I believe that our generation is craving a spiritual connection. We can sense the depth of our existence even though an epicurean mist has made our vision hazy. Last year while working for the UCLA Journal of Religion I read a submission about the spread of Buddhist meditation in the west, particularly among college students. The author’s words rang true. In the hectic course of our lives we forget to be mindful and live in the present and appreciate the universe in which we live. I do not aim to speculate on why we are turning to meditation. I am here to offer an alternative.
Prayer. It is no secret that traditional religion is losing its sway among my generation. Religion, all religion, is rooted in something objective. Although we may have rejected the spiritual well of our parents and grandparents, the thirst for connection has not died out. I believe this is a crisis with dire consequences. Just as Josephus and Justin Martyr put pen to paper in order to proclaim their religion in the face of the “pagan” Roman Empire, I write in the face of a new adultery that is stripping us of our ability to channel our spirituality.
So why pray? The answer is not just to offer peace of mind; in fact, I do not claim that peace of mind is always a result of prayer. We pray in order to stare into the eyes of our creator and acknowledge his majesty, beauty, and awesomeness. Mountains are not just mountains, nature is not just nature. But rather “the heavens/skies declare the glory of God (Psalms 19:2).” Every ounce of the space we inhabit is infiltrated with His Presence: “the entire earth is filled with his glory” (Isa 6.3). However, this is not always easy to see. We can always look at the expanse in the sky and see only units, and other quantifiable elements. But nature is His tool. Nature is one of His many ways to declare His Presence. The scientific man will quantify every centimeter of space and proclaim his own dominion over this. How foolish! Indeed humans have developed tools to quantify but it will all be in vain if we fail to discern the purpose of nature. The universe is not the cold unpredictable place the ancient Greeks thought it was. Rather, it is a plea, a cry, a shout, to enter into His Presence and create a relationship.
Prayer is the mechanism for the relationship. But one cannot pray successfully without seeking His embrace. One cannot pray unless he/she craves to be overwhelmed by it. We must simultaneously acknowledge our nothingness in comparison to the universe while also humbly accepting our responsibility. We must play our role because only we have the power to do it. Our spiritual yearning was put into us in order that we sanctify this world. We can only sanctify this world by looking straight into Gd’s eyes and grabbing Him by the garment and yanking Him down to earth.
We must pray because the world depends on it.