Can she pray? Yes she can.

I chose yesterday’s quote because it reminded me of something that I’d been thinking of lately. Just when I’m sure that I know what I’m talking about, and that my thoughts are based on reasonably well considered opinions, something else clicks in my brain and I realise that I actually had no earthly idea what I was talking about.

Take prayer, for example. I’ve struggled with this (to me) amorphous idea a lot. I’m sure that I’ve misrepresented it and been judgemental, and I finally came to the conclusion that it there was some thing about it that was never going to work ( there’s a Douglas Adams quote about my brain being ‘too highly evolved that would fit perfectly here but I can’t find it).

My difficulty in grasping the concept came not from the concept itself, but from my own fallible understanding.

Which is always the case, isn’t it?

For me, the idea of prayer being ‘talking to God’ was really, really unhelpful. Clearly it works for many people, and my first problem lay in the fact that, because it works for many people, I assumed that that was the only way that it worked.

One thing I’m learning though is that this whole religion shebang actually has to be personalised for each of us individually, and we won’t realise how we fit within it until we get well and truly immersed.

As I said in this post, just chattering away does absolutely nothing for me. There’s no connection. I feel silly and self conscious and about as far away from God as it’s possible to get without actually killing a goat on a pentagram.

The phrase ‘prayerfully consider’ gets bandied around a lot but it left me cold. If prayer is talking to God, then being ‘prayerful’ about problems must involve something along the lines of ‘so God, this issue is really causing me stress ( detail issues for God) so if you could just fix it up for me, that would be awesome, Ta’. *

It’s naive and simplistic but that was the way I thought that it went, and because that didn’t resonate with me AT ALL, then I assumed that the whole prayer thing was bunk.

Yes yes, I know….

But, as I said, I’ve realise that the problem came not with prayer, but with my trying to fit ‘prayer’ into a prefabricated box.

And recently there had been a dawning of awareness as to what it actually is to me.

It’s as if I need to find a place to ‘meet’ God. Vacuum, make a pot of tea, bake some (vegan) bikkies and light a candle. Then, when it feels that I’ve got my house in order and stilled myself, then God will ensure that I can focus. If I can’t bother to make an effort, then he’s not going to show up.

It’s not about talking. It’s about bringing thoughts or questions or issues into the stillness. Bringing them into the stillness, letting them just ‘be’ for a while and then…..releasing them, I guess. Letting them take their own forms and evolve over the next few days. To percolate. When they come back to me, when ever that may be, they seem to have become something more. A new perspective has been introduced or a new facet explored without any seeming effort on my part.

Could this be viewed from a purely materialistic viewpoint? Of course it could. And even though I have progressed quite a way along the faith continuum, my ‘go to’ explanation usually comes from this materialistic viewpoint. The human brain is an incredible thing and we don’t fully understand what it is capable of. So of course there’s the perfectly rational explanation that if you leave it with an idea then the brain will mull it over for a while and spit out an answer. That’s what we do while we dream, after all.

How is this prayer situation different? I actually don’t know. That is to say, I haven’t had a good think about it yet. And if I haven’t explored some thing enough to satisfy my self, then ‘ I don’t know’ has to be my best answer.

How do you pray? Am I special and important or is this the usual way at it’s done and I’ve just been too dense to realise it this whole time?

*people probably don’t do this.

19 thoughts on “Can she pray? Yes she can.

  1. I generally pray for a completely different reason. God has given us freewill, and he tends not to over-rule our choices. But if I ask him for advice, or to act in a particular situation, then he might. So I ask, rather than try to work everything out for myself. And I believe he does answer often enough. For an example, see The day God saved my life – perhaps.

    That doesn’t mean that “your way” is wrong. It’s still inviting God to share in your life, which he is very willing to do if only we will ask.

  2. Deep meditation and deep prayer activate the same centralized area of the brain (and deactivate sensory areas and executive function). How one gets to that state varies widely. There isn’t a ‘right way’ but there are methods that seem to offer better results than others. The results, however, reveal a similarity in description and effect.

