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Yoon Ha Lee wrote, quoting myself:

> > However, even if they don't think of them as rituals, almost everyone
> > uses rituals in prayer. Even if you just bow your head and close
> > your eyes, that, technically, is a ritual. It's got nothing to do
> > with manipulating spiritual forces, and everything to do with
> > creating an environment in which the experience of prayer is more
> > easily entered into. More sophisticated rituals exist (and the best
> > ones are those that you discover yourself because then they are
> > tailored to your individual persona) which help to make prayer into
> > an experience that truly engages one's whole mind. I use some of them
> > myself, and I find them very helpful.
>
> I've always wondered if there were--a format, for lack of a better
> word. I just talk to God, not knowing any better. :-( ("Dear God...")

You really have to find out what works for *you*. All I can speak for is
my own experience.

A Bible verse that I find very helpful is,

  "Tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer".

(BTW, when I say 'your needs', that includes other peoples' needs,
because a prayerful attitude leads us to think of other peoples' needs as
our own.)

Now, it just so happens that the left and right hemispheres of the human
mind work in complementary ways, and the best prayer is one that brings
the whole mind together. After all, Jesus said we should love God with
our whole minds. If you pray with your right hemisphere alone, you might
tell God 'every detail of your needs' because the right hemisphere is a
collector of information that doesn't worry about what is relevant and
what isn't. However the right hemisphere is not exactly known for being
'earnest and thankful' - on the whole, it probably doesn't expect its
prayers to be answered. So the right hemisphere, by itself, doesn't pray
very well. But if you pray only with your left hemisphere, then although
you might have an earnest and thankful attitude, the left hemisphere
really doesn't have the insight necessary to 'tell God every detail of
your needs'. The left brain ignores discrepencies and is not aware of
anything beyond its immediate concerns. So the left brain, by itself,
doesn't pray very well either. Really good prayer requires the effort of
the *whole* mind, and this can require a considerable discipline. If an
individual finds that ritual helps, then this is a good thing.

Incidentally, it has been demonstrated that in various mental illnesses,
the left and right hemispheres cease to communicate normally. For example
in manic depression the brain gets 'stuck' either in the left hemisphere
(mania) or the right hemisphere (depression). For a technical overview of
all this, see <http://www.uq.edu.au/nuq/jack/jack.html>. I think this is
an example where science helps us gain a fuller perspective on spiritual
things.

I like to pray before bed, from 9:00 to 11:00 if I am self-disciplined
enough on that particular day. First I talk to God about the day that's
gone. Then I recite the Lord's Prayer. Then I enter the body of my
prayer. I bring people/places/groups/situations before God more or less
at random, not asking myself "Who do I know who has a particular need",
but just bringing *anyone* to God, knowing that *God* knows their needs
even if I don't. For each of these people/groups/whatever, I have a
blessing that I recite:

   Lord, I pray for Yoon Ha Lee and for all members of Conlang.
   Destroy that which keeps them from you
   And strengthen that which keeps them with you.
   Guide them to your image and according to your will
   That they may become what you would have them be.

This process can go on for ages, and the 'randomness' aspect of it is
very important because this engages the brain's right hemisphere,
something that our goal-oriented society often neglects to do. The rising
incidence of depression is linked to our western culture in which we
rarely exercise our right hemispheres. Within my prayer, I do whatever
I'm inspired to do (I might for example spend some moments in silence or
sing a song of praise or pray intently about a particular issue), and to
close my prayer, I recite the Lord's Prayer a second time.

> My favourite times for prayer are, ironically, while in the shower and
> just before going to bed (assuming I don't just conk out).

I also like to pray just before bed, because (1) I'm relaxed, and (2) at
the end of the day I actually have some things to pray *about*, which
isn't so true in the morning.

Sometimes I fall asleep in prayer, but although I think it's better to
stay awake, I do see something beautiful in falling asleep while you
pray.

See <http://web.netyp.com/member/dragon/god_prayer.htm>.

> Funny, though--I guess praying in the shower *is* a ritual of sorts,
> I just never think of it that way. (In case you're wondering, I often
> thank God for hot running water. I lived a year in a house without. The
> things God gives us don't have to be earthshattering to be
> appreciated!)

Yes, indeed!

> ObConLang: Prayer forms, if any, if your conlangs? None in Chevraqis
> that I know of yet, but despite the fact that I perform it, prayer is
> very mysterious to me in many ways.

Prayer *is* a mystery. Why should God need *us* to ask him to do things,
when he is already all-powerful? I think that by bringing our concerns to
God, we allow God to make our attitudes *toward* those concerns more like
what they should be. And by getting us to pray instead of just fixing up
everything by himself, God makes it necessary for us to commune with him
if we really want a better world.

That's my way of looking at it, anyway.

See <http://web.netyp.com/member/dragon/create_whypray.htm>.

> (What fun would life be without some mystery?)

Indeed!

--
web.       | Here and there I like to preserve a few islands of sanity
netyp.com/ | within the vast sea of absurdity which is my mind.
member/    | After all, you can't survive as an eight foot tall
dragon     | flesh eating dragon if you've got no concept of reality.