I've been thinking a lot about prayer lately. So many of us are not inclined toward it until we find ourselves in a pickle...and I don't mean your average, ordinary pickle. I mean the kind that requires divine intervention and/or a miracle. When things are going well and everyone we love is fine, we mention the occasional "I'm so grateful" or "I'm blessed" as our acknowledgment to the Big Guy, but that's more to ward off the bad things that are undoubtedly lurking in the wings waiting to happen to us than it is out of genuine gratitude. At least that's what it seems like to me.
What got me thinking about prayer are the two people I know with cancer who had surgery today. One is a friend who has traveled cross country to hear me perform whenever I do and who continues to help find me work when music isn't paying all my bills. The other is more of an acquaintance, but one I've known for more than a decade nevertheless. In both cases I have found myself doing the proverbial pleading with God to make things better for them, to make the cancer disappear, or at the very least not be fatal. It seems like a thing worthy of asking for. But it got me thinking - about the power of prayer, why we do it, and the benefits of it.
I try not to give God my laundry list of requests, thinking He will grant me some things and not others. That seems to me like the view of a child waiting for a parent to come along and fix the toy that they themselves just broke...or like waiting for Santa to show up with presents at Christmas. It doesn't come from a place of maturity or personal responsibility. That's why it makes no sense to me when people pray to God for an end to war. War is man made, so I don't think God's going to step in and do what we are unwilling to do for ourselves. The best intervention we can hope for there is a change of heart...and actually, that's no small feat. And while we're on the subject, I'm pretty certain God could care less about who wins any particular sporting event.
I'm inclined to believe that prayer at it's highest is about calling forth those qualities in ourselves that we most desire and require to move forward, but are not quite sure we possess. I think it's about taking a breath and reconnecting with the Source from which we all emanate. It's about knowing there is a power larger than ourselves, but of which we are a part. Therefore, at its best, prayer is about knowing that we are not the be all and end all...and yet it is about harnessing the Godlike qualities that we do possess but rarely use. It's a chance to relinquish what is beyond our control, but call into being what is in our control that we haven't been using. It gives us a feeling of doing something in situations in which the reality is that we're helpless. It is the gasp of air that keeps us alive when we would otherwise be drowning in the sea of our own predicaments.
The power of prayer is a scientifically studied phenomenon at this point. I remember years ago reading about a study of two groups of AIDS patients who were considered terminal. One group had people all over the world praying for them and the other did not. The group that was prayed for lived decidedly longer, with no other distinguishable variables than that. I thought that was amazing, but not particularly surprising. Do I think that God forgot about or ignored the people for whom no one was praying? No, but I think that prayer is focused energy which, combined with our own energy, can heal, transform, and in this case prolong lives. And that in itself is nothing short of a miracle. Do I think there's God in that? Yes, most definitely.
So here's what I'm going to do, and I invite you to join me - take a moment out of each day and pray. Maybe it's a prayer of thanksgiving for life itself. Maybe it's sending a loving thought to a sick friend and harnessing that Godlike energy we possess so that they can heal or be comfortable and at peace if it's time for them to move on. Maybe it's taking a moment to envision the world as it was originally created - with more than enough of all that is good to go around.
Whatever your prayers are, I hope that they are answered in ways that exceed your expectations. I hope that you call forth in yourselves, and that I call forth in myself, the qualities that grant the answers to all our prayers.
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