    People seem truly unaware of the fact that we have a bicameral brain (two almost independent hemispheres) so they easily attribute the input from non dominant neural activities (as well as drug induced chemical interventions) to be evidence for something beyond ourselves, from somewhere ‘out there’ as if this is compelling evidence beyond our use of methodological naturalism for an intervening agent like a god. That’s how we get statements that make completely unsupported claims, like unkleE’s assertion that “God has given us freewill, and he tends not to over-rule our choices,” (as if he knows) to support the notion that any of these results of prayerful (or meditation) questions are from some other source than ourselves. This is how fabrications result, fabrications that gain traction because they appear to support an intervening agency. But, remember, we fool ourselves all the time in exactly this way, by making attributions based on appearances rather than knowledge from very mundane, very materialistic causal effects.

    • I agree that ‘knowing’ can be a very contentious idea. But after all, we’re all just trying to make sense of life in the best way that we can.
      Yes, the perception that there is something ‘other’ than ourselves may be faulty. It may also be correct, in my opinion. But buggered if I know the truth.

      • Knowing is not contentious at all, and assuming it is reveals a very typical faith-based and relativistic canard that belief in supernatural causal agency is an equivalent way of knowing about the reality we share. It’s not. It’s equivalent to making stuff up and calling this another ‘kind’ of knowledge. It alters the meaning of the word ‘knowledge’ to be something other than justified true belief and turns it into a morass of mind-dependent relativity.

        The explanation for this will take a moment. Bear with me.

        If you honestly want to find out about reality – like causal agencies – then it’s rather important to follow the evidence from reality! Surely you can appreciate why it is essential for claims made about reality to come up with ways that reality itself – and not our a priori faith-based beliefs, or imaginings, or wishful thinking – can adjudicate them.

        There is a wealth of information available that does just this, that reveals the relativistic notion that all of us try to make sense of reality using equivalent methods – and so all our conclusions are therefore relatively equivalent – to be absolutely false. When we agree to let reality, rather than our beliefs, arbitrate claims made about it, we avoid this relativity; we come up with notions that either work for everybody everywhere all the time or they don’t. Those that don’t are discarded because they don;t meet this definition of justified true belief.

        In a direct comparison, faith-based beliefs do not possess any such self-correcting methodology. Faith-based beliefs simply remain true (in the minds of fatheists) because they are believed to be true… even when these beliefs are in direct conflict with knowledge derived from reality that produces and informs technologies, therapies, and applications that work for everyone everywhere all the time.

        In a direct comparison, faith-based beliefs produce no equivalent products, no applications, therapies, or technologies that work. Faith-based beliefs produce zero knowledge. Ever. (Please, correct me if you have evidence contrary to this claim.) We call these failed notions ‘faith’, and they produce only one product: pseudo-answers untestable, and exempt from verification, by reality. That’s simply not equivalent knowledge and in no way equivalently justifiable.

        Virtually all the evidence from reality arbitrating and adjudicating claims made about it all points in a single direction away from granting faith-based beliefs any reason to assume it is an equivalent way to know anything about anything. In fact, there is compelling evidence that granting faith-based beliefs any merit whatsoever is a sure-fire way to fool ourselves into thinking that we know something when we do not. (Perhaps that’s why the religious nose of camel always tries to get under any tent flap it can find and think itself a welcome and deserving guest.) There is no merit from reality to suggest a priori faith-based beliefs deserves this notion of equivalency to other post hoc methods that work, and reliably do so, for everyone everywhere all the time.

        Because I can duplicate the religious experience of encountering what people call ‘god’ through both magnetic and chemical interference of a very specific part of your brain (as well as produce equivalent evidence from stroke victims and those with brain lesions and damage to this same area) for similar results, I can suggest that we are dealing very much with a materialistic cause to the effect you attribute to a supernatural intervening agency. Which of us is using reality to adjudicate what this ‘spiritual’ experience actually represents? Are we using equivalent methods arbitrated by the same reality to investigate claims about it, or have you skipped ahead and assumed the equivalency of a pseudo-answer?

