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January 19, 2009

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freeman

Who, exactly, is hurt by this? I don't get it.

Joshua James

I think the point is, really, that's it's not exactly a service, right?

Parabasis

Thanks, Josh, yeah... my point wasn't that they were hurting anyone just that it was kind of funny to think of praying for devine intervention as service.

Laura

Various religions define contemplation, meditation and prayer as a form of service. Also maintaining a "right attitude" is another form of service to people of faith. (I'm not just talking Christian, but Buddhism and Hinduism as well.)

It's unfortunate that our generation - and the generation after us - has had that whole area of life corrupted by what happened in the 80s. If you look back in history - especially the Civil Rights Movement - prayer, meditation, service, and political action have gone hand-in-hand. It's not a right-wing thing.

I see it all the time here in Birmingham, especially in the African-American community. It's a very important aspect to creating and maintaining community.

Joshua James

I'd done the prayer for the world thing (when I was christian, in college) and as a Buddhist, I've done hours of meditation for larger world events ... however, I don't believe (even as a practicing Buddhist) that I would define it as a service ... I think meditation or praying for something outside one's self has a profoundly positive effect on the person doing the praying / meditating ... and meditation has been scientifically proven to be physically beneficial to the person doing it (they did this by studying monk's brain patterns) but I haven't seen that it's a real service for others ... like yoga, it may make you a calmer, easier person to get along with in society, but the person who benefits from it is still mainly the person who does it.

So by my experience, it's not a service to the community, not in my opinion.

Laura

I also have experience with prayer and meditation, along with working as an energy healer. In my experience, prayer and meditation prepare the person for performing service. As well, prayer FOR a person is a form of service for believers, especially if the believer is asking for divine intervention on behalf of others.

Now people who don't have a belief system that encompasses all that may think it's malarky, which is fine. :)

Laura

Wait, I think you bring up an interesting point Joshua. Is being a "better person" a way of performing service?

For example, an alcoholic enters treatment. He may be doing it for himself, but isn't he also performing a service to others?

Joshua James

I don't disagree that it's good preparation, my only note would be that there's no inherent scientific evidence, per se, that praying or meditating for someone else actually has benefits.

Nor is there real evidence that you can put a curse on someone else, either. There are anecdotal events, but these are still linked by the beliefs of the person it happened to.

So praying for the world isn't necessarily a service, as of yet. many believe it may be, but honestly, rather than Rick Warren pray for me, I'd rather he donate a few of his millions to stem cell research ... the latter is a real service, the former, who knows?

Regarding your last point ... I don't think it's a service to be a good healthy citizen, in fact, our basic freedoms posit you can do what you want, providing you don't hurt others. There's no real evidence that a person drinking themselves to death hurts anyone else (unless they drive) ... and you have that right, if you choose, to drink yourself to death.

Ergo, if you choose not to, it is a benefit to you, primarily.

That's how I see it.

Laura

Actually, I reviewed a book called "The Genie in Your Genes" that cited over 300 research studies indicating that thought and belief can have profound effects on biology. I have reviewed over 80 health books over the past year and a half and many of them talk about the power of belief - not only the patient's but those around him. Some even go into religous beliefs and praying/meditating/visualization. There has been proof that these things can create positive change - real proof.

In the end, any research studies that point to the power of prayer or belief will run into an unfortunate problem of challenging belief systems.

Joshua James

Right, but it changes the person practicing the belief system, right?

There's no proof that a Christian who prayed for a non-christian affected the non-christian's biology, right?

Just like a voodoo curse may work on those who practice it, there's no scientific (as far as I know) evidence that a voodoo curse placed on someone who has no idea about it or believes it works.

I totally believe practice and meditation and visualization have personal benefits, you bet.

My point was that it benefits the person / persons practicing it (like yoga) ... it's not what I would define as a service to others, because it only benefits those that do, not those are aren't or cannot ... right?

Laura

I see what you are saying. As I understood it, many of these prayer studies were blind - meaning that people weren't aware that they were being "prayed for" in that way. Which makes it intriguing that there were positive results.

Now I say that with the caveat that it goes against my own belief system, which states that in terms of energy and healing - nothing should happen without the permission of the patient or client.

Religious people would have issues with my caveat, since they pray for people all the time - whether or not they want it. Again, they believe it helps. Some scientific evidence backs it up. More scientific study will be done. So who knows?

Joshua James

Really? That's fascinating ... it goes against my belief system too (I believe in Karma) but it would be interesting to learn that scientifically curses work, wouldn't it?

freeman

I think the question isn't whether or not religious belief is valid or prayer works or doesn't. The fact is...I don't get why there's any need to tell people how THEY should define service. If people believe they are serving others by praying for them, it's a lot better than doing nothing at all generous with your time.

Service is a form of generosity. It's active generosity. I wouldn't personally pray as a form of service, but I do think it can be considered service from a certain perspective.

Laura

I remember that part of the book vividly because I was sort of floored by it. And it wasn't even what the book was about, which was also interesting. But the thing is, in a blind prayer study, I imagine that on some level patients must give their approval. After all, you can't participate in a study without that agreement.

So ultimately, the prayer had permission to work although the patient may or may not have believed that it would work.

I hope I'm making sense and not misunderstanding you. I have a bit of a headache and feel sort of out of it.

Joshua James

Depends on what one is praying for, doesn't it, Matthew? I'm sure a lot of folks are praying for gay people to realize the sin of their ways ... and they think they're being generous.

Me, I don't really consider prayer, positive or negative, service ... I think it's a personal thing and best left as such.

Plus, there's no real solid way (yet) of measure the cause and affect of it, or to determine is something is actually praying or just saying so ... so respectfully I disagree.

Laura, you're getting me perfectly ... can you tell me the title of that book? I think I'd dig it.

Laura

It was called "The Genie in Your Genes" by Dawson Church.

http://www.genieinyourgenes.com/

Build a Japanese Garden

Isn't it more about service and creating or being more positive. And wouldn't the world be a better place with both.

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