Prayer: A woman’s perspective

April 10, 2007 at 12:33 pm 6 comments

I don’t claim to ever have communed with “God,” as stated in my previous blog “Prayer: Communion with yourself,” but I got to know myself pretty well, especially as a woman.

As any woman can tell you, hormonal cycles are part of life and affect much of our thinking (please take note; I’m not arguing biological reductivism here, this is my personal opinion only). Some women are aware of their cycles in more concrete ways than men are and we are also aware of the changes in our thoughts and feelings during such times. We become attuned to such changes and work around them, with them, or against them. I found that my feelings of freedom from patriarchal thought and my feelings of genuine power came during these natural cycles, particularly during menstruation (I can see the men fleeing from the room already!). I slowly began to realize why men are so afraid of menstruating women (or even discussing it), why the scriptures have a lot to say about this natural phenomenon, and why patriarchal religions throughout the centuries have always forced the menstruating woman “outside the camp” during her cycle. They fear our power of life and death symbolized by the shedding of blood. For example, take these scriptures:

LEV 15:26 When the godly woman is flowing, the bed and seats she uses, transfers her uncleanness to men and their clothes.

LEV 15:20 Everything that she lies upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing that she sits upon shall be unclean.

LEV 15:27 Any man touching her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening.

LEV 15:22,23 Any man touching any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening.

And this:

You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness as long as she is in her customary impurity. (Leviticus 18:19)

If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people. (Leviticus 20:18)

Note the word “sickness.” :-) Why is a woman cut off? Why is she unclean? The Koran similarly marginalizes women during this special time:

[2:222] They ask you about menstruation: say, “It is harmful; you shall avoid sexual intercourse with the women during menstruation; do not approach them until they are rid of it. Once they are rid of it, you may have intercourse with them in the manner designed by GOD. GOD loves the repenters, and He loves those who are clean.”

Why is it “harmful?” Ahhh. I understand it now. Women are unclean because of their own blood! But why? Once again God’s childbearing curse against Eve comes back to haunt us. Even though this teaching of woman as unclean is toned down in church’s nowadays, the implication is always there; women cannot be trusted because they are soooooo hormonal (as if men don’t also have hormones and go through cycles) and because our blood makes all people unclean. In other words our blood saves no one! In fact, it kills! This fear of women’s blood is also the reason why Christianity is so focused on the blood of Christ, as a kind of replacement power that men can control. Since they can’t control life and death in childbirth as we can, they appropriate ways to control it themselves, i.e. the life and death of Christ and the shedding of men’s blood. There are many examples of men’s denigration of women over something men simply did not understand or feared but going into that now would require a dissertation. The point is, women’s ways of knowing (and men’s too) are inseparable from our BEING.

This is why the church is afraid of humans “being” and are all about mind control. The church tries to control the body through church ritual and tries to control the mind through infallible scriptures and prayer. This cycle in women’s lives is what gives us power, not prayer. Since we were not allowed to pray in public spaces or do so without men’s explicit permission or without headcoverings, we have formed our own connections with the divine. It’s about being completely in tune with the processes of nature.

It’s about bypassing the harmful dualism of religion and embracing the monism that biology implies. During my morning times, I began to see a pattern in my thought processes and realized that all those times I had tried to fit men’s thinking from the bible (and men’s thoughts about the bible) into my own thoughts and it just didn’t feel right. Of course Christians tell us that our faith is NOT about feelings! But by saying this, they deny and denigrate the only source of knowledge that we can rely upon: our brains (thought) and our emotions (feeling). Prayer, then, is merely a form of meditation, a relaxing of the brain, a bringing forth not a drawing in….

What religions want you to do is meditate with the mantras and ideas that they give you, because doing this will cement those thoughts into your mind and make them that much harder to be rid of them later. It’s a form of mind control. This is why Christians fear Yoga as meditation because Yoga not only clears your mind by not telling you what to meditate upon, but it also helps you get in touch with your body. Clearing your mind helps you reconnect most with what is inside of YOU. Getting in touch with your body allows you to become one being with those thoughts. When Christians clear their mind, they are asked to fill their minds with bible verses or thoughts about Christ or about God. But in true meditation you allow your deepest thoughts to surface so that you may face your fears, your darkness (the abyss), and your life with perfect clarity and maybe come to terms with who you really are rather than use prayer as a tool to become something you aren’t.

