If there’s no God, who am I talking to?

This morning, I woke up with a killer migraine. I took meds and went back to bed. As I was lying there waiting for the medication to kick in and/or to fall back asleep, I said a prayer to Archangel Raphael, the “healing angel.” In my woozy, headachy state I asked myself, “Do I really believe that an angel is going to relieve my migraine pain? Do I really believe in angels? Do I believe in God? If not, then why do I pray?”

Yes, that’s how I ruminate while I’m suffering in the wee hours of the morning.

The short answer is that I do believe in God. My perception of Him/Her/It may not be conventional, but I have felt the presence of the Divine several times in my life. It was palpable, tangible, overpowering, undeniable and unmistakable. I could no more convey that feeling than I can describe what it was like to see Machapuchare from a small hilltop in Pokhara, Nepal or how vast the vortex-filled night sky is in the desert near Sedona, Arizona. In each case, the overwhelming emotion was awe.

“But,” my pain addled brain continued, “What if you didn’t believe in God? Would you still pray?”

This is where my answers became interesting, at least to myself. Because I feel certain that I would continue to pray even if I didn’t believe in God. Why? Because prayer works.

While much of the evidence that prayer works is anecdotal, there is an ever-growing pool of scientific proof as well. According to Harold G. Koenig, M.D., Director of Duke University’s Spirituality, Theology and Health, analysis of over 1,500 reputable medical studies,

…indicates people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health.

— N.A., “Science Proves the Healing Power of Prayer.” NEWSMAX, 31 March 2015. Web. 23 September 2017. http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Headline/prayer-health-faith-medicine/2015/03/31/id/635623/ 

And, also according to science, prayer benefits the subjects of prayer, even if they are unaware that they are being prayed for.

All that being said, I would most likely to continue praying because I have witnessed the power of prayer many times in my own life.

People who attend 12-step programs are often encouraged to pray for our enemies. We’re advised to pray that our enemies receive every blessing that we want for ourselves. I have done this numerous times and have often been astounded by the results. The most miraculous example occurred when I was working for a major financial institution. One of the VP’s in our department was a young Russian man who I’ll call Boris. Our mutual hatred was instantaneous. Unfortunately, I frequently had to assist Boris on projects. Whenever I visited his office, tsunamis of undisguised loathing roared back and forth between us across his desk.

My sponsor suggested that I pray for him, so I did…begrudgingly. At first, my prayers had a subliminal message. I prayed for Boris, his wife and his infant son to be happy and healthy and for their home to be filled with love. The subtext was, “That bastard, that son of a bitch…” and a bunch of expletives not suitable for a spiritual blog. After a few weeks, I realized that the subtext was gone. Somewhere along the line I had begun to genuinely want happiness, health and love for Boris and his family.

One day, we were attending a conference and I cracked a joke. I honestly don’t remember anything about it, except that the humor was really dark. Boris burst out laughing though nobody else at the table did.

From that moment on, we bonded through our appreciation of dark humor. As we traded jokes, our working relationship was transformed. Sitting in his office wasn’t torture anymore. He learned to trust the suggestions that I made regarding the documents that I produced for him. And when he left the company several months later, he pulled me aside and said, “If I had my own company, I would hire you.”

While the Holy See would probably disagree, I believe that the transformation of our relationship was a miracle and, as such, I believe that the Divine played a major role in it. Having said that, I absolutely believe that praying for Boris would have produced similar results even if there were no God.

First and foremost, I believe that making the decision to pray immediately puts us in touch with our Higher Self, that part of us that wants to do right, to do better, to be better. Some may argue that that Higher Self is an extension of God — or perhaps the God within — and that may be so. Regardless, I believe we all have a Higher Self and whether we engage it is a choice, as explained in the (possibly Cherokee) parable of the two wolves.

Feeding wolves

Praying for Boris and his family gradually transformed the way that I thought of him. In my heart and mind, he morphed from evil incarnate to a fellow human with the same desires for health, love and happiness that I had.

