et's begin with the most important blessing, advantage or gain that the greatest habit offers.
Let's begin with the centre of it all:
1ST : Prayer Gives You a Relationship with God
At the heart of all our desires is God - who is both the end and means of this process. Prayer offers the best gift of all, a relationship with God. It gets us to know Him.
What prayer does at its most basic level is to put an end to the deep seated discomfort or sadness that all human beings experience when separated from God. Prayer replaces this 'pain', in all its many forms, with that elusive quality known as inner fulfillment or peace.
As St. Augustine stated in his prayers, "God, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."
It is not surprising that depression affects now one out of four people in western society. It is impossible to find a sense of integral fulfillment without God. As philosophers have often stated, the awareness of the free choice we have assigning meaning, creates the base human experience of dread and anxiety in being alive...
“Prayer is an end to isolation.– GEORGES LEFEVRE
It is living our daily life with someone;
with him who alone can deliver us from solitude.”
Depression and fear is the effect of a prayerless cause. Mother Teresa observed that, 'loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty', and there are examples of it everywhere... Not too long ago here in Australia, Rene Rivkin, one of the richest and most flamboyant 'high-flyer' billionaires, committed suicide. A self-confessed atheist, in his last days he just keep on repeating, 'what's the point going on?'.
In the same way, a highly intellectual man like George Bernard Shaw who placed his faith in his own self, instead of God, came to state towards the end of their life: "The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, have led directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith."
For most though, this sense of anguish is covered up with the "busyness of life" and most recently with lots of anti-depressants. However, this emptiness and hopelessness eventually finds its way into the heart of all people that have no relationship with God - simply because the human soul becomes vastly undernourished.
Prayer is what connects us with God and establishes a relationship with Him. At its essence, it is primarily designed for the purpose of having a continual awareness of this relationship - of this reality - so that with each day, life becomes more fulfilling, more joyful, more meaningful.
“Prayer is a kind of calling home every day. And there can come to you a serenity, a feeling of at-homeness in God's universe, a peace that the world can neither give nor disturb, a fresh courage, a new insight, a holy boldness that you'll never, never get any other way.”– EARL G. HUNT
Prayer is grounded in the presupposition that we have a direct relationship with our Creator and that we can engage in a conversation with Him.
While it is possible, to play an intellectual game and argue back and forth of God's existence - whether it was God that was responsible for our creation, or whether it was the pure chance of molecules colliding into each other until eventually, 'by luck' life emerged - the self-evident fact remains that life does not just have a material origin. Matter is not alive. Only Life can beget life.
There were many stories and mythologies of creation throughout the ages, and many are quite fantastical - like the Aborigine dream-time story. But our modern myth of having the universe emerge through an astronomical number of 'accidents' - i.e. an infinite amount of monkeys working on typewriters for billions of years, until one by pure accident one ends up typing the complete works of Shakespeare - is quite possibly the most bizarre of all.
As of this millennium, it is time to stop taking life as a 'cosmic billiard game' as a serious idea. To even engage in such an argument is to waste time entertaining a juvenile idea that is on par with the thought experiment, - can you really prove that you exist...
But for those that accept and believe in God and define Him as "Infinite Intelligence" or "Source of Life" or "Universal Law", I would like to suggest there's an even deeper relation between you and God. While these are certainly attributes of God, perhaps the most essential part is that we are His Children.
Whether or not you have a family on Earth, you definitely have a Father in Heaven.God is not an "impersonal abstraction". You are His child, His son. There is a family bond between you and God. God is our heritage and family. That is why we are a "brotherhood".
Prayer as such, is this 'family communication'. It is the spirit of love within you, expressing itself to the Spirit of Love that created you. It is a natural self-expression that extends beyond the world of forms, into our spiritual relationship and birthright.
“Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment– SOREN KIERKEGAARD
when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other,
to let their souls blend in a soft whisper,
so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can,
as it were, creep into God."
Real prayer is a joyous expression based on the understanding of our spiritual relationship. As author Richard Foster observed, 'Real prayer comes not from gritting our teeth, but from falling in love.'
For far, far too many people prayer is perceived to be some form of 'grim duty', into which you must 'sacrifice yourself'... something that you have to 'whip your flesh' into doing. These notions have survived from the middle ages, and are unfortunately still present today. And when one perceives prayer in this way - is it surprising that many miss out on the incredible experience that prayer offers?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Prayer is the conversation between you and God - between you as his Son and Him as your loving Father. Would you ever want your child to view communication with you as some form of 'grim duty'?
Isn't that what Jesus said?
Unless we become as little children we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So ask yourself, 'How does a child come to speak to a loving Father?'
That's our model here. For when prayer is expressed in joy, prayer then gives joy.
This reminds me of a case where a boy of about fifteen-year-old in an orphans' home who had an incurable stutter. One Sunday the minister was detained and the boy volunteered to say the prayer in his stead. He did it perfectly too, without a single stutter. Later he explained, "I don't stutter when I talk to God. He loves me."
“For me, happiness came from prayer to a kindly God, faith in a kindly God, love for my fellow man, and doing the very best I could every day of my life. I had looked for happiness in fast living, but it was not there.
I tried to find it in money, but it was not there, either.
But when I placed myself in tune with what I believe to be fundamental truths of life, when I began to develop my limited ability, to rid my mind of all kinds of tangled thoughts and fill it with zeal and courage and love, when I gave myself a chance by treating myself decently and sensibly, I began to feel the stimulating, warm glow of happiness.”– EDWARD YOUNG
It is from this Primary Relationship
that all these blessings are then added: