If I had to guess what blog post title I would never use when I started Freedom Twenty-Five, I would have unhesitatingly answered, “The Power Of Prayer.”
But what is prayer? CS Lewis is emphatic that prayer is not ‘asking God for stuff.’ Rather, prayer is asking God for the strength to do something yourself. Also, it is the act of prostrating yourself before the chance and unpredictability of the vast and chaotic Universe. You don’t need to believe in God to pray.
I’m sure many Christians will say, yes you do indeed need to believe in God to pray. I realize I am using words carelessly here.
So what does prayer look like for the secular 21st-century man? Actually, it dovetails quite nicely with a lot of other habits that are catching on with the smart, ambitious, self-aware people in my generation.
Is meditation prayer? They look similar, and they both lead to deep, supernatural-feeling experiences.
Is visualization prayer?
One of the common tenets of the lifestyle design world is the importance of defining exactly what you want and how you’re going to get there. That’s kinda-sorta like prayer.
I can torture the English language as much as I like. Writing a 3-month business case is not prayer. But as an atheist, perhaps it’s as close as I’m going to get. Here’s what prayer has looked like for me, in the past few weeks that I’ve been doing it.
When I need strength, I ask for it.
After three hard rounds of hitting the pads with a trainer who wants to see me vomit on the mat, it’s tempting to quit or go easy. I can’t ask God to hit the pads for me, but I can ask him to let me find the strength to do it inside myself. I can ask God to let me look into myself, and see how much is still left in my tank. Laugh all you want cynics, but I find that doing this makes it much easier to push through weak moments in my training.
When I’m at the mercy of chance, prayer helps me to accept it.
Three AM, after a long night at the club, about to jet back to the hotel with a cute kiwi gap-year girl in tow. Check my pockets for the keys to my bike, they aren’t there. Walk over to my bike, thinking drunk retard me left them in the ignition. Nope. Walk through the bar, scan the floor. No keys. Stress levels rising.
So I pray. I have a conversation with God, or an imaginary friend, or whoever. Doing so brings me out of my head, and makes me realize that life will go on no matter what happens in the next hour or two. Worrying won’t fix anything. I should be grateful my bike is still there. I should be grateful I have such a great lie right now that a lost set of motorcycle keys is a great tragedy.
I don’t ask God for my keys. I ask him for the perspective I need to handle the situation as best as I can, and more importantly, not let it upset me. Serenity now!
(Post-script: A panhandler had found the keys in the ignition and held onto them for me until the end of the night rather than steal the bike. I have him no more than what a happy meal would cost in the US, and he was overjoyed. Ahh, Thailand. )
When I need clarity about my life and mission, I pray for it
God, if you’re a Freedom Twenty-Five subscriber, please help me figure out exactly what I should be doing with my finite time in this world. Am I on the right path? Am I doing good?
God, to me, is not real. But I can still envision a perfect being, ask him for advice, and make my best guess as to what he would say, in the same way I don’t call my father whenever I wonder what he would tell me about something. I know him well enough to guess what his advice would be anyways.
So I remain an atheist. You probably do too. But atheists still have a lot to learn from the traditions and beliefs of 2000 years of Christianity. Whether you desire faith or not, you should at least pray for an open mind.
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