“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 becker says
Of course, thanks.
Joshua, I understand where you are coming from as I was raised in a religious environment but I cannot understand why prayer matters if god doesn’t. If the act of prayer is to ‘ask’ for something based on your deepest heart values to be a reality, it suggests you are asking god for something (or maybe assistance/guidance?). If you don’t believe in the someone (i.e. god) it’s just wishful thinking. Each to their own of course but my preference is to sit quietly and think deeply then act. For me it’s the act that leads me to my deepest heart values.
joshua becker says
It is because in the request, we further identify our deepest heart desires. Whether or not there is a God who hears, we are bettered by analyzing the thought process that leads to the request. We find value even in formulating the wish. And when we are able to articulate our deepest wishes, we know better how to act.
This is such an excellent post! It is wonderful to see the growth of the inner soul, like seeds sprouting to life because finally there is room to grow, after we’ve ‘decluttered’ the spaces around/in us. I adore all the comments from your readers. There are wonderful points from all walks of life, and that is so enlightening. Keep up the thought provoking posts!
i heard: in prayer we ask, and in meditation we listen.
i could always use more of both. i had a hard time with getting on my knees, and my day goes better when i do.
thank you for this. i have been an on and off “practicer” of meditation and prayer for many years. but i still have trouble explaining it to my husband who grew up with a church and under a very strict definition of faith (i did not) and still has very christian god-centered beliefs even though he no longer attends a church. your post will not necessarily help him understand (it might), but the occasional affirmation does very much help me (and often returns me to a practice). thanks again, jen
Gip @ So Much More Life says
“It calls us to identify our desires and articulate our values.”
You’ve got the right idea. I like this post. Thanks for writing it.
To me giving ‘thanks’ is even more important. We often ‘ask’ in an effort to control the world around us. Have you ever noticed the tourists who hold out their hands in hopes of getting a pigeon to stop? The only ones who are successful carry seeds in their hands.
Ahmad Fadli | The Minimalist Guy says
I find a disconnection when prayer matters even if God doesn’t.
But I agree wholeheartedly about prayers as a toll to center your heart, and slows down our mind (as in not having racing thoughts right?)
To me, prayer creates a singularity of purpose . Because we usually don’t ask for a lot of things but only things that really matters in our prayers:-)
I believe in simplicity, mimimalism, generosity, kindness and meditation (I have two kids under 8 years I need the meditation!). Hence I love reading this blog :) I don’t pray but I do ask questions and voice my hope in my quieter moments. We all need the quiet moments to bring ourselves back to ourselves – not back to our things, our jobs, our committments. Please everyone, obtain these moments as often as you can – they can change your life – or at least bring the balance we all need.