Considering Prayer As Unfolding Possibility
The Journey Inward
Last updated 1/13/2021 at 3:54pm
In January of last year who would have thought at the beginning of this year we would see our neighbors walking down grocery store aisle wearing masks.
Mask wearing signifies we live in an unprecedented time with many challenges. How might we consider this reality as a possibility to explore the deepest center of our lives?
We are all too familiar with our desire to be rescued by the machinations of a materialistic worldview. We have internalized this view, which posits that what we can taste, touch, see, hear and smell is real. This creates a belief that scientists can rescue us from our pressing dilemmas. A materialist’s view disallows action “at a distance,” thereby excluding the value of prayer.
In a way, the materialist position is an effort to exact control over the uncontrollable. For example, there has been a rush to come up with a vaccine. And why not, if we can alleviate suffering through science then all the better. We should stand in line to get our shot when the vaccine is available; it would be foolhardy not to.
In the meantime, might we also consider a worldview that includes a spiritual dimension, richly layered with possibility. This view posits: spirituality is at the core of everything, and, therefore, communicating with spirit through prayer can influence what unfolds before us.
We know that a small number of people, passionately committed to new inevitability on which they have affixed their attention through prayer, can affect the shape of the future (Matthew 6:14: “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do”).
Theologian Walter Wink suggests that: “…the whole universe is a spirit-matter event, and the self is coextensive with the universe. We are not like solitary billiard balls, as materialism sees us; from the very beginning we are related to everything. Every drop of water in me has been in every spring, stream, river, lake, ocean in the world during the earth’s billions of years of existence. We are related to every other self in the universe.”
In a spirit-matter universe, we experience a God who is not above us in some ethereal heavenly abode but a coexisting presence who invents history with those “who hunger and thirst to see right prevail” (Matt. 5:6).
“When we pray, we are not sending a letter to a celestial White House,” states Wink, “where it is sorted among piles of others. We are engaged, rather, in an act of co-creation, in which one little sector of the universe rises up and becomes translucent, incandescent, a vibratory center of power that radiates the power of the universe.”
In short, we can recognize a worldview that honors advances in science but also sees a spirit filled universe. Susanne Vanzant Hassell in “Pilgrim Walk in the Woods” states that: “Early Christian Celts described special places where they encountered God as ‘thin places.’ Only a thin veil separated the seen from the unseen, the natural world and the holy, the finite and the infinite, the spiritual and the physical realms…..St Augustine said, “God is everywhere, it is true, and He that made all things is not contained or confined to dwell in any place.”
Thus, we are inspired to communicate with spirit. There need be no set pattern to prayer, yet prayer begins in private. (See Matthew 6:5-8: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to God who is unseen.”)
In order to influence change, we first, through quiet reflection, come to know ourselves; otherwise, we may act in ways that add to the fire of cultural dissension.
All spiritual traditions, including Judaism and Christianity, hold that our deepest fulfillment resides within. External changes, even a pandemic, provide an opportunity to develop spirit-consciousness when we, for example, become anxious and afraid.
Thoughts arise that cascade into imagined catastrophes, but we learn they are just thoughts. My prayerful looking within creates the steadfast awareness that my observing self is my God center, the real me. We learn to flee not and instead witness our responses by allowing whatever arises. In this way we gain spiritual wisdom that is not swayed by matters beyond our control.
Here is a personal illustration. Several weeks ago, I went to see my dermatologist for an annual checkup. He decided to biopsy a mole that seemed suspicious, perhaps melanoma.
From the time I left his office until I received the results a week later an occasional whiff of apprehension arose within me. “What if it is melanoma?” I recognized thoughts of threat along those lines. I could have, but I did not struggle against them and they did not camp out in my mind.
So, by witnessing apprehensive thoughts and their fearful energy, from my higher self, did I not gain some freedom from an external event (the biopsy)? The report, thankfully, came back negative.
We all struggle with stressful events. Many people are anxious about the prospect of losing their job, their home, their partner or contracting the virus. Even the outgoing president is creating anxiety over his attempts to overthrow the election. These are unsettled times.
Our country is in crisis, which demands of us an unparalleled allegiance to inner transformation and a dedication to sacredly inspired action.
Now more than ever disciplines that help us search our heart and call us to connection are needed (Matthew 6:14 “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do.” The Message).
Prayer in whatever form that might take, whether formal or informal, standing or sitting, walking or running is the place to begin. Let us pray.
(Dr. John Campbell is a psychotherapist and clergyperson living in Brevard.)