Saturday, October 3, 2009

Prayer: Magical Thinking Or A Transforming Shift in Consciousness?

It has seemed to me for a long time that a significant difference in perspective when it comes to a religious belief has frequently been one of the most difficult subjects to discuss with some people. In this entry I will express some of my perspectives on personal prayer.  It is my intention to do so in a manner that will allow others who hold different beliefs about personal prayer to receive what I have stated and consider it with a minimum of defensiveness.  Please let me know after reading it whether you think I have likely succeeded in this effort to get my point across without invalidating the perspective of others.

Over the last several years I have come to experience personal prayer as extraordinarily powerful in transforming the world around me.  Is this merely wishful thinking, or is there a shift in consciousness that has immediate and far ranging effects? If you are reading this entry with a hope to find a definite answer to this question, I expect you will be disappointed.  On the other hand, you may read something that resonates for you in such a way that how you think about this question is altered slightly in one direction or another.

Ultimately, it seems to me, that each of us has within us the potential for believing that there is a power greater than we that can have a direct effect on our lives, the decisions we make, and the unfolding circumstances we find ourselves experiencing. As I see it, though, believing something doesn't necessarily make it so. Having said that, it surely seems to me that what we believe is true effects significantly how we interpret our life experiences and effects profoundly the decisions we make. I think that if we believe a particular task or goal is impossible to accomplish or achieve, then we are not very likely to attempt to do that task or pursue that goal. So, I think that what you already believe is possible through prayer or meditation is likely to influence whether you think my assessment of the effects of personal prayer has any validity or relevance for you.

Nearly every day, many times during the day,  I pray this prayer, "Dear God. If it be your will, please increase the beneficial energy associated with my being and completely transform the detrimental energy into beneficial energy.  And Dear God, if it be your will, please adjust the frequencies of all the energy systems known and unknown to me so that the highest and best for all concerned may be the result. And Dear God, if it be your will, please help me to be an instrument of your peace today.  In deep gratitude, I pray." In my experience, even when prayed silently, there are immediate effects on me and on the people around me; at least so it seems to me.

There have been many times when chaos has seemed to be prevailing in a personal or professional setting prior to my prayer; and within seconds of the prayer, there has been a marked change in the apparent level of emotional tension associated with the situation.  On one occasion my wife Libba was very distressed with me about something and was telling me so in what seemed to me to be a very angry manner.  I silently prayed as I have described; and she immediately paused, took a deep breath, and said more calmly, "Let me say that differently." 

On many other occasions there have been similar situations with similar results.  In one instance in the emergency department I was asked to do a psychiatric evaluation on a young man who had become psychotic while in his freshman year of college and was acting in a bizarre manner.  When I approached him, he said in a very deep and ominous voice, "I have the boy, and you cannot have him."  My immediate response was to pray out loud this same prayer for energy balance.  He immediately ceased to be agitated; and in a normal voice and manner before leaving for the inpatient unit, he asked me to continue praying for him which I agreed I would do.

On another occasion two years ago as I was driving home from the hospital and had been praying my prayer for the highest and best for all concerned, I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to take some pictures of this beautiful fall foliage that would include some birds among the leaves."  It was a simple thought upon which I did not dwell after thinking it.  Eventually I arrived home; and upon stopping in my driveway, a male cardinal flew to the spruce tree immediately adjacent to the car.  He got my attention.  I then looked up at the dogwood tree above the spruce and saw perched on a limb among the fall foliage a barred owl which I proceeded to photograph.  Was this an answer to my prayer?  Does the peace that seems to occur so often following my prayer come as a direct result of my prayer?  What do you think? 


  1. I have found the most direct and powerful prayer is to call on Jesus. I just say his name. All tension leaves my body and I am totally at peace, no matter what preceded it. This has never failed, and is all the more compelling because I am Jewish. I do not have the "personal relationship with Jesus" that others tell me about (though never in ways that help me understand it), but I am increasingly interested in Jesus and, I believe, moving in that direction. How can I ignore the man if just his name is so powerful?

    I am a strong believer in prayer, and though I may pray about various issues, more often than not it's a quick, "Thy will be done", or, if I'm entering a situation, "Please give me guidance" or "Help me to say, do and be only that which is completely according to Thy will".

    Interesting topic. Thanks, Jim.


  2. I think you have absolutely achieved your goal of presenting your own experience while respecting what may or may not be the experience of others. Coincidentally, I just received a book on Rumi by Demi, and the first poem is something I know will resonate with you:

    "Muslims, what to do? I no longer know myself! I am no longer Christina, Jew, Zoroastrian, nor even Muslim, nor of the East, nor of the West, nor of the land, nor of the sea..., nor Indian, Chinese, Iraqi...I seek the One, I know the One, I see the One, I call the One."
    Rumi from Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrizi


  3. Thanks Judy and Martha for sharing your responses.

    When someone asks me, "What are you?," I often respond with, "I think of myself as a Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew." One night while sitting around a campfire at Blythe Gap on the Appalachian Trail with a fellow from southeast Georgia, his immediate rejoinder was, "Yeah, that's it! That's what I am, too!"

  4. I think there are many options about what prayer is other than the two you list. There is a lot of area in between those two extremes.

