When you pray, you stand in solidarity with all those who pray.I pray because people around the world are dying and god-forsaken. They have nowhere to turn. They are helpless and powerless. Prayer represents that moment when all hope is gone and you turn your face heavenward looking for aid, comfort or solace. Looking for a miracle.
When I pray I stand in that hopelessness. I place myself in the position of those who can do nothing put pray. Prayer is their only option, only recourse. It is the only move available to them. Life forces people to their knees. So I go to my knees to be with them, to pray with them. In this sense, Jesus was God's prayer.
In short, the act of prayer, for me at least, is a participation in the vast lament of humankind. Prayer is a visceral, collective weeping toward the heavens.
This might sound depressive and dark. And to be clear, this isn't the only reason I pray. But it is one of the reasons. And I find it a very poignant and powerful reason and motivation.
At the end of their album War U2 has a song called 40. The song is inspired by Psalm 40. In the early years of U2 they would end their concerts with the song 40. And after the band had left the stage the crowds would remain behind, in the dark, singing over and over:
How long?You can get a taste of this from this clip of the ending of the Live at Red Rocks concert filmed in 1983:
The point of all this is that I think prayer is similar to standing in that crowd singing "How long? How long?" Humanity cries out, all across the globe, praying "How long? How long?" In the past, given my religious doubts, I judged those cries. Worried about the metaphysics. Wondered if those prayers made any difference.
But I now feel those objections are obscene in the face of all that pain and lament. The proper response, for me at least, was to simply shut up and add my voice to chorus.
To stand in the sea of humanity and sing "How long? How long?"