30 Days of Paganism: Beliefs – The power of prayer/reciprocity

Prayer has always been a tricky thing for me but lately it seems to be getting easier. I’m getting over the blocks in my head that had prevented me from really praying to the gods.

Prayer is not a coin you put into a god to get the result you want. It’s a form of communication. Sometimes that does mean asking for something, yes. When I say to someone they’ll be in my prayers, that means I’m asking my gods to watch out for them. Often this isn’t a formal thing; sometimes it’s just a few seconds of me sending up the wish to the god in question. And then I move on, “letting go and letting god” as the saying went in my old church.

Other times, prayer can be more formal. I’m working on doing more of this in my life. I’ve had issues with formalized prayer that I’m trying to get past, because they’re silly issues. I’m also going to try my hand at writing prayers, so I can feel less weird about doing them.

Another form of prayer I engage in is the “Calling Dad and talking to Him about my life” type. This is when I light a candle for Manannan on my Big 3 shrine and talk His ear off about my life. It’s highly informal. Actually it’s more like a phone call, except He doesn’t say much.

I believe there’s power in each of these. I believe that a quick note to one of my gods that I’d like some extra oomph of healing or whatever the issue is for a mortal friend at the very least alerts Them to the issue. They can choose whether to spend time on it or not, and I believe that there are times They do, and it helps.

I believe that formal prayer helps deepen my devotion and my relationship with the gods, as well as reminding both of us that it’s not just me being a slob all the time. It’s like…going out on an actual formal date with my fiancé. Most of the time we hang out half-naked, at home, playing video games separately-but-together or watching movies or whatever, and that’s our “date night”. But every once in a while we go out to a movie or dinner or both, and that’s when we make an effort to (in his case) put on clothing with the least amount of holes in it and (in my case) wear something nice and maybe put on make up. We’re not dressing up for anyone else; we’re doing it for each other, to remind each other that while we’re comfortable enough in our relationship to not need to stand on ceremony all the time, sometimes it’s a nice gesture to the other person. That’s what formal prayer is to me — standing on ceremony for the gods because I care about Them enough to do so.

That said, there are gods where I would only do formal prayer, and that’s because I don’t have as relaxed a relationship with Them. And that’s fine. There are mortals with whom I have more formal relationships, too.

My Phone Calls to Dad prayers have power in that they reaffirm our father-child relationship, especially for me. I still have a lot of issues surrounding my bio-sire, and the various father-focused things in the mortal world (this time of year is tough on me). Phone Calls to Manannan reaffirm my choice, help me find strength in it, and help me stay strong when I start feeling the guilt rush in from my decision to cut my bio-sire out of my life. I know, logically, that that guilt is put there by years of abuse and grooming for said abuse, but it’s sometimes hard to remain logical in face of that sort of emotional damage.

Finally, I believe in the power of prayer to change me. I might not always feel as if I’ve gotten through to the gods. I might feel there’s a bad connection. But continuing to pray even when I feel this changes me in small ways. It makes me feel more grounded, more connected. It makes it easier to hear when They are speaking to me.

Whether prayer actually convinces the gods to intervene on my behalf or the behalf of my loved ones, whether They’re listening, or whether it actually makes a difference to Them if I pray or not — it makes a difference to and in me. That’s reason enough, and proof enough of prayer’s power.