From my diary: Learning to pray


(Originally posted 05/12/13.)

Wednesday 04/24/13

Facing various issues as to how to spend my time. The current appearance of this blog is a far cry from what I want, but I don’t want time spent redesigning it to take away from job search. The same dilemma presents in choice of whether to use my tax refund to restore my former website on Yahoo! for $125.00/year, or instead rebuild the site as part of this blog.

My church is about to launch Saturday morning prayer services in which I will have a leadership role. I will be offering teachings on prayer; I think I have about two hours’ worth of material, and an issue rises of whether to try to organize that into 10-minute or instead 15-minute segments. And there’s an issue that what I would present to the prayer team members only, isn’t necessarily what I’d present to the general public.

This morning at McDonald’s I was reflecting on these things, and on what I might teach to an audience drawn from the general public. I began to understand why Ambrose Worrall fails to refer to Kabbalah.

Prayer team members will be principally interested in learning how to pray effectively for others. People who come from the general public will be principally interested in how to pray effectively for themselves — how to get their own prayers answered.

I presume to be pretty good at the former. That’s how I became prayer ministry coordinator to start with. I’m not so good at the latter.

My therapist, Dr. Bailey, notes time and again that the issues I’m concerned about that disadvantaged people face, are the issues I myself face. I don’t merely talk about them; I personify them. So also as to prayer for oneself: I know what I would teach others; will I do the same myself? If I have such expertise, how have I remained homeless for more than two years? But some of these understandings did not come to me until more than a year into my homelessness.

What would I teach about prayer for oneself?

Faith

“Faith” is one of the least-understood words in the New Testament. Jesus uses it often, but never explains what it is or how to get it. We have no guarantee that it means the same thing in the Gospels as in Paul or Hebrews or James.

People who talk to me about “faith,” usually seem to mean believing harder, or believing in things I absolutely cannot believe in, such as the inerrancy of Scripture.

I recently defined faith as “profound intrapersonal coherence,” or integrity. Maybe instead of “faith,” we should think “faithfulness.”

The path of least resistance

Ambrose Worrall defined faith as “the lack of resistance to that which you hope to receive.” He was an engineer, and the resistance in question here is analogous to that in an electrical circuit.

For example, suppose I desired an intimate relationship with Jennifer Lopez. That prayer must overcome lots of resistance. To the best of my knowledge, she’s married; she lives far away from me; she doesn’t know I’m alive; and she may not be attracted to fat, bald, older men. Who are homeless.

Far less resistance presents in the possibility of my becoming a truly down-and-out, in-the-gutter bum. It’s a short route for me, especially if I were to go back to drinking. The greatest obstacle here is the fact that I just plain don’t want to do it.

Practical obstacles come between me and employment. One obstacle is the two heavy bags I must carry with me wherever I go. In turn, those bags limit my ability to commute. Another obstacle is the rigid schedule at the shelter where I stay, that makes it almost impossible for a resident to obtain or maintain a normal job (Let alone, God knows, say, a night job. Impossible.).

The greatest resistance anyone may face to answered prayer is often internal. For example, if I have a physical or emotional scar that someone inflicted on me, I may pray for the healing of that scar; but if I am holding on to resentment of the fact that it occurred, or desire to retaliate against the person who inflicted it; as long as I cling to those feelings, I am continuously re-creating that wound, and it won’t heal. It just won’t happen.[1]

The greatest obstacle I see to job search is fear of the unknown.

I may invest 90 minutes in an online job application destined to go nowhere. I may cull through 100 job listings (My latest Career Builder search engine results come to 14 pages.) and not find one suitable for me. It would be so much easier to just do a job, than look for one.

If things don’t go my way, I may be tempted to think that I have done something wrong, and that God has therefore left me; that God has become apart and distant from me.

Nearer than hands and feet

That is, in fact, exactly the most common mistake I observe in other folks’ prayers: an assumption that God is distant and apart from human beings, and specifically distant and apart from the person who prays or is prayed for. Hinduism calls this “delusion.”

God is infinite. If God is truly infinite, then God’s being must necessarily include (or incorporate) everything that exists. If anything were to exist apart from God, then God would not be truly infinite.

Thus God’s being includes each and every one of us. We are each an expression of God. Each person’s life is an expression of God’s own life. More than that; God is more than present in all places and all times; God is present in each material object one may meet. The floor you walk on, the clothes you wear, the chair you sit in: the matter itself of which these are composed, is an expression of God’s own being.

Prayer is not a transaction between one who is and one who is not God. It is instead a process within God’s own being. God does not answer “Yes” or “No;” it is rather a matter of energy transfers across paths of more or less resistance.

My job search efforts at any point in time may end in disappointment. The solution, however, to my fear of the unknown, is to realize that God is intimately present to me in every circumstance.

Desire as prayer

I become more and more skeptical of prayer in words.

I tire of hearing flowery language that expresses no request, or presumes to remind God of things God already knows. On occasions when, in praying for myself, the use of words seems to be my only recourse, I lose patience with hearing myself just iterate endless paraphrases of the same request. Rather than rely on ideas that come from my own limited mind, I much prefer to wait in silence for the Holy Spirit to provide the words. But I’d prefer not to use words at all.

I have a lot of experience praying for my enemies. Here, prayer in words or ideas has very limited usefulness. I don’t know what “issues” make my enemy act offensively. And (with few exceptions) it is futile to pray that anyone change. I am left to merely pronounce the person’s name, and sincerely wish him or her the best of health, prosperity and happiness.

The desire itself constitutes the prayer.

This is the energy that moves. It can address the person’s needs from any direction, free from the limitations inherent in words and ideas.

This happens in silence.

In silence I can transform almost any negative emotion into a positive. I can transform resentment into goodwill. I can transform regret into commitment. Resistance can be eliminated, so that my prayer consists of unconflicted, unobstructed desire.

It’s a task not of having faith, but of being faithful.

Thursday 04/25/13

Profound stillness in silence. I began by praying, “God, help me. I’m afraid.” I saw that the energy of my fear itself can be transformed into hope.


NOTES

“Nearer than hands and feet” is a quotation from the poem, “The Higher Pantheism,” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (link).

Ambrose Worrall (1899-1972), a Baltimorean, was perhaps the foremost practitioner of spiritual healing in America in his time. The Trojan Horse Productions Library includes a number of his essays.

[1]Related:  A short route to agony
on air talent, the homeless blogger, talk show host, radio talk show

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