‘I am not against God, but am not for him either. Just that thinking about him takes up my time.’ A youngster told me in a chat during one of those family gatherings.
I asked him why he can’t make time for God. He said that he had tried, but found that it did not work out. The equation was simple – when he wanted something he would ask his mom or dad, but given that they were too busy at work or chores, they could not get it to him. Instead, they would come and give him a set of instructions to do, and if they weren’t done, he could get a piece from them.
For quite a few days, the youngster had prayed to God, and he did not get a response. Like his parents, God won’t listen. Worst, She would not make time for the kid. The kid said that he had moved on in life – with books, friends, and studies. In the process, he filled his life with relationships, and slowly from morning to night, his day was filled with action, education, and entertainment. God did not figure in his scheme of things. If God was there, he let Her be. It sounded like his parents, who were there yet not part of his life.
So the equation was simple. God got his chance but did not turn up when the kid needed him, and after that, it did not matter.
He asked me the same question. I told him that I think about God often. I was older and brought up in an environment that revered God. God was present in almost every sphere of life – studies, food, wealth, health, family occasions, marriages, get-togethers, work. The ubiquitous presence was reinforced in the form of sights and sounds and even smells. I told him that we were always on a sensory overload, and we were conditioned to think that God was good, and he was there for us, no matter what.
The kid said there was sensory overload even now, but there were too many interests, and God has lost his ubiquity somewhere. We both laughed, and somebody joined; the conversations moved on to other topics.
When I started driving from the event, the exchange with the kid on the topic of God stayed with me. Two consecutive generations, but different views on God.
I admit that we are the last generation that found the time and space for engaging God. God, is the symbol of the higher power that we were taught to believe, believed, and would believe. This higher power – it could be a being or many beings, formed or formless, named or nameless – is the source of our hope.
Hope summarizes many things. But essentially it is the thought that what is going to come to us, occur to us, will keep us alive, and make us better. This hope is a form of desire. Prayers are designed on hope. Mantras, hymns, sermons, holy books – all point to hope. Prayers are appeals to this higher power, God, in the hope that things would be better in the future.
Hope helps us deal with the present, and gives us a purpose to move forward. Hope supersedes the difficult and negative emotions – despair, fear, anger, and difficult situations – pain, hunger, poverty. A human who desires, hopes. When the desire is gone, then hope is not needed. Hope is contextual, and context is driven by a desired outcome which we call purpose. Purpose is the essence of life.
When the kid lost the purpose, he did not need hope. When he did not need hope, he dropped the prayers. He had moved on from God.
At my age, I would be naïve to think that God is either a product of conditioned ubiquity ( like how we were brought up) or the entity who serves somebody’s purpose (like how the kid figured it out).
Why should God be a higher power? A simple, yet powerful question.
A God is always a giver. Prayer is asking, and the result is giving. We are the takers, God is the giver.
Try giving. Give love. Give hugs. Giving food to the hungry. Give a smile. Give a Thank You. Give them a few kind words.
Tell me how they feel.
You will see wet eyes or a smile. You will see a sigh or a hesitant thank you. You will get a hug or a pat. That is the feeling of the receiver – who had prayed to that higher power, moments ago, in hope that somebody gives them the love, hugs, food, smiles, and thank yous.
Now tell me what you feel.
That feeling of satisfaction, without a desire for yourself, is the feeling of a giver. The feeling of God. In short, if you give, you become a momentary God. To put it simply, God is in you.
In our fight to live, we pray in hope that we get better lives. That makes us takers, right? If we don’t have something, we desire – we hope we get that ‘something’. The hope is that there is that ‘giver’ of something, somewhere in this universe.
If somebody sees you pray, and yet they cannot give, what can they do? Or what would you do if you see somebody is praying and you cannot help or give?
If we cannot give, we can pray too. Pray for them. When we pray for others, we join their prayers, and the power of many wakes up the giver somewhere.
Since prayers are built on hope, the intensity of hope increases with the many voices of prayers. The power in numbers matters.
Now look at the power of numbers – congregations, masses, festivals – time, places and events when people come together, in the hope that their collective prayers build the strength in hope, and the vigor in the voice, so that the Giver can hear them.
I don’t know who can give what you pray for, and you don’t know mine. If we add a few more, we are all strangers praying for each other, unknowing of the hopes for the desires that we carry in our hearts. There could be many givers, i.e., many Gods, but we all pray towards one – that strange, higher power, which might listen to your voice among others’.
Beyond the act of giving, is there joy?
You will be surprised – the joy of receiving … gratitude.
Gratitude is something a giver enjoys more than giving. When they say ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you, or give you that look, or just a nod of that head, it completes the ‘loop’. It is an acknowledgment of your giving, nothing more. Yet, it has a message – you and your act meant a lot to them, and their prayers were answered.
You were their giver, at the time they wanted to receive the product of their prayers. It is also an acknowledgment of your performance – right act, right place, and the right time. Yet there is no leader board or race chart, but a simple gesture back.
If the act of gratitude gives such joy to the giver, would the giver not motivated to give more?
You would agree with me if I say yes.
Let us go to the complex equation of strangers praying together, and that unknown, strange givers, giving them what were the hopes that they held in their hearts; now when the prayers were answered, they look around with a question in their mind – who to thank, who to be grateful to.
The answer is that you can be thankful to those givers, who we believe are those higher powers. But how do we make sure that they receive the gratitude that we want to share? It is impossible, right?
If the same prayers were about gratitude, along with the wishes that are to be fulfilled, the same giver who endeavors to grant your wishes, will also receive your gratitude. Gratitude is, therefore, an essential part of every prayer, chant, or mantra.
We have already seen that the receipt of gratitude is greater than the joy of giving to the Giver – the higher power – God or Gods. Even Gods need their vitamins – the joy of hearing us pray.