Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Lighting Candles

I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are ill at the moment. Apparently, something terrible is going around.

One person I know has been down for the count for at least 10 days. Others have coughs, colds, depression. One is terminally ill.

When this many people in my circle are suffering, this becomes one of the times when I offer up prayer.

On Facebook the other day, I had a little discussion about prayer. In particular, it was the idea that simply offering thoughts and prayers to the families of mass murder victims does little to solve the problem. This became a bit of a national discussion after the last murders, when one of the New York papers proclaimed in a headline "God Isn't Going to Fix This."

I think that  what prayer does is give comfort to the person doing the praying, especially if it's the quick "I bow my head, say "hey, help these people," and you're done kind. That gives you an immediate feeling of doing something. Then you go on about your day. Maybe later you give the matter some thought and wonder if there is a solution, I don't know.

There is nothing wrong with that. If it brings you comfort and that is your way of praying, then that is your business.

However, I don't pray like that. Prayer for me is a long, drawn-out process, something sacred that I do privately and with forethought. I don't do it often for that reason.

Today I did my prayer ritual for my ailing friends. This takes me quite a while, because first I must cleanse myself with a shower. I don't want to go before the Higher Power feeling dirty. Then I have to sit in a space that I consider sacred or personal. I usually light a candle because I find the flame helpful in focusing. Today I lighted candles for every friend I knew who was sick. I watched the smoke on each candle, watching the blackness of the burning wax rise in the air. Most of the smoke went straight up and was soon gone; one had no smoke, and one smoked for a good while. Oddly enough, that was the candle I had designated for the friend I know to be the most ill. The one with no smoke was the candle I had designated for a friend who I had hoped was almost better.

Then I prayed. That is personal and I won't relay it here, but it consisted of thinking about each person, one at a time, asking for protection, guidance, and healing, and then snuffing out the candle before I moved on to the next.

I believe there is power in prayer. I think if at some appointed time, the world stopped and everyone prayed for the same thing, fervently and with all of their heart (and regardless of which god they worship, or even if all they do is think about it because they are atheist), that we could make a massive change. Maybe we could stop wars, end greed, create peace. But personally, I think it would have to be a solemn, serious issue, not a big concert in a stadium like I've seen some churches have. Prayer doesn't have to boring, I suppose, but I don't think it is meant to be done in a party atmosphere.

Generally when people ask for prayers on Facebook, if I feel moved to respond, I say "I am thinking of you," which, in fact, I am. Later, when I've made my preparations, I pray for the person.

Anyway, that is how I feel about prayer. I don't really think a prayer tweet does much good. You may think otherwise, and that's okay, because we can have different opinions and still be kind to one another.


  1. I do believe in the power of prayer.

  2. Prayer is very powerful and I believe that it carrier more weight when others do it on your behalf as you have done for your friends.


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