Friday, March 14, 2014

Some Thoughts on Prayer

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”

Meister Eckhart

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Prayer may just be the most powerful tool mankind has.”

Ted Dekker

I told a friend I’d write about the topic of prayer.  It’s a large topic and perhaps a dangerous one because prayer is often identified with religion, which is often identified with nothing so calming and peaceful as prayer.  I’m certainly no expert on prayer.  All I can share are my experiences and my impressions of those experiences.  Even those have changed over time, so perhaps nothing I say can be trusted as anything with authority or reliability.  Still, I hope what I have experienced might be helpful to others.
First, I should define prayer.  In my mind, it is talking to God.  This differs from the popular concept of “asking the universe.”  With respect to those who believe otherwise, I believe the universe is cold and unlivable.  The universe is not a living entity, but created.  It need not be worshiped or prayed to, because there is nothing that can answer.  I suppose one could make an etymological case that “uni” is one and “verse” is word and the universe is One Word, and that when people say the Universe (now capitalized) that they mean God who is the One Word.  There are also those who pray to ancestors, saints and angels.  I’m not sure if these entities have the power to do what we hope, but the truth is, I don’t know.  It’s not my desire to argue the finer points of theology or belief.  I’m simply sharing mine and defining my term.  So, again, prayer is talking to God.
Someone once told me that God has three answers to prayer:  No, slow and go.  Though perhaps quaint, I’ve found nothing in my reading or experiences that have refuted this.  Since I’m fond of bulleted points, here are my thoughts:
·      When I have asked people to pray for me, especially when I am having an anxiety attack, I have found relief almost immediately.  It doesn’t matter who I ask.  With regard to these attacks, I don’t know if they are spiritual, emotional, mental or physical.  All I know is that getting prayer relieves them.
·      I believe prayer relieves all sorts of maladies and pains and the source of these disturbances doesn’t matter. 
·      Sometimes prayer seems like a magic lamp.  I just rub it and I get what I want immediately.  I’m not being frivolous here, but sometimes that’s what happens.  Sometimes.
·      Other times the answer seems to arrive after days, weeks, months or years.  This is the “slow” answer.  I have never found the timing of this answer to be wrong.
·      Sometimes prayer requires that I act. I have prayed for things that God would not answer except through my own efforts.  In this way, prayer is nothing like a magic lamp, but more like an instruction booklet or a map.
·      Prayer is not a substitute for action, but an accompaniment to it.
·      I have not found waiting for God to be a bad thing.
·      Then there are the times when the answer is no.  Unfortunately, I have rarely been able to discern the difference between “no” and “slow.”  They often look the same.  So I keep praying until I get a yes or am clear that it is a no.
·      Looking back, I have never been disappointed with the “no” answers, especially given the gift of perspective.  Sometimes I understand the “no” immediately and I am at peace with it.
·      Besides asking for blessings or assistance, I have found prayer a great way to offer gratitude, praise to God for who He is and as a time of silent meditation. 
·      I have found that prayer is a good place to listen as well as to speak.
·      I have found that praying for others increases my love for them.
·      I have found that praying with others increases my love for them and is often quite effective.
·      I have heard of and experienced incidents with prayer than can only be described as supernatural.  Rational Western thought would prefer to dismiss or disregard this, but science and logic are gifts, not gods.  There was no other explanation, but divine intervention.
·      I think because someone was praying for me I was able to Get Started and Keep Going.