Prayer is the oldest and the simplest expression of religion. Now even scientific research has established that it works. So, how can we pray to have our heartís desire fulfilled?
Central to Christian faithIn times of trouble and illness, the family prayer is a touchstone of faith, a proof that we were in this together and that God is not too far away. The family that prays together stays together is a saying that came from the Christian tradition and with good reason. Whether it is the loud invocation of the Born Again, the fervent family prayer or the silent internal one, Christian life is punctuated by this particular approach to God.
This is especially true of my own tradition, Kerala Syrian Christianity. Most traditional families pray twice a day—in the morning upon rising and in the evening before bed. This habit has weakened in recent times, especially in the urban areas, but many families do try to pray together at least in the evening. What does this give us? As a child it was an irksome routine and many are the times I feigned sleep in order to be free of it. But perhaps it gave me something that I can appreciate today—a sense of continuity, a sense of belonging, a sense of God’s presence acknowledged and invoked in our lives, and a sense of beginning and completing the day consciously. More, in times of trouble and illness, the family prayer was a touchstone of faith, a proof that we were in this together and that God was not too far away.
In our tradition, we have no set prayers save for the Lord’s Prayer. For the rest, the family patriarch or matriarch prays aloud, a skill that takes some nerve.
Prayers form an indispensable role in all important events. Birthdays, farewells, exams, meal-times, illnesses, etc are incomplete without calling upon the Lord for blessings and intervention. There is something particularly comforting about going on a journey or for a job interview or an operation knowing that you have been prayed over.
Quite recently, my niece was moving to Dubai to pursue a job. The whole family converged at my house, and my mother, very much the matriarch at 85, prayed over her, hand on head, and invoked blessings for her so fervently that we were all in tears. There could hardly have been a more meaningful and solemn way of sending off Anupa into her new life.
When sick in hospital or bereaved, the whole community will turn up to visit and pray for you, strengthening you with their own faith, and concern for you. The prayer reaches out simultaneously to God and the ones prayed over. It connects us into a fellowship with God.
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