May 11, 2008

Prayer as an act of giving

In religious life, all that we do has the meaning of an offering to the Creator. Prayer is one of the most important offerings we can make. What is the significance of offerings and how should offerings to God be made in the right way?

The word ‘offering’ is an official word for giving. Offering is nothing else than giving. It is through giving to a person that we build up a good relationship. It is no different in our relationship to God. God gives to us and when we give back to God, we can build up a good relationship.

Prayer needs to be a giving act, not a taking one. Just like people sometimes try to build relations with other people by asking or taking, so we could also mistakenly try to get from God rather than to give. In a normal and fruitful relationship, both individuals will try to give to each other. It is not different in our relationship to God. When someone prays and all the time only wants to get something, for example by only asking for blessings, then a normal relationship cannot develop.

There are certain rules for giving between people. Usually these rules are not made so conscious, but they nevertheless are commonly applied. Similar rules or principles exist for giving to God.

One principle of giving is that you want to give something good and clean. When you receive a present but there is something bad attached to it, you won’t like it very much. For example, if someone offers you a meal and there is something in it that makes you sick, then you won’t appreciate it very much and this has consequences for your relationship with the one who gave it.

Sometimes people give something in order to get. For example, the world of advertisement on the internet often works like that. You can receive many programs online ‘for free’ but the free gift is not really free. Many smart methods are applied so you eventually will spend money on a product you sometimes did not really need or want.

When we pray, we do not only offer our prayer to God. Through the offering we offer ourselves to God. What you really want to reach through prayer is that you build up a relationship with God. The offering, in this case a prayer, always is something intermediate. The offering stands between God and you. In reality what you offer is yourself.

This means that when you offer a prayer to God, you yourself need to be clean. Clean in this case means that you firstly are clean in mind and spirit. When your thoughts would be full of hatred, you can hardly expect that God could like your prayer. Even if the words of your prayer sound sweet, through the words you also offer what is in your spirit and with hatred or egoism you will not deepen the relationship with God.

It also implies that our prayers are not independent from how we live. When someone does what he or she likes during the day and then tries to pray in the evening, the prayer at best can become one of repentance. Repentance has only value when it is really meant. When someone lives each day like this, doing what he or she knows is not so good, then prayer becomes very hypocrite and as a result your entire personally might become like that.

We can offer promises or pledges to God, to change our life, or to do something what we know is right to do. Also such a promise or pledge needs to be pure and sincere. Another way of expressing this is to say that the offering needs to be split. Whatever you offer, you need to only offer what is good and not what is stained. When you give a promise and your mind is not entirely serious about it, it means that something unclean entered your mind and therefore also your offering of prayer. Then it is better to first work on yourself, to question yourself whether you really mean what you say, and only offer the prayer and pledge after you did this. To help you cleanse your mind, you can pray and ask the Creator to show you how.

When you bring an offering, what you offer in deepest essence is your love. Also in prayer, your love for God is more essential than anything else. Prayers that are superficial or only ritual have little meaning. When you pray and you can feel deep love for God, that is when your prayers gain the highest value.

It is like when you speak to another person, or you write someone a letter, you can do it as an empty habit, not putting much of your heart into it, or you can make effort to really feel and express personal love. This makes a world of difference to the receiver. When you pray to God, God is the recipient of your prayer and there are no prayers so wonderful as those in which you manage to move God’s heart.

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