Prayer & Thinking

“Is not prayer a study of truth? A venture of the soul into the unfound infinite? No one ever prayed heartily without learning something.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is prayer but thinking? Prayer is the act of being mindful of needs and desires, both our own and for others. When we call it prayer, we are thinking with intentionality. We are meditating deeply on a subject. We are taking a feeling and turning it  into a thought. That is prayer. Call it talking to God. Call it communing with nature. Call it meditation or imagining. Call it talking to yourself. When we pray we put feelings into words.


“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

–Anne Frank

My own thinking is solidified through writing. The act of writing shows me what I think about things. Simply allowing a thought to pass through my mind, does not carry it deep enough to form an opinion, not one I can feel confident about; only through writing can I know myself and understand the world. Writing slows down my thinking, forces me to choose words carefully, to consider my audience. Writing enables me to rewrite and edit in a way I cannot when speaking or just “thinking.” When I write, I am able to ask myself, “is that what I really mean?” or “is that what I really believe and if so why?” Writing forces deeper thought. Writing, at least for me, is a step beyond thinking, it is a deeper prayer. Anne Frank said, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Isn’t that just what we seek when we pray?


None of this is about religion, although it can be. I believe we all pray. We all have need of it. Call it whatever you want, do it however it works for you. I will boldly say that if you don’t do it at all, then you are not human, you are a robot, a thoughtless robot moving blindly through life. But I don’t believe that. We all do it. Sometimes we pray/think with hope, sometimes desperation, sometimes with gratefulness, but we all do it. We are human. 

We keep telling each other that we are “living in unprecedented times,” and that is true, I suppose. However, I have faith that we will somehow make it through. That faith stems from looking back at the history of us, of humanity. We made it through the black plague, the dark ages, and wars. We will make it through these times too. I have to believe that. That does not mean just sitting around thinking/praying about it, although we do that too. It means we have to do something. I guess my faith is that we will somehow come through in the end. We will save ourselves. 


Prayer, thinking deeply, helps us know ourselves better, brings us closer to God, to nature, to understanding. When Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer, he is teaching us to slow down and think. Prayer is focus. We find it in yoga. We find it in all religions from Buddhism to Judaism to Christianity and Islam. 

While exploring this idea of prayer and thinking, I came across an article by Reverend Amy Fritsche ( of the Unitarian Universalist Association and I share this quote from her: “Every prayer, even an atheist’s prayer, is an articulation of connection, a willingness to invest ourselves deeply in the lives and beliefs of our fellow human beings.” We all pray, we just don’t always call it that.

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