I realized today — I don’t know how to pray.
I do pray, quite often, but it’s always clumsy, and sort of haphazard, like I’m picking my way through a cluttered cabin full of spiritual knick-knacks and doodads, trying to find just the right one for my purposes. Quickly uttered “Dear Brighid, please wrap so-and-so in Your healing light,” or “Manannan, I ask for peace for [name/myself]” or “Morrigan, give me the strength to not punch assholes in the face,” with my face screwed up into knots, hands clasped together hard enough to break bone, my entire body tensed as if clenching my muscles will get my message to the gods any faster.
Thing is, I sort of treat prayer like a request box. And that’s not really what I think it should be; I think it should be a time of quiet reflection, and communion between my gods and myself. I think I should hold my prayer beads and try to get in touch with the god’s essence, try to let myself feel Their love. Not shouting a quick “HI-CAN-I-HAVE-THIS-THING-PLEASE-THANKS-BYE” on Their answering machine.
But I always feel silly when I sit with my prayer beads; even when the gods are so in my head so often, sitting quietly and trying to get in touch with Them makes me feel…like I’m grasping at straws. As if the only communication from Them I can be sure of is the one that’s unbidden, when They come barrelling through the door saying “This needs to be that way,” or “Do that please,” or “Those chicken bones look delicious can I have them oh yes thank you om nom nom.” As if seeking Their guidance out isn’t real enough; They have to come to me for me to be sure of the veracity of Their words.
I suppose this is borne out of…a wary cynicism that takes hold when I listen to other peoples’ accounts of talking to gods. Not everyone; but there are a lot of people who are dead sure they’ve got a direct line to the Divine, that they can just call up any time they like. And it doesn’t really work like that.
Sometimes the gods are busy; They aren’t home; you get Their message machine. I know that They get my messages, but I don’t always get acknowledgement from Them right away, or at all. I say the gods are in my head quite often, and They are — comparatively speaking. I still spend a lot of time in wondering silence.
It’s not that common to have gods in your head, to be “god-bothered,” as some of us put it. There seems to be an unusually high concentration of god-bothered people on the forum I frequent, but that’s not representative of pagandom or religions as a whole. It doesn’t make us special, or more deserving; it doesn’t mean the gods have taken a vested, personal interest in our lives and are going to make us stars of stage and screen, or successful writers, or Olympic athletes, with nary more than a wiggle of our noses.
It means They need someone to do the work They have in mind, and we’re handy and capable. For some of the gods, it means there are very few people who can do the work They have in mind — and that’s not something of which to be jealous. Being a tool of the gods is never easy.
So when people tell me that they can just call up their gods anytime they like, that their gods always have a sympathetic ear, that their gods are determined to make their lives better in every way, that their gods are going to help them get that guy they’re lusting after or that job they want, that their gods are always in their heads…I am incredibly cynical. Not skeptical, which is holding it in a state of neutrality — neither belief nor disbelief — until it can be proven or disproven. I moved past that a long while ago. I am cynical.
I do not think this actually happens. I do not think you can just call up the gods anytime you like and They’ll always answer the phone to chat with you. I think you can call Them, sure, and maybe leave Them a message. But They’re busy. I am not the only person who’s ever dedicated to Brighid; I am not Morrigan’s only godslave, I’m sure; I’m not Manannan’s only faithful follower. They’ve got people other than me to look after. I’m not so naive or ignorant to think I’m super-special and They only care about me and my petty personal concerns. They don’t. They’ve got bigger fish to fry/elk to roast/vegetables to sautée.
So while I know They love me, and while I feel that I should focus on actually praying and getting in touch with Them on a regular basis, I still feel weird when I do it. Because part of me feels like the clingy boyfriend who continually leaves messages on your phone until it slowly drives you insane; another part feels like I’m talking to empty air; yet another part feels that there’s no point to prayer because They have so many followers, and I should just let Them come to me. I should wait to hear what They want, instead of bothering Them with my crap.
…I’m not sure if this stems out of residual “I’m not worthy” feelings that are still floating around because of a lifetime of indoctrination from a culture that believes I am less than human. It may.
Those are my ramblings on prayer. I don’t really have any answers here; just more questions. Perhaps I’ll try prayer some more when I’m not feeling so stressed; when it’s not borne out of need for help, I may have better results.
(Hah. “When I’m not feeling so stressed…” when does that ever happen?)
In other news, I’ve got a post up at Ma(R)E on BDSM, Abuse, and 50 Shades of Grey for BDSundayM. Give it a read, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.