“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God,” said Mother Teresa, who was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church a year ago as St. Teresa of Calcutta. Many Long Islanders follow that example and put themselves in God’s hands through regular prayer, at home or at houses of worship. This week’s clergy discuss the differences between having a solo and a group audience with the Almighty, especially when divine help is needed.
Dr. Bhavani Srinivasan
Board member and Hindu representative, Long Island Multi-Faith Forum
Prayer or worship is considered to be an integral part of all religions. The chanting of mantras and meditation are all considered a form of devotional service toward the Lord. Why do we pray? Individually, we pray to God for help in distress; for enlightenment; to ask for peace; to give us the ability to comfort others; to thank God for his blessings. We pray for help with decisions, for melding the mind and ego. We ask God to give us strength, peace and pure intellect, to purify the heart and make us abide in him forever. Uniting in prayer is a creative way to increase spiritual growth. Sound is powerful and different sounds have different effects on the human psyche. Group chanting or prayer provide us with the power to attain our goals and lift ourselves from the ordinary to the higher level of consciousness. Each of us has a unique way of praying and praying together brings a new voice to the need. It gives us a deep feeling of belonging. In a group, we feel a necessary part of a greater purpose. Praying together improves the individual’s mood. Being with others, feeling their love and care leaves a sense of comfort. Praying together opens hearts to the needs of people in the room and everywhere.
The Rev. Kevin O’Hara
Pastor, Lutheran Church of Our Savior, Patchogue
Growing up, I was always told 1+1=2. Simple addition. But when I got to chemistry class, my teacher pointed out that 1+2=1 (2 hydrogen atoms plus 1 oxygen atom makes 1 water molecule). Sometimes, my mind still gets boggled by how science works. Prayer is not science, but prayer also doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not a logical conclusion that if you pray, then God will give you what you ask. Matthew 7:8 says, “For everyone who asks receives . . .,” which often gets distorted into the idea that prayer is like making a wish to a genie. I have friends who so longed for healing that they were part of a healing circle. Some were healed; others were not. I, too, have held healing services. And I have prayed alone in the darkest night. Sometimes, healing has come and other times, there wasn’t a change. Praying in a group does have an advantage. When we are the ones suffering, desperate for God’s intervention, we might lose sight of how God does move through prayer, even without the healing we desire. More people can help discern how God is moving today and into the future, even if it’s less than what was humanly desired. I don’t want to give false hope: Prayer is not logical, nor does it always seem to work the way we want. But prayer is a channel of communication with God, and the more in communication, the better to see and understand God.
Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum
Congregation Beth Tikvah, Wantagh
Communal prayer opens up one’s heart to the needs of others and brings unity of purpose to the endeavor. When people pray together, they build love and concern for one another and collectively display their dependence on the Creator. Additionally, the prayer of the community is always heard, for the Creator never rejects the prayer of many. Quite simply, when one prays with a group, his prayers resonate more deeply. In joining a consensus of many souls, the supplicant gives his prayer greater strength, allowing it to make more of an effect in heaven. Praying among others makes way for the display of divine favor, whereby certain heavenly doors open and an abundance of blessings are showered down by the Creator. A group that prays together invites the divine presence to rest among them, enabling their prayers to be immediately accepted. As such, though it may be easier to pray alone, one should try to combine prayers with those of a group whenever possible. Our sages teach us that in the merit of praying with others one will make a living more easily and be blessed with the fruits of his labor. In fact it is written that communal praying is so much preferred that the almighty makes a promise: If doing so causes one financial loss, the Creator will repay the effort by granting a surplus of success across the board as a reward for putting communal concern above self-interest. With all that being said, as long as the prayer is done with true intention, as long as it comes from deep within the heart, a prayer holds tremendous value — even if it is a solitary one.