, giving thanks for all it provides me & asking it to provide in times of need etc. I do not believe in a conventional “God” or follow an organised religion. I do believe in the power of focused thoughts, intent & energy, and have faith that the universe will provide, so that is the point of prayer to me. Spirituality goes beyond dogmatic religion.
You are not the God they are praying too so don’t worry about that
I struggle with believing in God and an afterlife, but I do believe that it is good to “act as if” I believe because I think we need to believe in something “good.” You point out the benefits of prayer, which correspond with my reasons for wanting to believe. I suffer from anxiety and depression sometimes. I have been through therapy, and it is great, but being part of spiritual communities has helped me more than anything.
One thing I want to point out is that your first poster, Courtney, said that “gratitude” is the result of prayer, and you replied in agreement, but you said “generosity.” I think gratitude is key to living a positive life, whether you believe in God or not. Gratitude can be towards “life” and can include being grateful for adversity because it teaches us lessons which, in turn, give us more resiliency in future difficult times. I have a tendency to see myself as a victim, and accessing gratitude for what I am learning, or for what is good in my life, helps me to live a more joyous life in any situation. Prayer can be a way to tap into gratitude.
Joshua, shame,shame,shame on you for lying and distracting others from finding the true light that only exsists through an open, loving, and everlasting relationship with Jesus christ! There is no other way to fufill the empty void from our lives than to open up our hearts to our true savior God and to know that because of his son who is Holy and pure aka SINLESS, we as sinners were given an opportunity to have a wonderfu, and beautiful space in Heaven to share with our Lord! PLEASE do not be decieved, the only way to fill that void in your life is to believe that Jesus died for our sins, and follow his 10 commandments, so that when this life has perished we will definently not! God bless you all!
I think you should find out what your bible actually says. Christ never came to shame people but to heal the brokenhearted. You are like a spiritually undeveloped baby with spoon fed religious understanding, trying to “shame” someone who might actually understand something about life and love. Maybe do some internal work on yourself. The fact that you could “shame” someone not once but three times tells loads about your own spiritual growth or lack thereof. Here is something to really blow your mind – there was not and is no such creature as “the devil”, there is no such place as hell, when we die we will be purified and not punished. And lastly, all are welcomed into heaven whether we “sinned” (missed the mark) or not. I urge you to pick up a copy of “In Defense of God’s Love” by The Why Guy. Unless you fear the truth.
Ann Premo says
Hope you dont mind, I shared with friends and family, something I have been trying to relate, and feel you said it all in this post : )
Vidya Sury says
Beautiful! In India, we’re celebrating “Sankranti” today, a festival dedicated to the Sun God where we thank him for his role in our lives – and we were discussing exactly this – why prayers matter – even if the rituals we are used to don’t. :-) Values matter. Love this post.
Great bio on your blog Byron. I especially love ‘on a 4 year fast from wearing a suit’, I sure can relate to that! :)
I would question though whether someone who doesn’t believe in god (or anything else) has the capacity to pray, with absolute conviction (in the formulation or the asking). Personally I think prayer really only holds value to those who believe in something higher. Supposedly prayer is good for your health though :)