This month we are looking at process in some areas besides collaborative work. We are looking at other fields where you have a choice to focus on content or focus on process, to see if valuing process works in those fields. This week we are looking at prayer.
Praying seems to be almost ubiquitous. Even Buddhists, who don’t believe in a deity who is a being, pray. Who are they praying to? No one. Then why are they praying?
Carl Jung says that there is a part of the psyche that needs to deal with the spiritual, the divine, the ineffable. “It doesn’t matter whether God created that part of the psyche or that part of the psyche created God, we ignore that part or our psyche at the risk of our mental and emotional health.”
Prayer is the process of paying attention to that part of our psyche.
The content of the prayer perhaps doesn’t matter. If you believe in a deity that has a physical reality and is capable of affecting physical reality, you may pray certain content, for physical reality to be affected in certain ways to provide certain outcomes. But even authors who try to “prove” the existence of God by doing research on the efficacy of prayer have written that the most effective way to pray for someone is to pray that they get their highest good. Not some specific good envisioned by the originator or the object of the prayer, but Highest Good as determined by the entity to whom the prayer is directed. This advice removes the responsibility of the pray-er to determine content and makes prayer a process of focusing on the person in need. The process of praying for the person is far more important than the content being prayed for.
I have a friend who was raised in an evangelical, borderline Pentecostal church. She believes she can speak in tongues. She almost never does it out loud in public. She usually does it in prayer. She doesn’t know what she’s praying. She feels like it is a language that someone may understand, but she doesn’t know what the language is and she doesn’t want to know. She feels like the rhythm of the syllables carries her much farther when they don’t have any intellectual antecedents. As a process person, I hear her saying that removing content from her prayer allows her to focus on the process of paying attention to that part of her psyche that Jung was so concerned about.