Prayer in its present form is an inseparable part of a human being who is part of an institutional church. In its various forms it is human being communicating with God and with oneself. In its natural and raw form, prayer is like breathing, without which human beings can’t survive. This natural prayer does not have a form or pattern but is interwoven into the existence of every human being.
Today Christians all over the world are competing with each other with written prayers and extempore prayers, each trying to outdo the other with the words used and the emotion extracted. Kerala has been going through a prayer revival of sorts, with prayer conventions in the open, inside closed doors, vocal and silent. Wherever one looks, one is faced with the overbearing presence of prayer.
Prayer as already pointed out is a communication with God and self and as such cannot be wished away. But what is the end result of prayer and is there a way to pray? Prayer is for individual and community needs, both selfish and selfless. Selfish in the sense that we pray for our own needs and wants. We expect God to provide these needs and wants. Many a time prayer for us follows this pattern. Selfless prayer is for peace, love, justice and equality in the world we live in. This overshadows our personal needs and even keeps us exposed to insecurity and inability. The first prayer sees God as an all conquering and all providing God, who sits in heaven in front of a computer, answering prayer requests coming in every second. The second prayer seeks to struggle with the God on the cross, the God who gave up everything despite having it all.
This opens up the question whether there is a negative prayer and a positive prayer. The negative prayer is the prayer in which we pray to God to annihilate our enemies and tailor make a world just for us, as if no one else exists. Positive prayer on the other hand is very Lord’s prayer-ish. It seeks forgiveness of short comings only if we have done the same to others. Negative prayer is all about us and what we want. Positive prayer is what we have done for others and looks at our lives from the perspective of others.
Churches today are faced with the challenge of understanding these two kinds of prayer. People find it convenient to hide behind the word prayer. So much that if someone says “I am praying”, he/she is then covered in a veil of holiness. Kerala is praying. But what kind of a prayer is she praying? Prayers increasingly reflect contempt, hatred and competition while it should reflect sacrifice, compassion and love. This is why we should de-construct and re-construct our notion of prayer and know that if our framework is flawed, then our prayer is too.
The church has to wake up to this fact. Prayer has to be a selfless act and not a selfish act wherein it is used to subdue and subjugate the other. Prayer for the destruction of another human being is no prayer at all. There is no perfect prayer but there can be a framework which leads to positive thoughts and positive prayer which starts with the other. Welcome to the world of positive prayer!