In my personal experience, I have noticed that prayer is not as great as I thought it was. I hardly pray anymore, not because I don’t believe that there is someone listening. I don’t pray as much because I lost faith in the act of praying itself. It simply does not seem to do much of a difference.
I mainly perceived it as a way to beg God to give me what I want. Isn’t that what most people think of prayer these days? And if I don’t get what I want, then I must accept it as God’s will. But then, why ask for something as if God is a “vending machine”? Isn’t God supposed to be in control? Then why add more to his “control” by asking him to do certain things “my way”?
I was taught that prayer is composed of four parts: adoration, penitence, petition, and thanksgiving:
Adoration would be recognizing God’s greatness and power. It is all around us. When I look at the stars, the mountains, a baby, and people’s charities, I see God’s manifestation on earth. Now, why do I need to emphasize it even more by telling God about his greatness? Doesn’t he already know? Don’t I already acknowledge it by respecting each human being, admiring the stars, and taking care of the environment? I think by me living the greatness of God’s creation is the same as “praying without ceasing.” I would not necessarily have to reserve a time specifically to acknowledge God’s greatness, if I live it on a daily basis.
Penitence is recognizing our sins and asking for forgiveness. If I am already a believer, doesn’t that mean that I have already been forgiven? We are taught that Jesus died for all of our sins 2000 years ago, so why continue to ask for forgiveness? Some would say that we continue to sin, so we need to recognize our faults, even though we are forgiven. But at the same time, no matter how much I sin, Jesus’ sacrifice should be enough to make me righteous, right? Or is it that we suspect that what Jesus did was not enough and, therefore, we need to make sure we are free from guilt through penitence?
Petition is the most interesting aspect of prayer. We ask for things we want. We ask for good health, stability, wisdom, and a lot more. We sometimes ask in desperation when circumstances are difficult and extreme. And when we receive what we prayed for, then we praise God even more and become more joyful (and religious). When we don’t, then we are taught to accept it as God’s will and justify it by saying that “God is mysterious.” But then this puts God in a difficult situation, because it is almost like expecting God to meet our needs and demands, as if He works for us, even though we were created by Him. It seems as if God owes us things.
I have heard many people deny the existence of God simply because he did not stop hundreds of children from starving to death, or did not prevent so many wars, or allowed the innocent to suffer from diseases. And, because God did not meet our standards of what “God should do”, then we conclude He must not exist, or he is evil. Petition is the most self-centered part of prayer. It makes us almost like spoiled children who demand immediate gratification from the heavenly Father.
Thanksgiving is perhaps the part of prayer that makes more sense to me. It is simply the act of appreciating what we have. Instead of asking and begging for what we don’t have, like in petition, we give thanks for those things we already have. I define true happiness as wanting what I already have, which is what thanksgiving is about. Personally, I think we should do a lot more Thanksgiving, than Adoration, Penitence, or Petition.
So, rather than doing Adoration, I rather “live” Adoration by respecting God’s creation and living one day at a time. Rather than doing Penitence, I rather accept my faults and ask others to forgive me and forgive as well. Rather than expecting God to provide what I want, my way, and in my terms, I rather be content with what I have so that I can experience true happiness. And I will continue to give Thanks to God, for giving me what I already have, which is sufficient for me to survive so that I live a full life.