What the word “prayer” means to me

The William Tell Show is not and will not be “about” religion.  In this blog, however, I am being forced to mention prayer so often that I may as well define the term.

Some of the texts I have learned from appear at the Trojan Horse Productions Library (link).  This is separate from the Tell Show site because, although I wanted these texts to be available online (Actually, Rachel insisted.), I don’t mean to discuss them on the show.  One will find the same principles set forth in any of the serious literature on prayer, such as Frank Laubach’s Prayer, the Mightiest Force in the World, Jo Kimmel’s Steps to Prayer Power, Leslie Weatherhead’s Psychology, Religion and Healing,  Larry Dossey’s Healing Words, or Morton Kelsey’s Healing and Christianity.

When I pray for someone without the person’s permission, in general I don’t use words.  I say no words out loud; nor do I think any words.  I will think of the person’s name if I know it, and then direct positive feelings toward him or her.  I envision the person as surrounded with light, and wish the best for her or his health, circumstances and happiness.  When, rarely, I do use words, they are consistent with what I’ve just said.

I have strong reservations about verbal prayer — prayer in words. 

It seems to me that a verbal prayer is void unless one can believe that it will come to pass, word for word, exactly as said.

One thing we know about God:  what God says, happens; word for word, exactly as God says it.  This may be the very first principle the Bible teaches.  Genesis 1:3:  “Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light.”  I believe verbal prayer is the same way; in effect, it must be God speaking.  One can pray for the words to use, and then pray those words.

So I am skeptical of prayers I hear for “the sick,” “the poor,” “the homeless,” and so on.  Jesus may have healed thousands of sick people, but he did not eliminate disease.  Better to pray for the names on your congregation’s prayer list.  I hope to do exactly as Jesus did among the poor, but he did not eliminate poverty.  Better to affiliate with an inner-city congregation and minister with them, including in prayer.  And so on.

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All that said, at this time I’m not at all sure who or what it is I pray to.  Though I sure do pray a lot.

I have puzzled greatly over this the past year.

I’m sure I don’t believe in a God who is a personality separate from Creation, who doles out favors or is subject to persuasion.

On the one hand, the gods of ancient Greece and Rome were projected personifications of human attributes:  lust (Venus), wisdom (Athena), and so on.  Every human being has capacities for infinite goodness and infinite evil, alike.  Some attributes of each human being may be so noble as actually to merit worship.  Perhaps the monotheists’ God is actually the projected personification of those traits.

The “higher power” A.A. speaks of may actually be each person’s will, a term I’ll need to define later.

On the other hand, if God is infinite — which seems a safe assumption — then, to be truly infinite, infinitely infinite, the All; God cannot be separate from Creation.  If God were, God would not be infinite.

One can assume that the creator must be greater than the thing created.  But in this case, the Creator cannot be separate from Creation.  If God is truly infinite, then God’s own being must include or assume or comprehend the whole of Creation; every thing, seen and unseen; you and me.

Contemporary Physics tells us that it’s futile, in a sense, to ask when Creation (or the Big Bang) occurred; for time itself was created in that same event; before it, there was no time.  It is likewise futile to ask where the event occurred; as space itself was created in the same; until then, there was no space, no place for anything to occur.

For many years, I supposed that God might be the same as Being, which is a possible translation of what the Bible calls God’s name.  God would be existence itself.  I no longer believe that.  Being, existence itself, is itself something God created.  So, God must be beyond Being.

The most important feature of this whole scenario, I think, is this:  we are each of us a part of God.  We cannot be separate.  We are all connected.

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