Prayer: Spiritual or Self-Serving?

Lord, please hear my prayer! Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

Lord, please hear my prayer!
Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

Prayer, for most of us, is the primary means by which we communicate with God. The question is: what should we be saying when “speaking” with Him?

It seems that many who pray use it mostly to ask for things they want, even though God has already provided what they need. This is in keeping with the self-centered, materialistic mind-set of society today.

Why should one ask for more than they need when there are so many around the world who are barely able to scratch out the most basic existence? To ask for more when we already have enough, may be offensive to God. He has a life plan for each of us and He will provide precisely what we need to support that life plan and the service to which we have been called.

I question the value of saying prayers prescribed by a religion in a long chain over and over again. The repetitive nature of this form of prayer can quickly make the process one of a mindless drone. If the first repetition was said from the heart with sincere and conscious intent, then enough said.

Saying the same prayer again and again is not likely to give it greater force. In fact, it may even have a negative effect. Who wants to hear the same thing over and over? Soon one stops listening. When you say a single prayer with all of your heart and soul, it will be heard throughout all of the heavenly spheres with clarity and power.

And praying should not be restricted to time spent at one’s place of worship. Prayer should be an ongoing, frequent, daily practice said anywhere at any time. This is especially true for prayers of thanks. As a continuous process, prayer is a spiritual presence of mind where one is always aware of the presence of God in all things.

We should not make “promises” to God such that if He gives us X, then we promise to change our ways or do Y. Instead, we should attend to how we live on a daily basis, and always treat others with kindness. Then we will be rewarded without asking.

We are all human with limited ability to protect ourselves from harm and to cope with pain and suffering. If we find ourselves in a dangerous situation, or we suffer from some malady, prayer can often bring the help and strength we need to endure.

When we ask for material things for ourselves, prayer becomes a hollow self-serving exercise that may fall upon deaf ears. However, prayer becomes an expression of our spirit when we use it to give thanks for what God has chosen to give us, to ask for help for others, and to seek guidance concerning how we can be better human beings.

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What is Spiritual Awareness?

And My light rose up... Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

And My light rose up…
Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

My personal spiritual experiences have led me to view what we mean by spiritual awareness differently than many people. Perhaps the most common and basic concept of spiritual awareness is simply an awareness of, or belief in, a higher being. I see this as a very limited and somewhat passive perspective.

My view of spiritual awareness is much more expansive and active. As discussed last week, this awareness most often begins with a belief in God, but spiritual awareness is not a belief, it is an experience.

As one’s spiritual awareness expands beyond basic belief, things happen. One begins to have inspirations and revelations. New knowledge and/or understanding blossom within us. Sometimes knowledge we already had springs forth with a new perspective, or takes on a deeper meaning and significance. This new meaning sometimes compels us to take action of some sort.

Expanding spiritual awareness and knowledge often bring with them new responsibilities that may require personal sacrifices. An example from my own spiritual evolution was the realization and belief that it is wrong to raise animals for food. This grew out of my expanding spiritual understanding of how all life forms are interconnected with each other and with the Source.

I took responsibility for this revelation by committing to vegetarianism and I am now a staunch supporter of animal rights. As one acquires more spiritual knowledge, one must adapt their thinking and behavior to reflect that knowledge. This is why I refer to spirituality as a developmental or evolutionary process.

To experience a more expansive spiritual awareness, we must truly open our minds and put aside any preconceived notions and prejudices. If we want to experience deeper levels of spiritual awareness, all we need do is ask, but we must be willing to change in response to the spiritual knowledge and understanding we receive.

Faith and Spiritual Awareness

The Sixteen Prophets, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France. Copyright 2000 by Blair Atherton

The Sixteen Prophets, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France. Copyright 2000 by Blair Atherton

Are faith and spiritual awareness the same thing? This is an interesting question and no doubt there are many different views concerning the answer.

In thinking about this in the context of my own religious and spiritual experiences, I am of the belief that they are not the same. I see faith as a doorway or threshold through which most people must pass in order to begin a path to spiritual awareness. There are exceptions to this, but for most of us faith in a higher being is a necessary first step.

At the same time, simply believing in God is not sufficient for becoming spiritually aware. If we think about it, we realize that we know many people who participate in the rituals of organized religion but show no signs of spiritual awareness. When they walk out the door of their place of worship they leave God behind and return to their often self-centered and materialistic lifestyle. This can also apply to those who believe in God, but do not participate in organized religion.

In contrast, those with spiritual awareness see the world very differently. They see God in everything around them. They feel his presence every minute of every day. They constantly give Him thanks and praise, and they make a very conscious effort to live a life of goodness. They hold themselves accountable for their mistakes, wrong-doing, and transgressions, and they have genuine repentance.

Living a spiritually aware life may be a paradigm shift for many. Nevertheless, once having found the doorway to a spiritual life, do not be afraid to pass through. Keep an open mind and be prepared to make sacrifices and take on new responsibilities inherent in the knowledge you will receive.