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Prayer

Posted: February 3rd, 2009, 5:12 pm
by Speculum
Editor's Note:

This thread started as part of a consideration of orthodoxy in The Sand Box (here's a link), which is why the post immediately below this note sounds like it begins in mid-sentence. If you do not already have access to The Sand Box, and would like to, please click here.





The conversation you describe sounds interesting.

The Word can, and in all likelihood has, become flesh many times in many places, without becoming a different Word in any way.


You undoubtedly can guess my response to that observation.

As I have said and written many times, not least at In The Beginning, I am positively convinced -- intellectually and from experience -- that when the Gospels Teacher said (at Matthew 26) of bread "This is my body" and of wine "This is my blood", he never intended for us to conclude he meant "just bread, just wine". He wanted us to understand everything is "My Body", everything is "My Blood".

That was his way of saying what Ibn 'Arabi means by "thou art not thou, thou art He without thou" and what Nisargadatta means by "the entire universe is his body, all life is his life". Indeed, I'm not sure I have come across a single Teacher who does not say the same thing.

Perceiving ourselves and everything else separatively, of course we hear those words similarly, and of course we changed them from being a simple (by which I mean clear, not easy) lesson into do-it-my-way-or-die orthodoxy.

Our tendency to take things literally is a factor here, too. Thus, I am likewise convinced that the Gospels Teacher did not intend for us to memorize the prayer at Matthew 6:9 and pour it in concrete as "The Lord's Prayer". If you read the lines which precede it (not to mention take into consideration his perspective on life), it is clear to me that by "pray then like this", he means something like "in this manner" or "along these lines" or "with this attitude". In other words, don't memorize the words (I mean, even a myna bird can memorize words) but rather understand the principle, get the meaning. Does he not remind us that God already knows what we want anyway, so what we say is not as important as how we say it, why we say it.

So, it isn't that the Word became flesh in or as him and in or as some one or two others, but rather that the Word is flesh. The One is the other. And the more enthusiastically I live my life accordingly, the more apparent is it to me. In a word, live life as if the Truth were True, and we see that it is.

Anyway, so it seems to me.

Re: "Orthodoxy"

Posted: February 5th, 2009, 1:55 pm
by W4TVQ
Claudius wrote:My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go.


Old Christian Hymn wrote:Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed; the motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast.


I certainly agree with your observations concerning prayer. I've often thought that God simply ignores most of our prayers because they are silly. Mark Twain was heard to observe that "God's angels gather up Sunday School prayers in large bags and use them for wind to drive the ships at sea." And as you say, Jesus in all likelihood was not instituting a form, but offering suggestions about the content of prayers.

I am quote sure that if I pray aloud, "God, please bless Joe," and in my heart (whatever that means) I am wishing that Joe would contract plague and die, the "prayer" that God hears is the unexpressed rather than the uttered. And the danger there is that thoughts create: a hate-wish intense enough could possibly result in Joe actually being harmed. This is the principle that explains why Voodoo works. It also explains why prayer works: a prayer for healing backed by enough intensity of desire and feeling can result in healing.

And ultimately it all comes back to "This is my body," to the fact that if I am praying for you it is not as "I over here, you over there," but as (per e e cummings' phrase) "little you-I." If you are in fact I, and I am in fact you, then my prayer for your healing is a prayer for my own healing and vice versa. ACIM keeps telling us that, does it not? I cannot be healed without everyone else being healed also as a consequence.

I think all of that is so. I simply do not know how to live an entire day in the light of it, or in consistent application of the knowledge I have. So I keep going on the basis of the last illumination I had, and will change course if and when another illumination comes.

I hve a magnificent photo of the Whirlpool Galaxy as the desktop on my computer. It's awesome, and the most awesome thing about it is that the Christ points to it and says "This is my body."

Awesome.

Pax Domini
Art

Re: Prayer

Posted: February 6th, 2009, 8:02 pm
by Speculum
As noted above, I have split this new thread "Prayer" from the thread "Orthodoxy" in The Sand Box. This stuff seems okay here.

It also explains why prayer works: a prayer for healing backed by enough intensity of desire and feeling can result in healing.


Just so, the Gospels Teacher (among others) tells us repeatedly “your faith has made you well”. In those words resides a powerful lesson which one finds in all the traditions.

I cannot be healed without everyone else being healed also as a consequence.


You’re right; as I read ACIM, it means, “I cannot be healed without my perceiving everyone else as healed”. As you suggest, as long as I perceive others as others, separate and separative, susceptible to illness, breakage, estrangement, etc., I remain likewise, precisely because we see who/what we perceive ourselves to be. I heal myself by extending healing to you. Anything less is surely magic, not miracle.

