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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

The Act of Praying Reminds Us We’re Not Alone

by Eric Nelson, guest contributor

Praying Handsphoto: C. Jill Reed/Flickr, cc by-sa 2.0

In honor of the 60th National Day of Prayer today, I thought it fitting to share a bit about what prayer means to me.

Most recently I’ve been thinking of prayer as an unmistakable reminder from God that I’m not helpless and alone in this world. These reminders come not just during moments of peaceful reflection but during even the busiest of days as I find myself appreciating qualities of God I see expressed by others — qualities such as patience, compassion, grace, wisdom, order, intelligence, and joy.

I find these reminders are essential, especially when circumstances leave me feeling utterly helpless. Most challenging, perhaps, are those times when I’m not feeling up to snuff physically, whether it’s something minor or a more serious condition.

For instance, a few years back I found myself lying flat on my back in excruciating pain. I had trouble getting out of bed, standing, sitting, walking — even thinking clearly. Although I was never examined by a doctor, all indicators were that I was suffering from a bad case of sciatica.

I’m sure I could have availed myself of any number of remedies. However, based on previous experience, it seemed to me that prayer would likely be the quickest and most effective of them all.

For some, I suppose prayer is about going to God and pleading for a miracle to happen. For me, it’s a reminder of God’s care; in this case the specific reminder — inspired by my study of the Bible and the teachings of Christian Science — that health is not a physical condition but the natural and perpetual expression of wholly spiritual qualities like strength, stamina, and flexibility.

I’d like to say my recovery was immediate. It wasn’t; it took at least a couple of weeks. But it was steady. And complete. And permanent. The really good news is that this healing left me feeling better physically and spiritually; that is, not only did my body feel more flexible but my thinking about others and myself did, too.

Regardless of one’s faith tradition, being reminded that you’re neither helpless nor alone can go a long way towards healing the ills of this world, both individually and collectively, mentally and physically. This, in and of itself, is a rather nice reminder as well.

Eric NelsonEric Nelson lives in Hayward, California and serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. He also works as a Christian Science practitioner, helping those interested in relying solely on the power of prayer for healing.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.


Minnesota Public Radio Listeners Respond to a Question of Prayer

by Susan Leem, associate producer

On Being has made an identity shift, expanding its scope to exploring questions about meaning, religion, ethics, and ideas. But our host Krista Tippett still asks her guests a key question during the interview about their religious or spiritual traditions in their formative years. And for a producer, it’s like watching her turn the key in the ignition.IMG_2466

The question always propels the guest somewhere unexpected even if, and maybe especially if, it’s a “no.” It really disarms them; you can almost hear their shoulders release and sit back a bit through the mic. Maybe they’re surprised that a radio host wants to know them as a human being and not just as a pundit or a preacher.

On Thursday, Minnesota Public Radio asked its listeners a similar question: “Do you pray?” And I’m dying to know the people behind these wise and sometimes humorous comments:

"Every day, throughout the day."
Posted by Philip | April 21, 2011 10:16 AM

"I NEVER pray to ask God. I ONLY pary (sic) to thank God for what I have. It doesn’t make sense to pary (sic) to ask as if God will hold back on something you need and say ‘oh, you prayed so here’. Just doesn’t make sense. I finish that by saying I’m not sure if there is some one listening to my prayer but if I’m wrong, I rather be worng by praying to no one than not praying while God was waiting for a prayer."
Posted by Mike | April 21, 2011 10:07 AM

"As an atheist, none. But, I certainly appreciate the potential of thoughtful introspection that often arises from prayer. Centering one’s self and understanding your needs (wants?) is important to all of us and if prayer may do that for some."
Posted by Brian Ropers-Huilman | April 21, 2011 9:55 AM

"Given the state of the world, and humanity’s glaring incompetence to deal with its own problems so far, what else is there to do?"
Posted by Steve the Cynic | April 21, 2011 8:09 AM

"Good God no."
Posted by J | April 21, 2011 8:00 AM

"As long as I can remember, even when my family went to mass weekly, I have always, always had a hard time with prayer. I kind of wonder if it’s not what help lead me to lack faith in Christianity as an adult. However, there is one exception: I’ll still say a Hail Mary or two in especially stressful situations. I’ve always done that, and I find it’s almost a reflex."
Posted by vjacobsen | April 21, 2011 7:44 AM

About the image: Krista interviews Avivah Zornberg during this year’s production trip to Israel and the West Bank. (photo: Trent Gilliss)