When you walk the roads of the Internet, you will learn about different cultures. One day I learned about blessings, something I thought only a pope did. Or a priest perhaps. I realized I don’t know much about what drives religious people. The importance of prayers was not very known to me, but as people do find comfort in prayers, I want to know more.
As a toddler, before my family decided to go without religion, I did a prayer every night on my knees in front of the bed. “I close my eyes, fold my hands, bend my knees before you Lord, faithful Father in heaven, look upon me in love.” It rhymed in Dutch, it hurt my knees and it was part of the bedtime ritual my mother had installed, but when I asked her one day: Do you believe in God?, she said: No, not really, and that was the end of the religion in our family.
This was in the sixties. At school, Sunday school, before and after meals, there were prayers. They were merely rituals and did we really thank for the food we were about to receive? For spinach? A boy (“Bartje” ) in Dutch literature became famous for his words : “I won’t pray for brown beans!”
So I don’t pray. Well I always thought I don’t, but if you wish something good for a person very much, so much, you close your eyes and think strongly about it, “become well again please!”, isn’t that a sort of prayer too? But to what? To whom do I ‘send’ this wish? Is it a remaining of a religion I once grew up with? Does it work if you are not a believer in God?
Prayers so I have learned today, have been around where ever people started to have a religion. So there has to be a religion to pray?
Prayer, the English word originates from Latin precarius, late Roman precare, Old French preiere, Middle English preie. In Dutch it is gebed, from the verb bidden. Both meaning: to ask earnestly.
So in many cultures, independendly from each other, prayers occured. Out of the blue? Aboriginals, living isolated in Australia for many centuries, knew prayers long before Austrailia was ‘discovered’.
Landscape features may be the embodiment of the deity itself, such as a particular rock representing a specific figure, or they may be the result of something the deity did or that happened to the deity in the Creation Period, such as a river having formed when the Rainbow Serpent passed through the area in the Creation Period, or a depression in a rock or in the ground representing the footprint or sitting place of an Ancestral Being. I think perhaps this is how religion started of everywhere on Earth?
Inca’s, living in South America, knew prayers. Prayer songs, ceremonial songs, work songs and love songs were part of the texture of daily life.Jaillis – sacred hymns – were prayers and philosophical ponderings. Inca Priests greeted each sunrise and sunset singing jaillis, usually accompanied by music, beseeching Tijsi Wiracocha (The Creator), Inti (the Sun), Illapa (Thunder-Lightning), Pachamama (The Earth Mother), Mamaquilla (the Moon), and all the huacas (spirits of places) to grant health, prosperity and happiness for the people, the Inca and the empire.
Originally, so I read, prayers spring directly out of the souls deepest need, or highest bliss. Originally it is the formal utterance of a depressed or happy soul, accompanied by a simple gift. Originally it is the personal utterance of an individual, or of the chief of a group.
According to Heiler, people in the beginning (of religious awareness, these words are mine) conversed freely with God. Later prayers became more mechanical, think of rosary beads for instance.
But still: “It is precisely in prayer that we have revealed to us the essential element of all religion.”
I am starting to believe the fact that you feel strongly about some one’s well being, that might indeed help that person to heal. I don’t know how exactly, but there has been proof of mass prayers helping the sick. Perhaps it isn’t scientific, but I think there is a lot science doesn’t know at the moment.
To me, at this point, a prayer is a personal conversation with what we don’t know, in the strong believe, or with the strong hope, to be heard and to get the support we can’t find anywhere else.
I used quotes from these sites: History of Book of Comon Prayer; Prayer, a history; Prayer study; aboriginalculture.com ;red-coral.net/Pach. This story is also on my wp blog.
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