One of my yearly goals was to select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences.
Back in May, I prayed twice a day, every day, for a month, to see what might happen.
Would my heart or mind experience a transformation of some kind?
Would my prayers be miraculously answered?
Would God talk back to me?
As a reluctant atheist, it had been a long, long time since I prayed. As a boy, I can remember a period of time when I prayed each night before going to sleep. Oftentimes this took the form of the Lord's Prayer, but at other times I would pray for things I needed or wanted and for the health and security of my family.
I as a teenager, I found myself feverishly praying to a God who I no longer believed in when my girlfriend was late for her period.
I was desperate and decided to hedge my bets.
I also found myself asking God for help in a broom closet in the basement of the Bourne, MA police station back in 1993, but that was not a prayer as much as a question in need of an answer. I still didn't believe in God, but alone and in the dark, facing a monumental decision, I asked a God I did not believe in for an answer, and I may have received one.
Since those desperate days, I had not uttered a word of prayer in more than 20 years.
During the month of May, I prayed in the morning and evening. I thanked God for all the blessings in my life. Prayed for the good health of my family, the future of our country, and the wisdom and strength to accomplish all that needed to be done on that given day. I even repeated the Lord's Prayer on several occasions.
Sadly, I felt nothing in terms of greater spirituality. No sudden awareness of an ethereal being. No connection to the unseen entity to whom I was speaking. Not a hint of additional faith.
Frankly, I didn't enjoy the praying at all. I felt a little... infantile. Like I was praying to some parental figure who would supposedly, arbitrarily, possibly bestow upon me an infinitesimal bit of his (or her) supposedly infinite power. I felt like prayer was the act of relinquishing control of my life and passing it onto some unseen other, placing my faith and hope for the future in someone else's hands.
I didn't like that.
As much as I might wish to have faith, perhaps only for the existence of Heaven and something beyond this mortal coil, I wouldn't want to place my future in the hands of a God would may or may not decide to help me. As much as want to believe in a kind and just God (who frankly would be very different from the God of The Bible), I think I prefer to have faith in myself, my friends, and my family over an arbitrary, seemingly disinterested, and maybe even cruel spiritual being.
I believe in me. I believe in the love of my wife and children. The support of my friends and family. The goodness of my fellow man.
God would be nice, too, but if his (or her) power is infinite and the world continues to disappoint in so many ways, I can't help but think that we might be better off placing our faith in each other.
I didn't finish my month of prayer with any greater faith or belief in God, but I might have found an even greater faith in myself and the people around me. Or at least an appreciation of it.
So not a waste of time after all.