    When something happens that strikes us as an answer to a prayer, it may be many things, including coincidence. When nothing happens in answer to a prayer, I suspect that we ignore, or don't even notice, the lack of response and so we can't factor those non-events into our overall perspective.

    Even so, I, like you, have had many wondrous and inexplicable things happen after some type of prayer, so I know it is intriguing and mysterious. On the other hand, I can remember begging God to take away my awful pain from cramps month after month for decades and as I recall, he/she never came through. The true miracle was Advil! [In this case, I'd be likely to say that God is a he].

    I love this quote by CS Lewis: I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me." I love this quote from Marty Groder: "If there's nothing out there, I don't want to waste my time worrying about it. If there is something out there, I'll deal with it when I get there." I think I will, too.


  5. The only sort who may find offense would be one who seeks offense. It is clear that you are not pushing any particular deity, to whom 'correct' prayers should be sent. Therefore, those who find it to be offensive would likely be of, surprisingly, two diverse groups. The first would be the utter non-believer, but one who is secretly unsure in his disbelief. A complete non-believer should not be concerned with what others believe, as it should not matter. Only one who is unsure would find offense, as the belief of others stimulates his doubt in his own disbelief. The reaction, "I AM OFFENDED" (caps/shouting intended) is an attempt to convince himself of his own disbelief, not to actually change others. The second category of the offended would be the ultra-orthodox. Curiously enough, I believe that the reaction of the ultra-orthodox arises from the same basic reason as the first. These are just my observations, they may or may not be correct.

    Now to the fun part, my reactions.

    I do have a deep and abiding belief in prayer. Personally, I trust my God, and have faith in his benevolent oversight of Creation, although Man, as a flawed and sinful race, do constantly through free-will monkey wrenches into the works, as do I, a flawed man, even though I do strive to be a better Father, Husband and person every day, learning from my mistakes, and those of others, in spite of my ego, which is my worst enemy. Yes, I do believe in prayer, as I do believe that I pray to a 'True God'. However, I acknowledge that prayer can be beneficial to others, even if they to not pray to the 'same God' as I. How can that be?

    The initial answer to the last question points to possibilities, rather than to defeatism. Naturally, those of us who pray, ask for those things which we cannot control. When a man will not pray, as he sees no power greater than himself. He is living as an 'island unto himself', without any mystic linkage between the manifold parts of our existence. A man such as this is truly alone within himself, randomly moving through life, apart from those aspects that he may directly influence, which, when viewed within the context of space and time, is so minuscule as to be hardly measurable. Therefore, he who will not believe is defeated, powerless, and impotent, simply a passenger on the ride of his life.

    Contrast the non-believer with one who does believe in prayer. This belief need to be in 'God', but in any higher power/connection of all creation. Further, in this context 'prayer' is not simply the Western view of communication with a Deity, it includes the man who simply believes that all of Creation is interlinked, not unlike the fictional 'Jedi' belief in "The Force", to provide some context. This person has hope. He is able to move forward in life with a positive assurance through faith and belief that although he appears, or indeed is, the smallest, most insignificant portion of all Creation, he has the opportunity to commune and communicate with that which is greater than he. This connection with the universal, and faith in that connection, frees one from defeatism. All things are not assured, but they are possible. He can strive, so long as his desired outcome is possible, as hope rises from possibilities. No great accomplishments have ever sprung from the impossible, but many have emerged from the highly improbably, but the one man who saw that tiniest sliver of possibility, and who fought his way to and through it.

    To summarize, my belief is that one who prays possesses a positive component that the non-believer does not. That positive component allows him to see the potential for success/happiness/outcomes. Once the possibility is accepted, he can bring his full being to bear, which gives him an edge. To use the lottery tagline, "You can't win, if you ain't in." The non-believer isn't in the game. He is merely a cog in the machine, a prison of his own making.


  6. Now that I have explained my thoughts in the macro, some personalizing is in order. As you may or may not be aware, I have been unemployed since 10 Feb. I will begin a new job today, so back to active taxpayerdom I go; but it is the last 8 months that are important to our discussion. Unemployed, in a lousy job market, building a new home that is a bit more than a bungalow, with an existing mortgage, and two small, and only potentially, if I allowed it to be so. I knew that things would work out the way they should. Naturally, I had, and have, to do my part, but I was able to take those things that I had no power to control and place those burdens upon one who had the strength to carry them, and who would likewise burden me with nothing more than I could handle. I saw my unemployment as a wonderful opportunity. I was able to spend time with my children. We swam. We visited museums. We played. We spent time together. I was able to do things with them at preschool and Kindergarten. How many men in their early forties have the chance to spend two thirds of a year with their children during these critical formative years? I had not been burdened. I had been blessed with a wonderful opportunity. The opportunity gave me power and influence that I would not otherwise have enjoyed. I also found my prayers transitioning. I began with 'gimme' prayers. I slowly transitioned to prayers asking that I be guided to where God wanted me to be. Curiously, as I gave up my wants and needs, surrendering more control to the Almighty, I became more calm, more assured, although I may be confusing acceptance with assurance.

    Thank you for providing an opportunity for self-examination. Hopefully, this will not lead to an emergency, involuntary commitment order from Orange County.. *G*


  7. Beautiful post!
    Blessings and peace upon you,


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