I think we have, for too long, heaped layer upon layer of abuse, shame, masks, roles, and religious dogma on our minds and on our hearts and not allowed who we truly are to surface. We have used prayer as a tool to tell whatever divinity their might be what to do or to validate our own thought processes. Yet, to be true to ourselves we have to cut through all that and find that inner core of being, that true goodness that was there before we were so cruelly contaminated by patriarchal systems of religion. Finally, we need to resist the dualism that bifurcates us and causes us to doubt ourselves and our own innate ways of “knowing,” whether we want to call that prayer or not.

-Mystery of Iniquity

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Prayer: Communion with yourself Using the Bible to support Hinduism

6 Comments

  • 1. Epiphanist  |  April 11, 2007 at 5:44 am

    The tiny bit that I know about prayer has led me to think that it is often poorly taught and understood. The protestant movement lost more than intended when it cut itself off from it’s heritage. The symbols and spiritual experience of prayer have more to do with non-thinking, dreams and the subconscious, rather than with wishes and desires. Understanding the symbols of our existence is the point of the traditions and cultural heritage in religion. Sorry, but prayer is unlikely to work unless you can come to it with humility, and I understand from your post that is difficult, maybe not possible. Many of the saints are women, but they were not usually sanctified for enduring domestic tedium. The saints of domesticity are our mothers and we love them dearly for their sacrifices. When women and prayer are mentioned on the same page it is hard not to think of Mary. Where does that fit with trinity and monism? Try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • 2. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 11, 2007 at 5:54 am

    Epiphanist,
    “Sorry, but prayer is unlikely to work unless you can come to it with humility, and I understand from your post that is difficult,:

    First you don’t know anything about what I’ve done in prayer. Second, why assume that I did not come to prayer with humility?

    It is as sure as the sun will come up in the morning that all believers will blame those who have tried christianity and prayer and not blame the tools themselves, i.e. religion, the bible, god. It’s a no win situation. If prayer fails, it’s always the pray-ers fault. I don’t buy it.

  • 3. epiphanist  |  April 12, 2007 at 5:42 am

    I am not happy about this response. Leave a message on my site if you would like to talk more about it.

  • 4. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 12, 2007 at 8:10 am

    Epiphanist,
    I’m not sure what you’re unhappy about but what’s there to discuss? I’m happy. :-)

  • 5. im a little late  |  July 30, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I think both of you are seeing it in a weird way…prayer isnt about “working” or “not working”, and it isnt about “trying christianity”…you dont try God, He just IS. Whether you believe in Him or not is a different story. If you refuse to acknowledge the Bible as the truth of the word of God then you have nothing to test your “feelings”…sometimes I feel like drinking and driving home drunk but I cant trust that because its stupid, and what does the bible say about that? “Do not be drunk with wine in which there is dissipation”. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” romans 1:20
    “Indeed when gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing ow even defending them.” romans 2:15

    Due to david and his many psalms I do not believe that you MUST come before God in a way that isnt you. If youre pissed off then you can come before God pissed off and He’ll listen like a good friend and He’ll love you like a good friend. Even if we’re mad at Him I believe that He isnt surprised by us because He knows what we’re going to say before we even say it! Prayer is communication with God period. If I claim that someone is my best friend its because I talk to them enough to where I know A LOT about them. Same thing with Jesus, if we want to make Him our best friend we have to spend time with Him and thats called prayer. We shouldnt pray only when we need something, we shouldnt pray only when things are “good”. Jesus loves us even if we question Him…

  • 6. MOI  |  July 31, 2008 at 7:16 am

    I’m,

    If prayer neither works nor doesn’t work, then there’s no point. Communion with God is not communion if it’s all one-sided; you’re there and God’s not.

    Besides, you make the huge assumption that prayer as you assume it to be was not tried by all of us before.

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