Prayer, Daily worship, and Lamentation

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One major part of each ritual is Prayer. Not all prayers are particularly elaborate. Many simply praise the gods, others do not only this, but are extensive and complex. The important thing to remember when composing a prayer to the gods is that the god must always be given their proper credit.

With this in mind, the first thing to do is to praise the god or gods being addressed as extensively as possible. The gods seem to appreciate praise as much if not more than mortals do. It not only flatters them, but it also gives them the credit that they deserve.

In modern times the praise form serves an additional purpose. It reminds us that the gods have their place, and that man has theirs. The place of the gods is firmly above ours. In modern society praise of the gods is a fading art.

In our pride many people in the modern era like to think that we are on top of the world without thinking that there is something above us. Some also like to think that since the gods created us to do work that they did not want to do that they couldn’t do this work. The gods have had to do for themselves for centuries, they aren’t going to die without us.

That does not mean that the gods think nothing of us. We are valued by our gods, and the offerings that we give are appreciated. If they were not appreciated the gods would not have set up the practice of offerings in the religion of ancient Sumer.

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Even if the god that you are worshiping isn’t the primary god of something, doesn’t mean that they are helpless in that area. Enki for example is not a god of writing, but he can be prayed to for help in writing. One’s personal god is an intermediary between the worshiper and the rest of the gods. The personal god in question passes on the request to the god that would be more appropriately asked.

In modern times it isn’t uncommon for one of the major gods of the pantheon to choose worshipers and become their personal god. In ancient times on the other hand this was not nearly as common. Most people in ancient times had their own personal god who would intercede with for them with the greater powers. This personal god might be a god of something, a minor place entity, or even a god of a family.

No matter how powerful the personal god in question is, they behave somewhat like a guardian angel. They act on their own to benefit those who they are fond of, and they accept prayers on behalf of those that worship them.

Your personal god is literally a spiritual parent. Their brothers and sisters are your spiritual aunts and uncles, and they were referred to as such in recovered documents. They are to be treated with respect and they treat us like members of their families.

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Praise prayer is easily understood, but rarely done. The gods should occasionally be directly recognized for what they have done and for what they are capable of. Their power is great, and they seem to like being told this.

Dedication is when you make note that a certain thing or event is specifically for the gods. Dedicatory prayers are the method in which we offer things to our gods. When we place something on our altars to our gods it should be dictated.

When we make a food or similar offering that we are dedicating the spirit of to our gods this is no less of a dedication to the gods even though those dedicating it will be using or consuming it themselves. This goes back to the idea of substitution, the idea that the spirit of something can be the same even if the physical form isn’t exactly.

In myth the gods can be seen to give offerings to each other and to praise each other for their greatness. This is simply the custom that the Sumerian gods happen to prefer when dealing with each other and when humans address them.

One of the most confusing types of prayer for our modern minds to get a handle on is Lamentation. This is more than just complaining, but might not seem like it on the surface. On the surface a lamentation seems to simply be a mourning of ones self. Belaboring all of the trials that one is being put through.

From the point of view of a dog who has been rapped upon the nose for something bad that they have done, one can attempt to growl, or run away, but whimpering is the response that is being sought. It shows that one does not like what has happened to them.

Taking this example further, if a dog breaks its leg while playing and it whimpers, then the master’s attention is drawn to the plight of the dog. They can give the care that is needed to the one who needs it most if they know when suffering is too extreme.

In essence the gods determine when bad things happen. No one god is ultimately responsible for all bad things that happen like they would be in a monotheistic system. A personal god who listens to a lamentation takes this mournful petition to the gods, and the relevant gods may take the plight to heart.

Request prayers are perhaps the most common prayer. They are not perhaps the most appreciated, but they are definitely used the most often. In at least one version of the flood myth the earth was flooded because humans bugged the gods too much. Remember, the gods are not our slaves. We are the slaves of the gods.

It is ok to ask the gods for help when you need it, but the gods are not a cosmic Santa Claus. They want what is best for their servants, but servants are what we are. That does not mean we will be pushed beyond our capacity, the gods designed our souls with remarkable endurance. If something before us is beyond our capabilities then that is the time to plead to the gods for help or to lament your fate to the gods.