Arguably, metta meditation, which isn’t technically prayer, but is another means of accessing our Higher Self, would have produced similar results. According to the Metta Institute,

The practice of Metta meditation is a beautiful support to other awareness practices. One recites specific words and phrases evoking a “boundless warm-hearted feeling.” The strength of this feeling is not limited to or by family, religion, or social class. We begin with our self and gradually extend the wish for well-being happiness to all beings.

Like my prayer for Boris and his family, metta entails wishing good things for oneself, a loved one, a “neutral” person (such as your grocer), someone you dislike or consider to be difficult and, finally, all beings everywhere. Unlike prayer, metta doesn’t start by addressing or beseeching God or any other divine being and it doesn’t end with an “Amen.” It’s not a petition for a deity to take any action on your behalf. It is simply a sincere wish for the well being of yourself and others. It reminds practitioners that all beings want the same things, that we’re more alike than we are different, that we all deserve compassion because we all struggle. (A wonderful primer for metta, which is also known as lovingkindness meditation, is Sharon Salzberg’s Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

Even though my family wasn’t religious, I have prayed since I was a child. My need for prayer is inherent. In my early 20’s, devastated by the betrayal of a childhood friend, I announced to God that I no longer believed in Him, that I was “going atheist.” Yes, I “broke up” with God in a prayer. Needless to say, that didn’t last long.

I would love to hear your thoughts on prayer. Have you had experiences that you can only attribute to the power of prayer? Please share with me and my readers in the comments section below.

9 thoughts on “If there’s no God, who am I talking to?

  1. I have no doubt at all that prayer works. The most amazing and miraculous answers to prayers in our family have been the healing both my parents had. Mum, from uterine cancer. It had been diagnosed and a hysterectomy scheduled. Pathology tests showed NO cancer present. Drs couldn’t explain it. The other, equally as powerful was my father’s recovery from mesothelioma, an incurable, particularly nasty lung cancer caused by asbestosis. He had been diagnosed with an inoperable mesothelioma at the base of one of his lungs. He was given 6 months to live. Biopsy of the site only showed scar tissue. He went on to live another 27 years.These are just two, but THE most powerful stories just in my immediate family of the power of prayer.
    The evidence of prayer/blessings are amazingly evident and beautiful in Masaru Emoto’s work with water. And the Kirlian photography of food that has been blessed.

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    1. Judie Sigdel

      Thank you so much for sharing your extremely powerful evidence that prayer works, Raili! What a gift to have your parents saved through the power of prayer. In cases like these, one can’t attribute their recovery to anything else.

      I am familiar with Masaru Emoto’s work. I really should have referenced it. Perhaps in another post. I wasn’t aware of the the Kirlian photography of blessed food. I’m going to check it out now! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Annaleah

    I’m working on this right now – “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Similar to your story, it started out difficult enough, but it definitely does change your perspective of the person.
    So far, I don’t know if it’s doing anything for the other person. If anything, it’s helping me not hold on to the hate and anger I could feel.
    We’ll see how it goes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Judie Sigdel

      That’s beautiful, Annaleah. I think that in praying for the other person, we soften something in ourselves. That can change the whole dynamic of a relationship. ❤

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  3. I believe that making the decision to pray immediately puts us in touch with our Higher Self, that part of us that wants to do right, to do better, to be better. Some may argue that that Higher Self is an extension of God — or perhaps the God within — and that may be so.

    I totally agree with that! As to your question, I was raised in a church-going family. Very involved with activities all week. Drawn to God from an early age, yet angry at God at the same time (see https://promptlings.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/a-journey-begins-part-1-2/). I had everything a woman could want in my life. Great husband, new house, beautiful new baby boy, and yet despite all those blessings I felt something was missing from my life. It was the day before Thanksgiving 1978. I was standing at the sink doing dishes and listening to a praise-a-thon on the Christian radio station where folks were calling in talking about their relationship with Jesus. I thought, wow! I want to know him that way. And so I prayed that God would come into my life and give me a sense of purpose and love.

    As I went to put a washed dish on the counter I turned and — I believe this with all my heart — there was Jesus standing next to me reaching out. I couldn’t even speak. When my hubby came home at lunch he found me sitting on a kitchen chair crying and I couldn’t get the words I was feeling out fast enough. Life has been different for me since then. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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