The act of praying is a uniquely human experience. Animals do not pray nor have the capability to believe or have faith in things beyond their own existence.
Human beings, no matter how primitive, have always been aware of something beyond themselves. This has been connected with their “purpose” for being, their “future” is determined by factors beyond their control, that “morals and actions” determined whether good or bad things happen and that “praying” was the way to connect with what is beyond our existence.
The majority of humans feel the need to pray when things are not going well. This phenomena has always been an important part of being human and coming to terms with what life means.
Some find themselves connected through traditions and activities that involve others and identify with a particular faith. Frequently prayer is an individual experience despite belonging to a faith or religion.
As a psychologist I find that many are cautious to describe spiritual experiences that occur, or praying as way to respond to hardship.
Even though a group of people may belong to a particular faith, it is important to realise that the experience of spiritual connection is a very individual experience. The way an individual connects with their purpose and meaning, is not the same as the next person with similar beliefs and experiences.
How Can Praying Help?
This is my reflection on the ways that I see prayer help in my own life and others:
- Prayer is connected to faith, and faith is the belief in things that have not yet come to pass. Therefore prayer can be the verbal expression of the things that are held to be desired in the future, such as health of a family member and safety in the face of danger. Hearing what you pray for is important to understanding yourself.
- Who are you praying to? This will depend on your religion, faith and personal beliefs. If you are praying to a kind and loving being, then this will be mirrored in your feelings of response to your prayers. If you are praying to a harsh or judgemental being, then this will cause you hardship when you try to connect.
- Praying is usually connected to a belief in immortality, and going to a better place after this life. Therefore prayer can be seen by most as a gateway to their future destination; a place where loved ones will be waiting.
For all these reasons I feel it is important to share those experiences as part of the usual process in counselling. Quite often I will have clients share “what” they pray for, and how they communicate in prayer. It’s an interesting concept, but perhaps there are ways to communicate more effectively, even in prayer!
If you have been struggling and pray, or struggling to pray, it can be helpful to have a sounding board if life is worrying or troubling you.
Author: Vivian Jarrett, B Psych (hons), AMAPS, MAICD.
Vivian Jarrett is the Clinic Director at Vision Psychology; she is passionate about providing high quality psychology services to Australians from all walks of life.
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