What Is Prayer?

It's not for wimps

Below are some replies to some prayer issues.... I don't know if they are totally true, but they seem good and true to me right now....

"What the heck is this Prayer thing?!"

There's the old stereotype that prayer is kneeling by a bed and muttering some words under one's breath. Many of us never learned anything beyond that. But here's some thoughts. Ever looked at someone --- maybe an adorable puppy, your pet cat, that amazing rosebush in full bloom --- and sort of mentally extended a feeling of "Hey, you're really something neat!"? Ever listened to some truly wonderful music, and felt like you were bursting at the seams with its beauty? Or looked at a sunset and felt a profound sense of awe, and wished you could share it with others? ...Or, have you ever had a terrible event happen to you, leaving you reeling with shock, your mind screaming in mental anguish? That, I think, is a little bit of what real prayer is like: The true, pure expressions of the human soul, not necessarily out loud, but from the heart; not necessarily while on one's knees, but with (ideally) purity of intention. Not to mention the ability to receive (perceive) something wonderful, awesome, or just plain profound.

Now, the examples are extreme, and the examples aren't quite prayer; I do think, however, that they are examples of "expressions of the spirit." In my definition, prayer is an "expression of the spirit" directed to God (the Light, Jesus, whoever is the highest good you know) --- and hopefully receiving (perceiving) some kind of response. Extending warmth and awe to other people or spirits is usually great, but it's not quite prayer.

But it's easy to direct one's thoughts at a puppy, or to perceive the good qualities of a puppy. How about God? How can we direct our thoughts to God (much less receive God's reply)? I mean, some say God's in Heaven, some say God is within, some say lots of things, but they don't usually help us actually find God to talk with Him.

First of all, God's got very good hearing, so it's better to pray than to just despair (or, say, deride) and not pray. And secondly, the more we learn how to elevate our spirits to joy, to operate with the goal of helping others foremost in our minds, the more we learn to recognize God. Each of us has some way of finding that path to God, even though it might not work for someone else. The more we can see God's glory in everything, the more we can see God. If that makes sense. And being able to see God means we are more likely to perceive responses to our prayers --- or perceive an impetus or a reason to pray. (How's that for recursion?)

And yes, I think that repeating a well-worn, well-known poem of prayer under one's breath is still prayer --- as long as it's something you believe (or would very much like to believe). Perhaps prayer is an expression of human will reaching out to God; perhaps at some level it's an expression of existence, of being alive, of having spirit (or being a spirit) --- directed and offered up to the Source of life Itself.

"What the heck is prayer for?"

At the moment, I think it's like dialing into (or telnetting into, or cd'ing into) the biggest, most powerful computer system in the world. It just happens to have a primary fileserver whose maintainer has infinite power and wisdom, whose intent is that no computer user in the world should ever become totally lost and hopeless, and who has the distinction of having designed all our systems. God's network is the universal help-desk or sysadmin agency, if you will, and is especially important because all of us originally came from that network (though we fell off somehow).

Though the crews from God's network can try to help us, it is ultimately up to us to configure our systems so that we can properly and reliably connect to God's network, especially in such a way that we don't accidentally get cracked by destructive nutcases, or so that we don't accidentally (or purposefully) dial into other networks whose goals are to corrupt, disrupt and destroy the primary network, sometimes by pretending to be God's network, and sometimes by simply launching outright attacks (too bad we don't know God's IP address - but heck, I'll bet the deceivers could spoof that.).

What can God's network do for us via prayer? First of all, we should ask not what it can do for us, but what we can do for it. That's one of the keys for accessing it in the first place. However, that said, God's network is there to help us not only help others, but to let us download emergency supplies when we run low, to free ourselves of attacks from nutcases, to help us purge unnecessary, space-eating programs (and viruses) from our systems, and to help troubleshoot hardware malfunctions (God does have a hardware repair crew, even though we seemingly rarely see it in action). It even helps us upgrade our systems with the latest software, whose ultimate purpose is to help us connect to God's network all the better, until someday we become an integral, shining part of it.

