Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

What about prayer?

For a long time, when someone has come to me to tell me about a bad situation in their life, I have not known what to say if they ask-- will you pray for me? My problem is not that I don't want to help, but...

The same thing is true in my personal life when I am in a situation where I feel powerless and want someone, as in someone from the 'other' side, to come in and fix it. I come again to that but...

The 'but' is I am uncertain what I think about prayer at this point in my life. I know what I have been told.

In the Bible, Jesus said tell your father what you need. This sounds like it would be a simple statement, no bargains, no frills, and also he added not done in public for the world to hear. Obviously God already knows what we need; so prayer is why exactly? Does prayer have a purpose beyond getting something we think we want? When did it switch from an in-the-closet event, such as Jesus described, to out-in-public and done in a different tone of voice with often thees and thous to add to the piety?

With all the books on how to pray correctly, some seem to regard prayer as learning how to rub a bottle with a jinni inside. If we rub it right, voila all that we want is there for us. I have been in churches and heard people espouse the belief we should pray to God for everything from cars to jobs to healings. I know the stories of miracles that came from prayer, but also of the ones who prayed and the answer came back-- no. That's what many say happened when someone prayed and didn't get the answer for which they hoped. We want to believe God answered, whether it worked out or not, because nobody likes thinking they are without power in a world that is so scary.

Is there anyone who would not want to pray a solution into being for the mess in the Middle East-- if it could even be agreed what that solution would look like? Is there anyone who follows the news at all and doesn't feel pity for the ordinary Lebanese and Israeli citizens caught in a war they didn't do anything to cause?

There are so many frightening things in the world-- nothing new in that. Today, it'd be war, terrorism, global warming, concentrated power, extreme poverty, disease, weather, and even moral questions. Whenever things come up that are bigger than most of us can see solutions to, people suggest prayer as the answer. Or better yet, everybody pray at the same time. Do I believe that works? I have to be honest. No. I am not a believer that we can alter someone else's actions through prayer. I don't think Pat Robertson altered the path of a hurricane to hit someone other than him. I don't think you win a football game because you prayed. It's not that I think God couldn't. It's that I don't think it's how it works, but am no longer sure of what actually is right.

On a personal level, I could use some prayer right now to change myself, but I am not sure I am any more capable of doing that than changing the world. Recently, I've been experiencing a lot of depression, sadness, feelings of worthlessness. (It's summertime! What the heck is depression doing ruining my summer? This is my favorite season and yet that hasn't stopped my tears.) This would be the perfect time for prayer for myself, but don't we have to go through some negative things to get to what we want in life? Is suffering always wrong when possibly it's an indicator we need to change something that isn't working?

(You can tell I'm a Libra, if you know astrology, because no matter what a situation is, I can always see both sides of it. Being born Libra could be considered a curse!)

Anyway, I personally have for years had a hard time praying other than-- Please help or Thank you. Once in awhile I will light a candle that is specific or request something because a friend needs to know that there are others praying for them, but it's rare and I am always uncomfortable doing it as I wonder was that a good idea?

I have made sculptures and paintings showing men or women supplicating God or the spirit world-- hands raised to heaven or bowing low; but if God is inside us, is any of that the right way to reach out when maybe it's reaching in that we need.

So I asked my friend, who wrote the earlier posts-- With your view of life, who would you pray to and how would you do it? Here is his answer:

"Well, we are taught a lot of things and some are pretty close to the mark and most aren’t. However, to answer your question, personally, I would not pray to anyone. I would create a “heartfelt command” of what I wanted to occur and then leave it up to the Universe to create a place for it on its agenda.

"In truth, the way we’re taught to “pray” is more akin to begging and that simply isn’t necessary. That kind of thinking is akin to having a “fear of God” and that is incredibly impossible when you really look at it. You will indeed get all the help you want if you ask for it correctly. You can’t beg for anything, you have to command it from your heart or core being.

"When I do it, I get really quiet (making sure things around me are really quiet too). Next, after my body is finally settled and completely relaxed, I wait until my mind clears itself. After that, I center myself around the command that I want to create or pose. Next I move the energy in my heart around the command and request that the Universe make it happen on its “time table”.

"Then I totally let it go, get up and go do something entirely different and hopefully not think about it again. The thing you requested may not happen in the way you wanted, but it will happen in a way that best suits you, those involved, and the Universe.

"You’ll notice, that no form of incense burning, humming, grunting, feather waving, chanting, etc. is involved. That is just fascia."

Shucks... fascia always makes me feel good at least..


bernie said...

How do I comment on these thoughts. As it winds up, some of this may have washed up on you. Certainly we have talked about this many times but I had never heard you express this feeling of praying to the universe. These are very heady concepts, the calming of the mind and going into your center to communicate (pray) to the universe. This calming down allows you to communicate clearly your wants and needs and help requests from the Universe. Care needs to be taken when these requests are made. Often the requests are fulfilled, but not always in the way you expect. I sometimes believe it is a resonance from your sole that is communicated rather than words. If that is true, then the care in asking would have to be clear and emoted. Nice words, and well put!

Marti said...

The world is too much with us Rain and as someone who cares deeply, you feel the pain and cannot comfort. Do not be afraid to be feeling depression or sadness or to have tears. You open your heart to those of us who read your blog and in so doing, maybe answers will come. I have read you for a while, shyly in the background; always in awe of your spirit and creativity, the truth of your words. Today, I have come forward to say to you, be still, know that your caring about this place we live in, matters. That's all I can say; you matter. I don't know that I pray but when my heart is too full and my soul is getting ragged, I go outside and sit a while until it feels calm again, sometimes just having a little chat with myself. I have no answers for you Rain except to say that your chats about your feelings, your fears about the chaos of our world and your hopes, for it is hope, that flows from your fingertips, whether you feel it in the moment or not, make a difference.

