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Worship and Prayer In Spirituality

Worship and prayer can be a part of spirituality, and it is part of some religions. However, it does not always take on the same meaning in each belief system. Deity worship is one example. This is where a person spends time honoring or praying to one or more divine beings. Venerating ancestors is another example. This is when a person honors or prays to a personal lineage and recognizes a powerful bond among generations past and those living today. Whichever form of worship and prayer there is, it is a practice that rests on intentional living.

A God Or Many Gods

When we think of worship, we likely think of worship to God or many gods. You might think of the Christian God or Jewish Yahweh. Alternatively, you might think of the Hindu pantheon, such as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. You may go back to Greek gods, like Zeus, Hera, Ares and Aphrodite, or you might think of Norse gods, like Odin, Frigg, Thor and Heimdallr. You may worship one or more of these beings yourself as well as pray as part of your own spiritual practice.

For many, worshiping a deity is embedded in practice of their beliefs based on their understanding of who their deity is. As I mentioned before, spirituality is about our relationship to life, and it can include respect for a powerful being, such as a god, that comes from an understanding of that relationship. In every case, a deity is in control and responsible for at least part of life if not the entirety of life itself. The practice of honor and prayer acknowledges such power and sometimes seeks help by humbly requesting patronage. There is powerful belief here usually, and the deity is felt as real as a person in the flesh. It includes attributing circumstances and situations beyond ones control to the deity, which is often why one honors and appeals to them to gain favor or prevent rebuke.

In modern times, we may think of deity worship as anthropomorphizing something within ourselves that feels distant and eternal. The idea of an archetype is idea that of a template-like persona that represents a complex and common human character common to many people beyond cultural details. Archetypes make us wonder if there are common experiences embedded in who we are as humans and accessible in some way through our psyche. Worship may be a way of getting in touch with those parts of our self that allow us to be prosperous, be creative, be daring or just be ourselves. It also allows us to develop that relationship further and interact in a more familiar way with such characters.

Deity worship is also a way of acknowledging our vulnerability. When we think about life being run by immortal beings who have power over different experiences, we acknowledge we don’t have control over the outcomes in many circumstances. We acknowledge that we can only do so much. At some point, we have to give the outcome over to someone else who can perhaps help us achieve what we want to achieve. In practical terms, we may be in the hands of our neighbors or nature, but inside, our hopes and fears may rest on a singular force whose only presence is experienced through the figure of an immortal deity.

Honoring Those Who Came Before Us

In some traditions, people honor their ancestors rather than worship gods (or perhaps even alongside the worship of gods). According to Wikipedia, this can include a form of prayer or patronage where the living ask the dead to speak to the gods on their behalf. In this case, praying to ancestors works like deity worship. However, for some, honoring ones ancestors is about maintaining family duty. It keeps people in the family in a different status from the living. You don’t leave the family just because you no longer have a body. This speaks directly to the relationship aspect of spirituality.

Veneration of the dead – read more on Wikipedia

Although honoring ones ancestors may seem like a foreign idea to some, many if not all cultures include some form of honoring those who have passed. Memorial Day exists to honor those who have fought and died in service to the United States. We also have cemeteries and mausoleums where we can visit our family who have passed on. It may be in our culture simply as a way of handling the grief from loss of family. However, it is a way to keep in touch with the spirit of that family.

Family is a fundamental pursuit. Even if someone is disowned and finds new people to live with, these new people can become a family and very much worth taking the time to honor and recognize even in death. To honor the people in our family who have passed on means to honor the foundation on which we live our own lives. Even if we are not related to a family member, there can be psychic connections that feel just as real as biological ones.

Worship, Atheism And Spirituality

Worship and prayer may or may not make the world a better place. It can encourage people to follow more ideal behavior. If they fear the wrath of a deity or an ancestor for not being “good”, then maybe they tell the truth even when they are ashamed or they make sure to care for someone in need even when they have little to give. These behaviors are good things, in my opinion. On the other hand, it can make people defensive about their beliefs. If anyone challenges the belief and tries to dismiss it with evidence to the contrary, then believers can become hostile and in the rarest extremes, even violent. These are not good things, in my opinion.

The most important principle behind spirituality is how we choose to maintain our relationship to life and therefore to the people we encounter because of how we live. If worship and prayer inspires you to be your better self, be open to other people and try to practice supportive behavior as much as possible, then I think worship and prayer can be just fine. However, if worship and prayer means you are more easily threatened by what other people have to say and that you have to feel justified in your beliefs more than inspired by them, then I think they are dangerous. Therefore, worship and prayer are only as good as the way we incorporate them into our lives and use them to guide our behavior.

Atheism can also be either good or bad depending on how it is practiced. Atheism is merely a belief there is no god (or gods) at all. However, atheism is often taken to mean a person who has no beliefs at all. Buddhists and taoists, for example, don’t believe in any deities, but I think people who call themselves atheist don’t necessarily study either of these belief systems. If atheism means you simply don’t believe in a deity and you use other ways to develop a conscious way of living and maintain your relationship to life as well as the people in it, then you are definitely a spiritual atheist, or as I like to say ‘secular spiritualist’. If atheism means you reject any meaningful analysis of your relationship to life, any guidance for ideal human behavior to which you hold yourself accountable, then I think atheism means you don’t want to hold yourself to right behavior and social rules. Just like in worship and prayer, atheism can be either good or bad in this way.

In the end, a decision about whether or not to worship or honor is part of the intentional way of living. You can recognize what is beyond your power through prayer. You can try to get in touch with pervasive, unconscious forces through paryer. You can honor your ancestors or family to recognize your connection to your foundations. You can simply concentrate on your philosophy or practice without worship. Whatever reason you have for engaging in worship or not engaging in it, it defines your relationship to life and the intentional way you live it.