First off, I would like to apologise for the prolonged absence of posting to this blog and also the Media Project — life has been kind of insane around here, and it feels kind of serendipitous that I’m going to write an entry about prayer after the 17-year-old cat had a seizure (probably a brain tumour, according to the emergency vet) and my flat-mate got laid off.
First off, I want to say that the ultimate purpose of prayer is communique with the Divine. Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner: A Book of Prayer, Devotional Practice and the Nine Worlds of Spirit by Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera describes five basic types of prayer that I feel are fairly universal: the Thank you, the Please, I Love You, I Am Sorry, and The Universe is Wonderful With You in It. Think about it, if and when you pray, it probably fits neatly into one or more of those topics. Each of these has its own purposes, and each aids in weaving a pattern of reciprocity with the Theoi.
I think the traditional Hellenic prayer stance —standing, face forward, palms open— also helps. I see a common explanation for this as “well, we sure shouldn’t prostrate ourselves like Christians“, and I went through a very short period of advocating that defence. Other popular defences I see are “because I respect myself” or (most appalling, I think) “because we are equal to the gods”. I think these are all very misguided. What I feel now, is that even though we are unequal to the Theoi, the point of standing (or at least sitting — just anything-but-kneeling, under most circumstances; I’ll get to that in a sec) and face up, is to make your prayers heard. We tend to be taught as children to face authority figures when speaking to them, because it’s harder to hear some-one who is speaking away from you; we are also taught to approach a person when speaking rather than to speak across the room. Now there are ancient examples of kneeling in prayer, typically of a woman praying on behalf of the entire family, or when praying on behalf of the very sick or dying; it’s not the most common, and it does seem exclusive to women, but in considering a woman’s primary roles in ancient Hellas, and the circumstances under which this was depicted, it could be said that this is not an act of prostration, but a symbolic stance of taking on the burdens of others — while almost definitely unspeakably odd for an ancient Hellenic man to take this stance, a modern man who has taken the role of nurturer for his family may find it appropriate to, at times, kneel.
There is a power in all forms of communication — with people and with Deities. That power is the simple act of making your needs and thoughts heard and, hopefully, known and understood. It may be one of the most basic powers, but as all of my teachers had told me, you can’t un-say something; sure, Internet communications may create that illusion, what with message boards that allow users to delete their own posts, but the fact remains that anybody who read it will know what you said — and know that you deleted it, as if to try and un-say it. The listener also has a power to do something about whatever it is that you said, and the actions may be in your favour or disfavour. This is true for both men and Theoi.
It’s a very simple power, but it also has the potential to be very profound once that string of actions is set in play.
That’s not to say prayer is all that is necessary to accomplish great things. After all, the Gods help them who helm themselves; while I tend to see more atheist and agnostic-leaning people interpret this as “self-help is the best help”, I tend to see it more as a reminder that one has to not only pray themselves out of the ditch, but if you’re willing to put your shoulder to the wheel and give it the first nudges, They will see this and add to your strength — I see this most literally in the phenomenon of mothers who are temporarily witnessed of super-strength when their baby appears endangered (after all, “adrenaline rush” only explains the chemical process, the How; not the Why). Prayer, though, does articulate things.
List behind cut: