From our weekly discussions, it seems that even among those who believe in God, our approaches to God/religion vary. For the most part, I’ve noticed two main ways of thinking of God/religion. Of course, many of us probably mix both approaches together in our practice of religion. Also, please correct me if you’ve noticed other views, or if these distinctions make no sense!
Approach 1: God is a being with infinite strength, and His grace can lead us to success in this life. For this reason, we pray to him for things like strength, peace, and material success.
Approach 2: God is not some outside being, but rather, We are God — that strength, peace, and success all comes from within us. For this reason, we pray to be able to find this source of inner strength so that we can spread strength, peace and success to others.
My ideal has always been to be so grounded in my spirituality that I no longer prayed for myself (the first approach) but rather that I prayed as a way of reminding myself of my inherent divinity. In other words, I want to have such inner strength/peace/happiness that I don’t need to ask any outside entity to supply me with it. Then, prayer will be a way for me stay charged and strong, so that I can constantly give without asking for anything in return. In that way, achieving that second approach to prayer is my goal.
Given that, I thought I would share the following poem with you – a close friend sent it to me, and it struck me as a beautiful way of expressing this goal. The poem was written by the venerated Saint Francis of Assisi, a Catholic friar and preacher — its similarity to the sentiments echoed in Hindu philosophy are striking!
“Prayer of St. Francis”
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
How do you approach religion? Do you think the sentiments expressed in this poem can actually lead to inner peace and happiness, or is it just meaningless self-sacrifice? What is the point of prayer?