Sending you thoughts of sunflowers to dispell the gloomies, Marti

Dick said...

I think much of your post misses the main point of prayer. As you said, God knows what we need as we ourselves usually do. I don't think asking God for "things" is the thing to do. Rather, thank God for what we have been given. What does that do for me? It makes me more aware of how much I do have, leads me to think of what is really important to me. I think the Santa Claus idea of asking for things has changed the intent of prayer. I believe that was what Jesus was refering to doing in private. It is kind of a way of self examining my life and can lead me to seeing what I really do need, then often guiding me in how to achieve those goals.

Fran said...

I very rarely use prayer to ask for things, at least for myself, but I do find that when I do use intercessory prayer, I add "if it is your will," or something like that. Prayer, it seems to me, is an alignment--a time set aside and when I do that with intention, be it intercessory or contemplative, I end up feeling better.

I do believe that group prayer or meditation can in some infintesimal way alter things. Even if it is only within ourselves--that's powerful stuff. I agree with Dick that I get a very big boost by prayers of gratitude.

But--prayer is very different for me than it used to be.

Hope you ride out the feelings of negativity. Part of it is the weather, I'm sure, but as another "sensitive," times like these do put a layer of darkness in the universal energy field. Thinking of you.

Rain said...

thank you all for your comments and thoughts on prayer. I always enjoy seeing the comments from others on anything I have written whether it's agreed with or not. For me the comments add value to the original thought which is always, for me, about exploring ideas

I appreciated hearing from you Marti, knowing you are reading and enjoying the blog. Blogs are something we all put out but really never know who might read them; so when someone new comments, like you did, it's much appreciated. Sunflowers are my favorites for flowers. I can see them in my imagination even as they are not yet blooming in my garden.

I also appreciated your caring comment, Fran. We definitely are in a depressing time and maybe that is a part of what I am feeling-- between the weather changes and the political morass that seems to get deeper and deeper as it turns to violence more places.

Mary Lou said...

Oh what a great post! Rain, as usual you said what I feel! I too am not a great pray-er. I do but not on command. I have a great relationship with my God, and we talk daily, but it is just my God and I. I am usually out in nature somewhere. And It very well may be me getting in touch with my inner self.

I have grown away from organized religion, and do it my way in private. Do I believe in Jesus Christ? I don't know. I do believe in God, in what ever form God may take. I just am not sure that I think that Jesus and God the Father are one and the same. That is a ig bite to chew on.

I DO believe that Jesus lived. ANd I do believe that he was a very Charismatic person who changed a lot of lives over the past 2000 years.

I guess we just will not know for sure until the bitter end.

I did however offer up a plea for a safe trip yesterday. ;)

Parapluie said...

I very much enjoy your blog and how the comments roll in adding to the content. This is truly a hopeful beginning for the future. As for my experience with prayer, I am for it whether there is a God or just a force in the universe no larger than my own thoughts. Prayer is a positive reaction and fills in hope when we feel powerless. Sometimes any other reaction might be detrimental. For example it is better to pray privately for grown children than pushing your way into their space. It is better and more apprecited to pray for friends and family who are in the Israeli War. I don't think my opinion is of any value to my Isrelie friends whether their reaction was appropriate or not. I just say I am praying meaning that I have hope.

Natalie said...

Rain, I appreciate and identify both with your doubts and with your seeking. I also disagree with the concept of prayer being a wish-list that a Santa Claus god is expected to grant us if we wish hard enough. Yet I do believe in God and in prayer. To me prayer is simply admitting our human doubts and helplessness and then simply and sincerely putting one's self in the hands of a loving God, trusting that this beyond-human power is aware of us and will communicate with us. How, where, when and in what form the answers come is our task to discover - our treasure hunt. "Unless you be as little children..." is good advice for the quest.

Rain said...

Those were all very interesting comments and actually helpful to me to read.

One thing which I don't know and have discussed since I wrote this is--I feel like I communicate with god/spirit often. I talk but don't ask for anything or feel it's gratitude. It's just talking (not out loud if anyone is around). There is basically an ongoing communication but since 'prayer' is really defined as either a plea or a thanks, then what is that kind of discussion (often one sided but sometimes I do get decided feelings for what is coming back)? I have done this discussion with god since childhood, before I had any real knowledge of the Bible or churches. It goes back as far back as I remember-- which is why when people would tell me god would turn away from you if you did this or that, I knew it wasn't so. It's not so much asking questions for me as just saying what I am feeling. I suspect (especially after reading the comemnts here) that many of us do this but is there a name you use for it? It's not in a special language, not having any purpose, no pious tone but just regular talk like to a friend or family.

I have not felt Spirit needed me saying what I wanted given our heart is an open book to even some spiritually aware on this side. And even if I did ask for something for me, I would add 'if it's the right thing to do.' I am well aware what I want isn't always best for others or maybe even myself. I do say what I feel though and don't pull punches.

Perhaps formal prayer has a purpose that I don't really see right now. I know that it helps some. I got some good emails also on this which I wish the people had shared here but realize not all want to verbalize their thinking for anyone to read on such a potentially touchy topic.

Thanks to all who did :)

Natalie said...

Rain, the kind of conversation you mention is what I consider to be prayer. It's also the stimulus and the inspiration for my "Augustine Interviews God" comic- strips-dialogues, which I hope to continue forever.