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The Sumerians used a literary style that made a vague statement and built upon it in subsequent lines. While we don’t have to do this ourselves it might be a good idea to compose a prayer with the same care that one composes a poem.

The Sumerian literary style often used a triplicate form where the same thing is said three times in different forms. In this form one starts with the general and moves to the specific. They did not always use three lines to do this, occasionally they would use two, and often they would add a line at the end to punctuate their statement.

Written prayers are a special way to honor the gods with your words. The examples of prayers written down in the past generally show special prayers and lamentations. Thankfully we have a number of these written in both Sumerian and Akkadian over a large swath of time.

Remember that the written word was new in the time of the Sumerians. They saw it as one of the gifts of the gods that set them apart from the animals and wild men of surrounding countries. As such writing a prayer down was a way to add extra significance to the words.

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Do not threaten the gods. This sounds like a no brainier, but it is actually more common than you would think. Common threats are to stop doing rituals if the god does not give the “worshiper” what they wish. Another common threat is that the “worshiper” will do harm to the altar or take items away in order to punish the gods.

It stems fundamentally from a non Recon-ish perspective on the gods in general. The idea that without worshipers the gods are either helpless, powerless, or that they will fade away. From a Reconstructionist point of view we worship the gods because we believe that they are real and deserve to be worshiped.

As one might expect this doesn’t work all too well. The gods are not the sort to be harmed by their worshipers. If the gods could be recreated to suit our needs, then we would create a religion based around wish fulfillment. A religion based around the “worship” of some sort of cosmic Santa Claus that gives you whatever you want whenever you want it.

Bolstering this are a few myths where a super human individual injures or kills a god. These instances were under special circumstances or with the help of super human strength, or an enchanted weapon. It is somewhat of an underestimation to think that the gods, regardless of their relative strength, might be harmed by a random worshiper.

Do not beg extensively. In one of the flood myths, mankind was culled because they would not allow the gods a moment peace with their excessive begging and pleading. It is interesting to note that mankind’s advocate in that myth had been sleeping at the time. It puts our place into perspective to think that we might be struck down simply for being excessively annoying.

That is not to say that you should never ask for anything. It is a foolish servant who never asks their master for supplies needed to perform their job properly. What is being said is that each worshiper should think for a moment and question if their request requires divine intervention.

This is a particularly important thing to keep in mind if you happen to come from one of the Neo pagan faiths that treat prayer and magic as identical. They are not the same. Magic is the use of the supernatural to do something for one’s self. A god may be asked to help, but this help should not be treated as a given.

Prayer on the other hand is communication with the gods. Communication does not presume that the other party will definitely do something for you, but also does not preclude it. There is a difference therefore between asking a god to do something for you and magic.

Do not come to the gods with disrespect or a superior attitude. Ziggurats were built with turns in their paths to make it difficult or imposable to approach the gods directly. Temple of Sumer advocates that something similar be integrated into the altars of modern worshipers.

Not every prayer will be done at one’s altar or before the figure of one’s god. There are other ways to show respect for the gods however. One can address them with more than just their name. One might Address Enki as Enki, wisest of the gods, and god of fresh waters for example. This shows respect to his power and glory and shows that you know more than just one simple aspect.

Temple of Sumer also suggests dressing in humble clothes when addressing the gods. This doesn’t mean that you should go to them without bathing or washing your mouth, simply do not dress up for any special occasion honoring the gods. The gods should be approached as being superior in most if not all ways.

Do not presume that the gods need us or that they are helpless. We are here to serve them. This goes back to what was said earlier about not threatening the gods. The gods are here to rule over us, and we are here to do that which they do not want to. They can do what we can do, and they can replace us if we aren’t able to do what they want us to do.

On the other hand good dedicated help is what we were created for. With all of the talk about what not to do, it is important to remember that the gods are more likely to be forgiving to a servant who has done well for them in the past. Seek to do what will make the gods happy rather than simply avoiding that which will make them angry.