Why we Pray

Why we Pray
Fo Guang Shan (Singapore)

Dear boys,

Everybody prays, one way or another. For someone who is areligious, it is quite difficult for me to really explain this ‘pray’ thing we humans do in detail.

But yes, I do pray, and your mum do pray too. I don’t know if you boys would pray and who or what you’ll pray to, but I’ll give my 2 cents worth.

Kuan Im Tng Temple (Joo Chiat )
Kuan Im Tng Temple (如切观音堂)

Firstly let’s look at a practical example. When your mother had a very difficult boss in the earlier days of her working life, she dread going to work. But she has to, so she seek solace in prayers when she visits the Kuan Im Tng Temple (如切观音堂) at Tembling Road. She did that almost every weekend and not long after that, her boss began to treat her nicer, and her days in the office seems to have improved. I don’t know what you can attribute it to the efficacy of her prayers or you can attribute it to things getting smoother, and she was experiencing some teething, new job jitters.

But I think there is some psychological positive effects of prayers. Religious people pray to their gods, buddhas, deities, saints, and other items or characters of higher powers. I prefer to appeal to my spiritual side, and the idea of a prayer is like sending your silent scream out into the cosmos, and seek strengths that you find lacking within.

Pray for good things, seek good conversations with yourself through prayers.

I don’t know if prayer works for me. Personally, I’m a Buddhist kind of person so I do go to a Buddhist temple, burn 3 joss sticks and usually in three bow, pray for 3 things that I want from the divine to have happen in my life. Don’t ask me why the ‘trinity’ of things. It’s not something I have an explanation for, when I do, I’ll share with you.

Prayers are a very, personal and intimate things; so it is really up to the both of you to decide if you want to believe it or not. But I think the human psyche is such that the more you think, belief, the more you will act on it to manifest it in reality. Prayers are something like that, you want something to happen, you pray for it, be it in a temple, in the quiet of your bedroom, in the depths of a psychological dungeon, you utter a prayer, to yourself, to seek strengths, to calm yourself down, and perhaps, the prayer you utter will connect you to the great scheme of the universe. And when you seek help, help will come.

Prayers are not answers

Please remember one thing though, prayers are prayers, you can pray, but if you do not act on your prayers, nothing will happen. You still need to work, even if you pray to strike a 1 million dollar lottery, you will not win, if you do not get your ass off the couch to buy the lottery ticket. Nobody wins a lottery they don’t buy. Prayer works best when you commit to action. Sometimes, when the going gets tough, and action seems to be waning, a little prayer is like a kick booster, gives you that little internal strength to continue. With a little prayer, you will breakthrough.


Prayers are a form of internal conversation

When you pray, who do you talk to? Some talk to god, buddhas and other characters they believed to be true, more importantly, prayers are an internal conversation you have with yourself. Even when you talk to god, god doesn’t really talk back (for those who’s gods talks back, needs to see a really good shrink). The whole idea of using prayer as a form of internal conversation with yourself is to help you reach into yourself, into places where you normally won’t reach, to find strengths to do things you normally won’t do. That’s what prayers do.

Prayers are positive energy

Nobody prays for their negative things. Everybody wants to pray for good things. Sometimes, people do pray for bad things to happen to other people, that is not a prayer, that is a curse, a hex, you are trying to ask the cosmos to hurt someone else out there. Please don’t do that. If you want to seek divine power to help you, use the universal energy for good, for positivity, not to see that someone gets hurt.

Pray for good things, seek good conversations with yourself through prayers. Then you’ll be ready and open to accept and receive good things. You cannot protect yourself from bad things from happening to you, but if you have a good conversation with yourself through prayer, then the bad will quickly pass. Always seek positivity.

It is not the best answer for this rather abstract and highly personal topic, and I am not a fervent advocate of praying. I do drop by our nearby temple to pray. It makes me feel good, burn 3 joss sticks, offer 3 bows. I really don’t know what happens beyond what I can’t see, but I walk away from every prayers a little stronger, a little bit more positive, that things will turn out well. And if they still don’t; well, makes me wonder if I should pray more.