        • I under stand what you are saying, because in the past I have been the one saying it. I have argued and argued with people about the fact that if its not science then it’s not real. IT’S NOT KNOWLEDGE IF ITS JUST CRAP YOU’VE MADE UP. And so on…..
          There are two reasons why I no longer do that though. First is that my thought patterns have shifted. i now suspect that they may indeed be a supernatural element to the world. I would have assumed, in the past, that this necessitated a drop in IQ points but as I’m living it thenI know that that is not true.
          Secondly, I don’t feel the need to correct people when I don’t agree with their beliefs ( except Holocaust deniers. They’re fair game). There’s always the possibility that I ( and you) may be wrong. We’re all just examining a piece of the elephant. I think there might be a God and I’m working through that through writing a blog. Sure, this belief has changed my behaviour; I give more to charity and I’m less judgemental. Clearly it would have been preferable for me to have taken on these habits off my own bat 20 years ago, but there we go.

      • We have to be clear what ‘knowledge’ means, which is why I have expressed the definition of an understanding that works reliably and consistently well for everyone everywhere all the time. If it’s relativistic, then the term ‘knowledge’ is inappropriate. It has nothing to do with intelligence (but certainly a colossal arrogance) and everything to do with clarity.

        Faith-based beliefs do not produce understandings that work this way. These beliefs do not produce applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time. Quite the opposite; they produce conflict with these understandings (just look at how far people will go to vilify a foundational understanding of modern biology!). Faith-based beliefs empower woo of all kinds, including naturopathic and homeopathic ‘remedies’ that are incompatible with understandings of causal effects in chemistry and physics. Faith-based beliefs empower superstitions, imply hidden supernatural causal effects by mysterious agencies with intentions who magically operate outside of we understand to be the laws of causal effect in our shared reality. Faith-based beliefs operate in conflict with establishing any means to falsify the belief by suggesting any and all ‘knowledge’ from faith are justifiably exempt from independent verification. And that’s why faith-based beliefs produce ‘knowledge’ that is fundamentally incompatible with what is produced by the method of science. That incompatibility is inherent in faith-based belief as a method of inquiry, making it an untrustworthy method in any fair comparison.

        This is not to say that only science produces value (a point often lost on those who equate criticism with faith to be advocacy for scientisim, but this is a different canard), but it is the only method we have yet developed that produces one coherent knowledge of the reality we share, of causal effect understandable to all people everywhere all the time. That’s why your computer works… not because of what YOU believe or I believe about electrons but because our understanding of electrons can be demonstrated to work the same here as there, today as yesterday and predictably well tomorrow, for whomever who applies this one understanding… regardless of their individual beliefs! That’s why there is only ONE chemistry that produces knowledge about chemical interactions, ONE physics that produces knowledge about forces, ONE biology that produces knowledge about life. Neither you nor I have the equivalently demonstrable claim to justifiably suspend this knowledge in favour of personal beliefs that are contrary to these understandings. That’s why too do so is ripe with colossal arrogance, an arrogance that is simply unjustified by the fruits of labour.

        It would be absurd to try to argue that Argentinian chemistry was different but equivalent in producing coherent knowledge to Irish chemistry that produced different and even conflicting results. It would be ridiculous to think the laws of physics in Pakistan were reasonably different than those in India. Yet this is exactly what faith-based belief proponents would have us go along with in the name of tolerance and respect for the vastly different and conflictual faith-based claims they want us to think is equivalent knowledge! It’s not now, and never has been, a method that produces what works for everybody everywhere all the time. It is method that allows us to fool ourselves into falsely equating what we wish to believe with what is actual, into fooling ourselves that our faith-based pseudo-answers are equivalent to knowledge and sufficient unto themselves to be of equivalent knowledge value.

  3. I think we all struggle with prayer in our beliefs. And at times it doesn’t make sense, because for someone we are told that prayer is a conversation (But it feels like I am talking to myself). We are told that God answers prayer (But then we continue praying about for several months afterwards). We are told that prayer is for us to grow closer to God (But this is difficult to conceive, when there is no response when we ask God a question). We are told that in prayer God speaks to your spirit, (But then we get funny looks from people if we actually tell people that God spoke to us directly).

    so I do understand a lil where you are coming from

  4. I think the Douglas Adams quote you’re looking for is from Vroomfondel, saying that “Our brains must be too highly trained” to think of ideas as clever as Deep Thought’s suggestion that they should make a career as pundits.