Translated to spiritual jargon, God and His network of caring souls want us to use prayer to help others ("Love your neighbor") - but to also use it as a means of bringing us closer to God ("Love God"), of refreshing and recharging ourselves, of using it to get help in times of spiritual problems and even daily problems. Prayer can grant us guidance and insight; it can call forth angels to rescue trouble-making spirits who haunt us; it can grant physical healing. Not always, but when God deems it wise. More importantly, prayer places us (with practice) in the cleaner atmosphere of God's domain, in the communion of caring spirits, and under the wise direction of God's will - so that we grow used to the pure and joyous home that will be ours if we persevere and do not fall away. We arrive there already mostly up to speed, and having already accomplished something while we were away. In truth, we will have been living in Heaven even while alive in physical form, because the act of true prayer is the act of sharing the company of angels.

Well, that said, I'm sure people have other objections to prayer....

"Prayer doesn't work"

Asking God to directly intervene for some reason doesn't often seem to work (especially when it comes to psychic attacks some of us experience). Asking God to send His agents to help for some reason seems to work better. God's spiritual network of "agents" isn't just for show; it's there to work. But remember that God's replies aren't often what we expect. "Please rescue me from my pit of despair" doesn't necessarily lead to a sudden burst of spiritual sunshine. Instead it might be hours - days - later, when one suddenly has the opportunity to give a bit of sunshine to someone else, and in doing so is lifted from despair "naturally." Or perhaps it occurs months later, after one has laboriously learned the tools necessary for being able to sustain a bit of sunshine.

We must help God. We can't sit where we are and expect things to change. We must start the change within ourselves as well, and help things along - because God wants us to use our free will, AND because God wants us to grow in wisdom. The concept of "pro-activeness" is not just found in business and management books; the concept of "finding joy wherever you are" is not just for self-help sections. If the same bad condition arises time and time again, stop and think: What part do I have to play in this? What can I do better? In the process, we learn wisdom. If God rescued us from the consequences of our own mistakes all the time, we'd probably never learn. But since we can't see clearly, we're bound to get stuck. That's often when humble prayer - and a little effort on our own side - can help most.

"Prayer is for people who can't solve their own problems"

Heh heh. Yeah, it's a crutch for some people. Keep in mind people need a crutch when they've sprained their ankles, though. "Please pick me up" is sometimes the whine of a fallen child - but sometimes it is the true, heart-felt cry of a troubled soul who just can't make ends meet. Is it wrong to loan money to a college student who can't afford school? It's outside help, but no one (or very few) people consider it a bad thing to invest money like that, and the recipient usually doesn't consider it "wimpy" or "weak" to accept a loan.

But the analogy is also like this: if a large building is burning, you want a team of people: people handling the hoses, people going inside to rescue people, people running the rescue equipment, a medical team, someone directing the whole operation. Sometimes specialized rescue equipment is needed, and of course firefighters are better trained than the average person. One person alone can't fill the shoes of all the firefighters by him or herself - in fact would be negligent if he or she attempted to do so all alone - so s/he calls 911 first, or makes sure that someone else is doing so before rushing in. Prayer often fulfills the same role: calling a team (of God's angels) to come help in times of need. So the theory is not handing one's problems over to someone else, but of getting help from a trained team. And indeed, sometimes problems require a team.

"What's 2-Way Prayer?"

2-way prayer is the act of praying to God and then receiving a reply. Certain things we do can help ensure we don't accidentally wind up paying attention to false angels masquerading as God's messengers. See this document!

"Prayer is draining and burdensome"

Prayer, especially prayer for others who are ill, in trouble, or stressed, can indeed feel burdensome and draining. This is true even of one-way prayer, and even when we are not necessarily trying to actively bless the recipient of our prayer. (Yes, even praying "God, Thy will be done for this person" can do this!) Whether we know it or not, our prayers often connect us to the one in need, and our spiritual energy goes out toward them (potential energy differentials). Hence, we may be drained. Elevating one's own spirit to the point of connecting to God's gracious love permits one to re-energize. Elevate first, before praying.

