Saturday, 21 March 2009

On Prayer

 Until we let go of verbal prayer and enter the realms of silence we are nowhere near maturity in our prayer - Teresa of Avila

Quit flapping your gums about God - Meister Eckhart


Can prayer change God’s mind? Or, do we need to change our mind about God? We have all heard the story about the two opposing football teams each praying to God for victory. What do we expect God to do in such a situation?

All prayer requires dialogue as opposed to monologue. silently or otherwise. Fr. Vincent Dwyer in his book 'Lift Your Sails', said: The real meaning of dialogue is that it attempts to unite, to unite persons who want to be united. Dialogue is realized in an authentic, loving encounter between persons wanting to be one. Prayer brings us into a relationship with a loving and healing Creator as opposed to a relationship with religious 'rules'.

Christians and most other world religions ask us to dialogue with the Creator. Jesus himself prayed to his Father and instructed his disciples to pray. But what does it mean when Jesus said “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."?

If we pray fervently to God for a something, be it for the most worthy and unselfish reasons, should we trust or believe that we will automatically receive God’s blessing and wait until this request or intent is duly honoured? Is prayer simply a matter of petitioning God and presenting him with a grocery list of all our needs trusting that he will generously and miraculously answer all our prayers in due time ?

But, what happens when these requests are not satisfied, particularly in the case of more tragic circumstances. Must we assume that God did not want to save that child, that parent or prevent this or that disaster? Or did God not answer our prayer because we did not deserve his blessing? Or, should we accept that God fulfills our every need but not necessarily our wants?

When we escape disaster, is it because God looked upon us favorably? Or, was the outcome just plain luck or fate?. If God ‘saved’ me but not the other is he rewarding me but not the other person? In other words, when prayers are answered, as they sometime are, is it the result of God rewarding us for our faithfulness or worthiness? There are many wonderful stories about prayers that were answered. Have you ever wondered about those prayers that seemingly were not answered?

Christians today use several types of prayers during their collective celebrations: petition, Intercession, thanksgiving, repentance, adoration and praise. Personal prayers may also include prayers of recitation, spiritual reading, recollection, contemplation and Journaling. All prayer, many of which could be ‘prepared’ or ‘traditional’ prayers, may be expressed vocally, mentally or even passively. All Christian explanations of prayer agree that the initiative comes from God, who moves people to the act of praying.

If we accept that God initiates the call perhaps it is best to listen first before presenting our prepared wish list. This acceptance was probably best expressed by the following wise individuals:

Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God. ~Author Unknown

The value of consistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him. ~Willam.McGill

Prayer may not change things for you, but it for sure changes you for things. ~Samuel M. Shoemaker
In this context I now better understand what Yehuda Berg meant when he recently stated: God does not answer our prayers. God IS the answer to our prayers.
Yehuda went on to say:
From the Kabbalistic perspective, God is more noun than verb. If God answered our prayers, God would be a verb, taking action, getting involved. Instead, we are the verb.
We need to take action in order to connect with God and draw the Light of the Creator to our lives. We have had this backwards for two thousand years, which is why our prayers have gone unanswered for so long. We keep waiting for an answer from God, but God cannot answer. God just is.
So how do we connect to God?
Transformation. Each time we resist our ego—our self-centered nature that wants to react, scream, cheat, yell, worry and abuse—we connect our soul to God. However, when our buttons are pushed, when some annoying individual incites us to anger, there’s almost no way to prevent a reflexive response.
So God came up with an idea, a way to help us out. He gave us a technology that we mistakenly called prayer. The kabbalist who prays is not offering a plea, or making a request. The words and letters that compose a prayer literally link our soul to unseen spiritual dimensions from which we summon spiritual help to rise above our ego, our reactive nature, and all the nasty character traits that keep us from connecting to the Light of the Creator.
My favourite stories about Prayer:

A man was climbing a tree when suddenly he slipped and then grabbed at a branch that caught him. After an hour or so of hanging there he felt himself getting exhausted. The man looked up to the heavens and cried out: “God, help me please, help me.” All of a sudden, the clouds parted and a voice boomed out from on high, “let go!” said the voice.
The guy paused, looked up at heaven once more, and asked, “Is there anyone else up there?” - Anthony de Mello

A man was lost in a desert. Later, when describing his ordeal to his friends, he told how, in sheer despair, he had knelt down and cried our to God to help him.“And did God answer your prayer?” he was asked. “Oh, no! Before He could, an explorer appeared and showed me the way.” - Anthony de Mello

Perhaps the most powerful and positive means to experience prayer, is through genuine dialogue and to belief that your prayer has already been answered. God only desires that we live our life ‘holistically ‘ or to the full! God does not need our suffering, sacrifices or martyrs, nor help to defend him.

For me one of the most positive ways to connect with the Light of the Creator is through journaling. In simple terms it allows me to present, in writing, my most intimate concerns to our Creator – and then wait for his ‘personal’ response to the issue at stake. When I am prepared to wait and listen, the written response will come, without fail, from the God deep within. However, I do not wish to suggest that journaling is the only effective means of hearing God. Each one must find their own path to experience a ‘burning bush’ moment. The challenge , for me, is to begin each day by seeing myself as God experiences himself through me and others– not as I experience God through the ego or false self!.
Prayer is not about changing God, but being willing to let God change us, or as Step 11 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says: “Praying only for the knowledge of his will.” Jesus goes so far as to say that true prayer is always answered (Matthew 7:7-11). Now we all know that this is not factually true—unless he is talking about prayer in the sense that I will try to describe it. If you are able to switch minds to the mind of Christ, your prayer has already been answered! The new mind knows, understands, accepts, and sees correctly, widely, and wisely. Its prayers are always answered because they are, in fact, the prayers of God, as well.
True prayer is always about getting the “who” right. Who is doing the praying, you or God-in-you, “little old you” or the Eternal Christ Consciousness? Basically prayer is an exercise in divine participation—you opting in and God always there!
Richard Rohr


There are two ways to receive answers to your prayers. One is to pray on behalf of the ego-in other words, to indulge it. The second is to pleasure the soul, or to fulfill it. The choice is yours.

When you gratify the ego, the joy will be intense and immediate. But there is a trade-off. The joy will only be temporary. Short and sweet. Not only that: every time you make the choice to pleasure your ego, you’re passing up a chance at something much more valuable-something that you can’t put your finger on, yet it has the ability to soothe your soul for the long haul.

Yehuda Berg, God is a Noun, Weekly Kabbalah Tune Up, March 15-21, 2009

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