  5. “That’s how we get statements that make completely unsupported claims, like unkleE’s assertion that “God has given us freewill, and he tends not to over-rule our choices,” (as if he knows)”

    Hi Tildeb, we meet again. How are you going?

    Actually I do know in this case, on the authority of Jesus. In Mark 6:1-6 Jesus was unable to do the healing miracles he did elsewhere because the people in his home town were unwilling to believe in him. And in Luke 13:34-35 jesus says to the religious authorities that he wanted to help them but they wouldn’t let him. Those passages support exactly what I said. God doesn’t often over-rule our freewill.

    “Faith-based beliefs produce zero knowledge. Ever. (Please, correct me if you have evidence contrary to this claim.)”

    There are many examples of this, but perhaps you were looking in a different place.

    For example, my faith in God once possibly gave me sufficient knowledge to save my life (see The day God saved my life …. perhaps.

    For many other people, faith gave them the understanding to pray for healing, and see it happen (there are many, many examples of this, but for just a few see Ten healing miracles and Heart starting action).

    For others, faith gave them knowledge of God that changed their lives (again, this has happened for millions of people, and again, here are just a few: I still keep to Jesus this night, and Conversion stories).

    “Faith-based beliefs simply remain true (in the minds of fatheists) because they are believed to be true”

    I am interested to know how you know this. Can you explain please? Then I might tell you my story, which kind of refutes it. But I’d like to give you the opportunity first.


    • Making a claim to scriptural authority does nothing to help your cause, unkleE. You are, in effect, asserting that the rain you’ve experienced was caused by your rain dance, as described by the authority of your tribe’s tradition. You then assert that this is knowledge.

      It’s not. It’s attribution, plain and simple.

      Your attributions to ‘this because of that’ do not provide evidence for causal effect nor offer the slightest illumination about reality for the rest of us to gain any practical knowledge whatsoever about by what mechanism the two – cause and effect – are directly related… other than throwing in nebulous terms like ‘authority of Jesus’ and perhaps some personal revelation hoping that something somewhere will stick around long enough to give the appearance of knowledge.

      But if knowledge requires an understanding that can be shown to work for everyone everywhere all the time, then your links – and the quality of them – are not valid evidence for causal efficacy but a few cherry picked examples of when the attributions appear to be so, without addressing the very real concerns of all the examples where the same causal efficacy is shown to be absent. This situation is not true of any other knowledge we call knowledge that can be reliably and consistently shown to work for everyone everywhere all the time regardless of beliefs held about them. Knowledge, to be considered justified, must be able to pass this most basic explanatory test (and it also helps tremendously to be falsifiable).

      For example, there is no compelling evidence for causal efficacy through faith as the variable in any of your ten healing miracles. The plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’ and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this fact. That’s why these cases are not evidence for miracles and so none are evidence linked to anything knowable about the intentions of some god. All of these cases are anecdotes that attributes rain to the rain dance. That’s why none of these links provide any knowledge whatsoever about your original claim to ‘know’ something about god. Sure, you attribute, but that’s not evidence from reality; it is entirely dependent on your willingness to believe first. Your beliefs do not determine the reality we share and your attributions do not extract knowledge about it.

  6. “Yes, the perception that there is something ‘other’ than ourselves may be faulty. It may also be correct, in my opinion.”

    I think this is the correct balance. “Higher” things can sometimes be reduced to the “lower”, but sometimes that is a mistake. Take an example.

    If a pre-school child “writes a letter” on some paper, the mother will pretend to read it, but in reality it is just pencil marks on paper. The original manuscript of Shakespeare’s Hamlet could also be correctly described as “just ink marks on manuscript”, but we know that is only a small part of the truth, and a mistake, because it is, more importantly, one of the greatest pieces of English literature ever written.

    So your awareness of God may indeed be “just” something going on in your brain, but it may also be God really communicating with you. We can’t make a blanket statement,and we have to trust when Jesus says God will hear our prayers and guide us, and learn to recognise God. I think you’re on the right track.

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