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Prayer: A one-way conversation, or a communion with our Creator?

By Charlotte B. Cerminaro
web posted September 20, 2021

Many people of the Judeo-Christian and Muslim faiths engage in the outward act of prayer on a frequent basis. Sometimes these are ritualistic acts, at specific times of the day or during the solemn, holy festivals in gatherings with others of their faith. Often, people of faith will turn to prayer in a peaceful solitude. Numerous times during His public ministry, Messiah Jesus was found in solitary prayer during the dark and quiet watch of the night. On the night of His betrayal, while the disciples slept off their Passover meal, Jesus prayed alone but out loud, communing with the spirit of God in His agony. Even people of faith, however, cannot completely understand the full essence and nature of prayer, or its purpose; only that it is an outward act of an inner faith, a mystery that is ordained by the Creator for our own benefit.

While many people argue about the requisites and outcomes of "effective prayer" we can all agree that we're imperfect beings in an imperfect world, that we often need help, and that sometimes we don't even know the exact nature of the help we do need. In times of stress, loneliness, fear, pain, danger or grief people often turn to "things". Food, alcohol, romantic relationships, consumerism and gambling come to mind but there are innumerable distractions and temporary "fixes", offering momentary relief but no solutions. When a finite problem does pass, there is often a sense of peace or relief from the most acute stressor, but the problems that are innate to the human condition never pass. People still turn to chemical substances, behaviors, or other people, even in the best of times---to treat what is essentially a deficit in our nature. Many describe it as a feeling of emptiness, loneliness or longing, that nothing can actually satisfy, only temporarily relieve. Some problems actually compound and worsen this human deficit: war, poverty, disease, depression and oppression are just a few, and these are problems that need solutions and treatment too. Even without these aforementioned stressors, we have a growing epidemic of addiction, violence and loneliness, inexplicable worries and vexing behaviors.

The ancient wisdom of the Midrash tells us that, wherever something keeps getting stuck, that "sticking point" is the nexus of a problem, and it's also the point at which we can find the solution. If we are imperfect, finite beings, created in the image of a perfect, complete and infinite entity, we will naturally long for our Creator. Our imperfections, incompleteness and limited existence are an incurable torment; that peace, comfort, completion and rest, which humans have pursued for eons, can only be found in the One who made us. If we need communion with our Creator then all debate, study and argument about prayer is a monumental "sticking point"-- offering clues to the importance, nature, and reality of this most profound and vital act. If prayer is our mode of communication with a hidden and mysterious God---then the word "conversation" is not only inadequate, but meaningless. Like looking at a one-dimensional object in a four-dimensional world, it offers nothing but conjecture, confusion and emptiness. And this is the biggest clue of all.

What if this loneliness and emptiness--so common and unique to our species--is the only way a hidden God would seek to be found, by His creation? What if that empty feeling is actually a need, not an illness? And if the only way we would ever seek this hidden Creator--our Deus absconditus--is from an incurable longing for what we need? If this could possibly be so---the only cure would be from the one who designed us; thus, prayer is not just our offering of worship, but the actual receiving of that which is needed and sought---the spirit of God. In the Greek New Testament, this spirit is a gift, the promise of a helper and comforter. Described as the Paraklete, it's the spirit of the living God, offering to walk alongside us on our journey, guiding and comforting, giving wisdom and peace.

If we are each designed with an empty place inside us, like a car needing a battery, we cannot find our way, or our place in this creation, until we find that missing piece. We are reaching around in the dark, needing, grasping at anything we can find. But if we know what we're looking for, this search need not be in vain, at such great cost and sacrifice, because it is a gift. As Messiah Jesus said, "My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives...so that in me you may find peace." ESR

Charlotte B. Cerminaro is a Juilliard-trained classical musician who, in addition to being a studio and orchestral musician, enjoys writing and has a degree in Molecular Biology. © 2021




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