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Truly Transformative Prayer

by on August 19, 2009

Two articles related to spirituality and the brain confirm a growing conviction of mine on the nature of prayer. Both articles reference the truth taught by Jesus and the Buddha: that individual, personal existence must be kept in perspective. More pointedly, it must be denied in order for truth and reality to be discovered and experienced.

Spirituality Spot Found in Brain identifies the part of the brain responsible for self-monitoring and self-definition. People who report greater spirituality demonstrate less activity in this part of the brain. Faith rites boost brains, even for atheists points to essentially the same observation.

Spirituality, the articles suggest, allows individuals to feel one with God, one with the universe, less emotionally attached to their individual state, and as if they are transcending themselves. These benefits are not limited to the religious. The conclusions derive from observations of the brain when subjects are meditating. Meditation, a classical spiritual discipline, but not necessarily a religious one, taps us into this phenomenon of unity and transcendence.

I find this an indictment against the way most people pray, which is self-centered. Prayer, for most Christians, means telling God what we want. What we want might be trivial, like praying for a parking spot close the door. Or it might be noble, as in praying for strength to serve others. While the latter may move us closer to altruism, it may do so not because God is working in our lives, but rather because we’re psychologically programming our minds to perform a task.

What I mean to say is that true spiritual transformation results from recognizing the unity of all beings with God and one another, a recognition that comes from meditation and not self-interested prayer. Once this recognition of unity becomes normal for a person, she will naturally serve others. It won’t be the result of trying to be good or godly, or overcoming a “sinful” self. It will be the natural overflow of God’s Spirit through the person’s life.

One Comment
  1. matt permalink


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