The Humanist’s Prayer Chamber

 

For some reason, the term “prayer chamber” escaped me all these years until last week.  From what I understand, this is where a group of Christians gather to ask God to intercede for someone who is sick or who is going through a crisis. The prayer chamber can also be mustered for something a little more “out there”: one website mentions help with “financial flow” and staving off “witchcraft and apostacy [sic].” On Facebook there is a prayer-chamber page with all kinds of prayers, from the old standby beseeching the Lord to bless you, keep you and make His face to shine upon you, to prayers bellicosely invoking the name of the entire Trinity at once to change the direction of our country. There you can even find a link to YouTube and something called “Prayer Warfare Strategy” with #91 back in November urging us to pray for the presidential election.

Maybe that explains what happened…

Many of our fellowmen and women find this kind of aggressive prayer difficult to take. The freethinker will have little patience with those who so vocally thrust their prayers at us and seem to delight in their personal relation with what to the skeptic is at best a big metaphysical question mark.

However, skeptics take note: a terrific article on prayer in the North Dakota Quarterly was reprinted in the Utne Reader’s last issue.   The author, Cathy Krizik, is an atheist who in some detail describes her allergic reaction to traditional religion and conversations that invoked the Deity.   Prayer for her was “nothing but a Band-Aid to make us all feel better.” But when she was taking a class at an omnifaith spiritual community, she let it slip that she was having surgery for cancer, and, to her horror, her classmates immediately came together for a prayer chamber.

They surrounded her in a circle , and as the prayers began, she resisted. “I felt pummeled by their words….I sloughed off their kindness as wishful thinking….” But as the words and thoughts kept coming, something happened. She was overcome.

“Words became a wave of something I couldn’t name…Their words were medicine. I was being tended to. Lifted up and loved.”

These short excerpts don’t do her justice—it’s a beautifully written piece. Her closing is what is most noteworthy:

“As I drove home…I wondered what was at work in that prayer chamber. Quantum physics? God? Love? And was there a difference?”

Exactly. Who cares what we want to call it? This is the Sacrament of the Group, the power that comes from focusing our energies in a single, purposeful, spiritual direction. It’s there for anyone to experience.   We don’t need to bring in God, or sin. We just need that human-to-human connection, caring and compassion.

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