In his book The Wind is My Mother, Bear Heart talks about the power of prayer as being the focusing of the power of the Great Spirit (read “God” or “The Force” if either makes you more comfortable) into a specific need. He puts it in a context of requesting that the power be focused; he’s not claiming that he can force spiritual energy to do his bidding or anything. Very humble man.
But his analogy really struck me. He likens the focused power of spirit to the focused light of the sun: sunlight can burn paper, but you can’t just lay the paper out there and expect anything to happen. Huge amounts of sunlight pour down, but don’t have any effect until you focus them with that magnifying glass, and then, as if by magic, poof, your paper goes up in flames.
In the same way, we are surrounded constantly by incredible amounts of spiritual energy at all times, but we don’t just go up in flames spontaneously. Using tools, such as words of prayer, chanting, dancing, or whatever trappings we choose, but the most important element being focused intention/attention, we can respectfully request (which is essentially an attempt at manipulation… how much different that manipulation is from physically manipulating an object in space only the individual can experience) that the energy be concentrated and go toward a specific purpose.
I suspect that all the begging of a Divine Personality usually associated with “prayer” as is common in Christianity (and many other religions) is just a safeguard against the individual practitioner becoming disrespectful, egotistical, prideful, etc. I don’t think it often succeeds in preventing these conditions, but at least the attempt is there.
I think that, as seems to be the case with the fictitious Jedi knights, there are other more mature ways to ensure a respectful attitude and to be mindful of one’s proximity to the “Dark Side.”
But I really enjoyed Bear Heart’s analogy and I feel like the visual it presents is extremely helpful in trying to understand something that is essentially beyond human comprehension.