I’m a little complicated when it comes to prayer: I pray every day, I use God’s name, and I’m not a Christian.
In fact, like many others who are commonly labelled as “millennials,” I identify as spiritual, but not religious.
If I’m not religious, who exactly am I praying to, and why am I using God’s name?
Well, those are very good questions. I’m glad you asked.
When I was little, I used to pray to God every single night while kneeling at the edge of my bed, stuffed lamb tucked tightly under my arm. I recited the same prayer I was taught in Sunday school with eyes closed and hands together.
Since then, I have gone through several experiences that have shaped my current belief system:
- My childhood pastor chose to preach according to her own singular agenda and ignore other important topics
- My worldview was rocked in college while talking to others from different backgrounds.
- My assumptions were challenged by others from different cultures while working and traveling abroad.
These moments helped me to reflect on why I believed in what I believed and ultimately informed my decision to leave the Christian faith.
Today, I still pray and use God’s name, but I’m not necessarily speaking to the figurehead of Christianity. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure who I’m speaking to since the name God feels more like a placeholder than anything else.
Even though I don’t identify with any one religion, I do believe in the power of prayer. I mean, how else does someone cope with questions like, “Why am I here” or, “What happens after I die?”
These are questions that most, if not all, religions try to address. In this sense, I feel like religion plays an important part in questioning our humanity.
The issue I have is when members of one religion (or any group for that matter) try and impose their beliefs onto others. This apparent lack of empathy has led me to continue the practice of prayer on my own, without doing so under the Christian banner.
I’ve noticed that prayer tends to be saved for moments of hopelessness. Since these feelings surface quite often due to constant change in my life, I find myself repeating simple prayers throughout the day without even thinking, just like other programmed habits.
As a Christian, you may perceive this as inappropriate.
Why would I have the right to borrow God’s name when I may not fully believe in his existence?
To be completely honest? If God does exist, I don’t think he would mind. Let me explain:
First, I think he would approve of my motivation for praying – I pray for the safety, happiness, and good health of those I care about. I pray for a better, more productive tomorrow. I pray for the chance to realize my full potential and to help others do the same.
Second, he has bigger things to worry about – Back when I practiced Christianity and studied the Children’s Bible, I never understood God to be a narcissistic entity. Instead of worrying about little ol’ me and whether or not I’m using his name correctly, I figure he is focused on much bigger issues. For example, I imagine he is much more concerned with whether or not we all practice the golden rule and deploy empathy day-to-day.
Third, it provides me with reassurance – Whether or not I am blaspheming when I borrow God’s name, the act of praying typically does provide reassurance. Personally, I think this is exactly why prayer is promoted within any religion. It’s something tangible that followers can act on and it gives them a direct link to speak with whomever they believe in. Ultimately, this is meant to provide a sense of security when dealing with the unknown.
In the end, I may very well be in the wrong, and I’m OK with that.
After all, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.