At various points in my life I have identified as Christian, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Pagan, Druid, Vedantist, and on some occasions, more than one of those things simultaneously. I’ll talk more about the details of my journey and where I am now in future posts. But for now I thought it would be fun to share this story.
Not surprisingly, when I prayed to Thor, I was into what I thought was Norse Paganism. In retrospect it was probably more of a blend of comic book-flavored Norse mythology mixed with Wicca, but that’s neither here nor there. I was in the military at the time, and I struggled to comply with the weight and fitness standards expected of me.
We had a fitness test coming up, and I knew there would be a weigh-in afterwards. I’d basically dehydrated myself into submission so I could make weight, which made the fitness test itself even more difficult for me.
About two-thirds of the way through the run, I was easily feeling the worst I’d ever felt during a run. It was like I couldn’t take another step. So obviously, I turned to the Norse god of strength for help. As one does.
Thor, I said in my mind, I can’t finish this on my own. I need you to carry me to that finish line and I promise I’ll bring you an offering of thanks after this is all over. Lo and behold, I immediately got a second wind and even managed to pass somebody over that last mile, crossing the finish line with minutes to spare.
It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever experienced anything that seemed like an immediate answer to prayer. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I followed through on my promise of a gratitude offering. I think I poured some water or milk at the base of a tree near my barracks.
Spoiler alert: I don’t currently identify as Pagan in any way, shape, or form (nothing against them – it just wasn’t my path). Then what can I make of my experience?
Several years beforehand, I was talking to my mom about some problem I was having. She asked me, “Have you prayed about it?”
“I don’t think that works, Mom,” I replied. “I prayed about [some other problem I’d had with someone] and it didn’t change them at all.”
Mom sighed. “It’s not supposed to change them. It’s supposed to change you.”
This idea has stuck with me regardless of the labels I’ve applied to my own spiritual status at any given moment. I don’t think you have to believe in anything supernatural to find some benefit in prayer or meditation or affirmations. For example, most religions have some sort of regular prayer for people who are ill. Maybe saying those people’s names puts them more prominently in your mind, and then you might be more likely to bring them some food, or visit them in the hospital, or whatever the situation calls for.
I remember reading a book on Buddhism several years ago (What The Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula), and the author said that even if you could prove Buddha never existed as a person, most Buddhists probably wouldn’t stop practicing their religion. The teachings are the point, not the person. There’s actually precedent for such an approach in Western thought, too, but for some reason it doesn’t get talked about as much. Maybe I’ll do it in a future post.
Got any of your own prayer experiences you’d like to share? Thoughts on what you’ve read here? Share them in the comments!