I am always grateful when I receive comments indicating that you are beginning to give careful thought to what others have told you to believe. The question regarding last week’s homily is a classic example. It reflects the confusion we all face when we try to understand how–or if–prayer works, especially when what we’re told conflicts with what we’ve learned through experience.
For example, many of us received (and continue to receive) emails urging us to pray for the protection of then-candidate, now President Obama. What I find so interesting about this type of message is that it presumes that God will not protect our president from malicious people unless millions of us pray. I’m guessing that’s the number since hundreds of thousands prayed for Rev. Rick Warren’s wife to be healed. Many feel that their prayers failed.
Whether we realize it or not, this concept of so-called “failed” prayer really portrays God not only as capricious, but diabolically so. If we’re honest, that’s what we’ve been taught. Some people’s prayers are answered–others, well, maybe next time.
This diabolical behavior sounds suspiciously like that of mythological gods who were rumored to live on mountains on the other side of the clouds. These megalomaniacs commanded, conspired, brutally killed, raped virgins and terrorized the poor humans below, forcing them to supplicate, worship and sacrifice for the gods’ mercy–or face their wrath.
Even after monotheism banished this storied band of bad boys from the celestial mountain range, the belief in capricious and misanthropic behavior lurked behind–and was transferred to One God. By the time the storytellers finished, this god was unmistakably bipolar. Even in the 21st century, we still believe in a loving God who solves problems by killing and torturing his children. Today’s headlines scream of parents who mimic this filicide. I strongly believe that there is a connection.
Because we still cling to the mythical portrayal of God as tyrannical judge and executioner, we often pray to appease His anger and violence. We pray for mercy and forgiveness. In Crossing an Unseen Bridge: The Law of Attraction Secrets No One Wants to Talk about, you met a former client who was a victim of this stinkin’ thinkin’. After he was charged with a federal crime, this mini-mogul sought strategic PR counsel. By that time, he had been stricken with religion, or more accurately, religiosity. Most sentences included, “My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” He attended three church services on Sundays.
Honoring the ancient belief that God rewards sacrifices of money or freshly killed meat, he donated generously to his church. He lavished gifts on his pastor. His Bible was always at his fingertips. Every time I spoke with this man, he mentioned that he had begun the day at 5 a.m., on his knees.
The update: He wakes in the federal pokey every morning now. I doubt that he ever falls on his knees. Like so many of us, he did all the things that religiosity dictates, and it didn’t work. How many more centuries will it take for us to evolve beyond Greek mythology?
We’re not always sure that our prayers will be answered, and we get mad when they aren’t. We do it again and again, hoping to improve our average. At some point, we have all prayed from the depths of our hearts that a loved one would fully recuperate from a serious illness, and it didn’t happen. We have all prayed to win something, own something, keep something or someone, cure or be cured, and it didn’t happen.
We have seen others pray and get precisely what they wanted. Do they always win? No. Experience has repeatedly taught us that there is a chance our prayers will be “answered,” and a chance that they will not. Knowing that, why are we so bewildered, brokenhearted or even angry when we go to the mountaintop and are sent home empty-handed? Why do we treat prayer as if it’s not only a slam dunk, it’s a spiritual law?
In Crossing an Unseen Bridge, I define a law as something that works the same way for 100% of the people, 100% of the time. If you and I release a handful of pencils, will yours float to the ceiling and mine fall to the floor? No. They are governed by the law of gravity, which doesn’t respond unpredictably. There’s no 50 percent or 99 percent chance that my pencils will fall. All of those jokers are going to hit the ground. Period.
Is the same true with prayer? No matter what someone tells us or tries to shame us into thinking, the outcome of prayer, as we understand it and as we have experienced it, is uncertain.
Have we believed so long in a capricious God, who highly favors some and curses others, that it is too late to think a new thought about prayer, too late to realign our expectations, too late to trust that everything will work out just fine–no matter what it looks like on the surface? Have we believed so long that the outcome our personalities’ desire is our souls’ desired outcome that we are convinced that our prayers weren’t answered?
Those of you who have read my books know that I have had my share of drama. While none of it felt good while I was going through it, in retrospect, you were able to see how every bit of it benefited me, how my path was clearly paved to lead me to a powerful destination. You also know that it wasn’t until I chose to use my prayer time to receive direction, rather than to direct God, that the miracles began to show up.
That’s the beauty of these experiences. That’s how I discovered what prayer is and isn’t. Redefined, it now has become a law for me. I only have one prayer, one miraculous prayer that releases all anxiety and repels all worry about outcome. It is this: “I pray that everything is resolved for the Highest Good of all concerned–in the most perfect way, at the most perfect time. And so it is. Amen.”
You can trust God like that. In return, I guarantee that you will get what you want 100% of the time.