As for getting sick of prayer ... if it still seems boring ... a chore ... useless .... well, remember that studies have shown that prayer actually helps others. Most spiritually aware people and good spirits insist prayer is a powerful, if not the most powerful, tool that we have. I have not found the secret of prayer myself, but surely this is the frustration of a first-year violin student who can't get more than a creaky rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" going. Someday those scratchy noises could turn into the soul-piercing notes of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, which has the power to move the heart and mind. But it takes practice, self-discipline, patience, and the ability to get back up after really embarrassing mistakes made in front of lots of people.

"Why does God play favorites with those who have many others praying for them?"

This issue goes as follows: Imagine a poor orphan child who is ill. No one is there to pray for him. Now imagine an affluent child who is ill, whose parents hop on the internet and distribute prayer requests, and who call up their pastor and get the child's name distrubted to 200 people within a week. Why is it God is said to help those with more pray-ers? Isn't that unfair to those who are lonely or isolated?

In answer to this, there are three things to consider.

One: Many pray-ers consciously or unwittingly send out their own energy to the subject of their prayer. It's not God's energy per se, but each individual person's. So, if you have 1000 people praying for a child, that's a lot more energy than, say, just one person praying. On the other hand, the single person may well love more strongly than the other 999 combined, which probably has an effect on the result.

Secondly, God's Kingdom may well be really be like a network, as suggested earlier. This theory says that God deliberately set up our societies like the cells and organs in the body. It is not a muscle cell's fault if, for some reason, a blood vessel is blocked and oxygen cannot reach it. But the more blood vessels leading to an area, the more likely it is to survive a blockage and to thrive in general. The Internet is again another example: The more paths to a particular computer, the more likely it is that an email will arrive during times of internet problems. But why have a network in the first place? Probably because it makes us take responsibility for our own actions. We can help reach out to other people; we can expand God's network (family); we can play instrumental roles in others' lives so that all of us learn more about love and compassion. Or we can choose to drop out of the equation - and hope that we do not see the aftermath. God may well trust us enough to give us such a weighty power: the ability to truly make a difference to other people, whether negative or positive.

Thirdly: Who says God might not intervene in secret ways for the lonely orphan without a pray-er? Or who says that God might not have a hidden plan for that child? Based on testimony from Near Death Experiencers, it seems likely (to me) that we do not even see the tip of the iceburg when it comes to God's active caring for us. While God may show us the power of prayer when a miraculous healing occurs after thousands pray for a child, we may well miss the miracles that happen for the lonely person who suffers alone and unknown.

"If prayer is like playing a violin, where's my teacher?!??"

First and most primary: remember to always try to elevate your spirit toward God's realm of peace, joy, thankfulness, and love of others before (and while) you pray. This allows you to connect to God, and to those of God - and their instruction can reach you in ways you at first may not notice. (Honestly, it may even take years before we become aware of any divine help. By gum, patience is important.)

If you can't elevate, pray to God anyway, but remember that any perceived answers may not be trustworthy - you are more likely to be tuning into the more selfish parts of the spiritual spectrum. (Even if you can elevate, though, you should always, ALWAYS check any replies for the fruit of the Holy Spirit.)

Some say that our best teachers are ourselves. Well, maybe. Certainly we can act from a gut sense of right and wrong. However, seeing how many self-depending people are screwing up in this world, we can safely assume that people who depend solely on their own wisdom are often following an unreliable guide.

On the other hand, wanting to rely on an outside "spirit guide" has led more people to deceptive false angels than any other desire I've seen. Pray not for spiritual guides, but for Spiritual guidance. Pray not for help, but God's wisdom. Pray not for gain, but for the opportunity to help others.

So what's the solution to the prayer problem? It's recursive, but here it is: Pray. Pray for truth, wisdom, love, the blessing of God; pray especially for others who need help. But not only pray, but do the things of God: care for others, actively and physically. Fight your internal failings (selfishness, pride, material desires, addictions, etc). And then return to prayer. This is the beginning of the upward cycle. It's a tough road - a very, very tough road, whose pitfalls and snares some of my other documents barely touch upon. This is a road that few wish to really travel (trust me, it sucks sometimes), but which leads us up to true salvation.

And it's certainly not for wimps!

A useful little guide to prayer from a convent.

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