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April 1, 2017

Prayer for the Nonreligious.

When I was a little kid, I used to pray a lot, whether it be for a snow day or a candy bar.

I didn’t come from a particularly religious family, nor was prayer really prescribed in any way in my household. It was almost kind of a secret pastime for me, a kind of spiritual well I could always draw from when I felt confused or sad.

It seemed like a rather natural inclination to ask the powers that be for some direction or guidance when I felt alone, to call upon the divine to help me navigate my life in all of its worldliness. Though, as I got older, Santa Claus became a fantasy, the Tooth Fairy became my mom, and God became a delusion. In that, my conscious alignment with the eternal and the ethereal was lastingly suspended.

I understand the allure of religion, I really do. We all get stunted by the sheer absurdity of existence from time to time. We all deeply crave an abiding sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. I just happen to think that this can be attained without the whole walking on water and resurrection hogwash. But I digress.

For much of my life, I conceded to the cold and vapid world of the ardent atheist. God was dead, and the universe was banal and often hostile. Life was inherently meaningless, and the only meaning that could exist was that which I imposed upon others. It wasn’t until I breached manhood that I realized this was as much of a naïve and ignorant worldview as swallowing the Bible or any other religious doctrine on blind faith.

Yet, I maintain there is a place for prayer in human life, although I know I’m just about as sacrilegious and crude as anyone could possibly be. This has been greatly affirmed by my experiences with chronic illness over the past few years.

To be struck with illness is a very trying experience on one’s ego. It is a tremendous offense to one’s personal identity and sense of self, no matter who you are or where you come from.

This was certainly the case for me. I kept asking myself, “Why?” “Why me?” “Why did this happen?” “Why my life?” Needless to say, I didn’t get any sufficient answers. I was asking the wrong questions.

The pain seemed too profound to bear. To be a young man with an inadequate body, incapable of moving through the world with the same energy and ferocity as my peers, felt like a burden too immense to be carried, let alone carried with any sense of dignity or poise.

I had all but given up on God, or any sense of holiness for that matter, up until a year or so into my affliction.

Experiencing illness, particularly one as profound and deeply rooted as the one I’ve been contending with, is intriguing for a number of reasons. For one, you are forced to forgo your body, so to speak—to let go of your association with your physical being. This is an intrinsically spiritual experience, for in letting go of the physical body, you come into contact with something beyond yourself. I came to fully grasp the transience and brevity of my own life, the fact that this body is impermanent and subject to decay.

It has been a transcendent experience, and amid this sense of transcendence this notion of prayer reemerged in my life.

Now, let me discuss what prayer means to me for a moment.

Prayer is not about asking some deity for assistance or making some holy request. Prayer is about taking a moment out of your day to recognize that you are floating through infinity. That you are a part of everything that has ever existed. That you are embedded in the eternal. It is simply about recognizing that you are a grain of sand on a beach, and in that all of your worldly problems that seem to be so utterly important are really just passing circumstances.

You are not demanding some kind of result from God; you are merely taking some time to abide in the sheer vastness and power of nature itself, to acknowledge that life is magical and you are part of it. In that, I feel whole. I feel complete. I feel at home.

Regardless of whether or not there is some kind of higher power, it is safe to assume that whatever is out there (either God or the interdimensional, sub-microbial space demons) wants us to figure it out on our own. They don’t seem to be too big on cosmic handouts, and thereby it’s on us to get our sh*t together.

So, instead of asking the creator to figure it out for you, just open your heart to the boundless opportunities and possibilities that exist in the human experience. Allow for the magic and beauty of life to manifest through you, and then there is no need to really ask for anything at all.

There is one thing that we can be certain of here: The universe is big as hell and super interesting. That’s enough. That’s enough. If you are going to engage in prayer, do so in the name of love, beauty, and gratitude. Give yourself fully to the grace and artistry of existence itself. Let yourself be held and guided by the wisdom of nature, and herein your soul will be set free.

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Author: Samuel Kronen 

Image: “Mermaids”

Editor: Travis May

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