Updated: Jun 30
This article was initially published by Illumination on Medium.
Prayer is the act of communication by humans with their personally chosen ultimate power. Most cultures today call this last supremacy, sacred or holy, “God.” It is, indeed, the transcendent realm found in all religions.
Prayer is a call that epitomizes an individual seeking a bond with an object of reverence. It serves as a tool for deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards an immortal or sanctified progenitor.
There are many reasons why people pray. The context of prayer reflects how one perceives life based on their surroundings. Despite the variation, the fundamental reason for someone acquiring a posture and rehearsing certain gestures and thoughts lies in the notion that all accept being powerless to change their ultimate destiny and shedding light on something or happenings that await us all after death. Thus, no matter what it takes, one prays for self or fellow human beings, wishing the best for the future and being thankful for surviving the past with the help of the sacred mighty.
Undoubtedly, prayer seems to be the instrument of desire, comfort, and peace within the person against life’s uncertainties. It is personal, and I believe it exists in everyone, even though some may deny that they believe in prayer. That is because the latter typically don’t call it a prayer and instead label it as notions like “wishing a good fortune.”
Prayer is personal. Nevertheless, it has unwittingly become a social practice. When a group of the populace whose opinions of worship have the same meaning collectively decide to make such a ritual or practice the standard of their prevailing community. That is by incorporating it into the school curriculum or sociopolitical agenda.
Prayer is a meritorious deed if practiced within one’s personal space, as it spiritually organizes a person’s life and psychologically soothes their body and mind. Nonetheless, the problem arises when the beliefs of a group become the routine for the rest of the society, particularly for those whose perceptions of God, ultimate power, or fortune are utterly divergent. Hence, it deliberates one size fits all prayer and ritual as obsolete and regards the complete mobilization of one or more communities by dictating a single standard of thinking for everyone.
When prayers become a public norm in one way or another, it will invite segregation among various religious and moral factions and spark conflicts. That is what religious fascism holds, a mission that has domineered religious wars throughout history.
Whether prayer should be permissible in public schools or not in the curriculum of the general public affairs is highly moot. However, its permissibility within a particular theological curriculum is conceivable only if such a program clearly outlines the vision and mission behind such practice.
The religious studies curriculum must be optional, equally, and universally inclusive of all religious and moral standards. Outside the curriculum, we must treat prayer and rituals as personal, not an instrument of collective influence, and not as sociopolitical paraphernalia.