I simply do not know how to live an entire day in the light of it or in consistent application of the knowledge I have.


My experience has been that there is no “how”, that it seems just to come, bit by bit, in its own time in its own way. I believe that all I can do is reach for it; I am unable to grasp it. But my reaching must be with enthusiasm.

Here’s Nisargadatta on that idea: It may seem arduous, but it is easy if you are earnest. And quite impossible if you are not. Earnestness is both necessary and sufficient. Everything yields to earnestness.

And the most blessed Rumi! I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way. Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

Along the way, I have taken considerable comfort in the following passage from Swami Nikhilananda’s commentary to verse 9:22 in the Gita:

The Lord promises complete protection to those who love Him with all their body, heart, and soul. A devotee, totally absorbed in the Lord, may forget his own safety and security, but the Lord never forgets him. All men, no doubt, receive from the Lord what they need; but as long as they themselves think of their own welfare, they must earn it by their own effort. But the Lord Himself carries the necessaries of life to those who, lost in the thought of Him, cannot take care of themselves.

I have a magnificent photo of the Whirlpool Galaxy ... the most awesome thing about it is that the Christ points to it and says "This is my body”.


Too cool.

Re: Prayer

Posted: February 7th, 2009, 2:33 am
by phyllis
Prayer is the one activity where I always feel safe expressing vulnerability. I know I will not be judged, however stupid or weak or clumsy I appear. I try not to ask for things but instead to admit to things, including my needs, which I guess is a form of asking. Prayer is a good time for me. I always feel better afterwards.

Re: Prayer

Posted: February 9th, 2009, 1:46 am
by Ihavesayso
I began a prayer sometime shortly after my birth and long before i knew what prayer was. I will end it with my last breath.

Re: Prayer

Posted: February 11th, 2009, 3:50 pm
by Speculum
I share what I take to be ihavesayso’s perspective here. I certainly like his image.

Some years ago, when I was still speaking publicly on these kinds of subjects, I used to deliver a talk/sermon entitled “Let Us Pray”, the thrust of which was that, to be meaningful (and maybe therefore effective), prayer needs to be less an activity we engage in for a few moments one day a week, and more a description of our life, of our approach to life, of our relationships with one another and with God.

Thus, if we want to live a “blessed” life, we need to behave accordingly. w4tvq makes the point that if we ask for something in prayer while harboring in our heart something completely different, our prayers are not likely to be productive. He’s right.

Whatever else God may be, He is not an idiot. She can discern between our public posturing and our private craving, however cleverly we may think we are disguising the differences.

Phyllis wrote,
Prayer is the one activity where I always feel safe expressing vulnerability.


That's what it's about it, isn't it, our willingness to be vulnerable, to be open and receptive, to say, "Thy Will be done" and mean it. Absent that, prayer is negotiation, just another form of self-deception.

St Teresa , I think it was, warns us, “Be careful what you ask for. You may get it.”

Re: Prayer

Posted: February 11th, 2009, 8:55 pm
by Speculum
Postscript: Years ago, as a guest speaker at a church, I gave a talk about living a prayerful life, and at the end of it, at the resident minister’s request, I led the assembly in a formal prayer (heads bowed, eyes shut) asking for the Divine’s active encouragement, assistance, and participation in our reach for prayerful nature. As it happens, this took place shortly after the Iran hostage event in which Iranian militants seized the US Embassy in Teheran and held members of the American staff hostage, and it was headlines in every newspaper; so, I said something to the effect that as Americans we regretted the crisis, and hoped it would be quickly and safely resolved, but as seekers we accepted the incident as an opportunity to learn to see ourselves through others' eyes, to see the world as others see it, to recognize their hopes and fears, etc.

After I sat down, the resident minister took the podium, thanked me for my talk, and then offered an addendum to my prayer in which, in no uncertain terms, she informed the Divine that, (1) as regards the militants in Iran, the expansive position I had drawn was not shared by her church, and (2) she would, like the disciples at Luke 9:54, appreciate His bringing fire down from heaven to consume them.

It was one of those rare moments in life which bring to mind Mark Twain’s observation, "I believe I have no prejudices whatsoever. All I need to know is that a man [woman] is a member of the human race. That's bad enough for me".

Re: Prayer

Posted: February 13th, 2009, 3:34 pm
by W4TVQ
That passage (Luke 9:54) in which Jesus' friends James and John are "outraged" at the Samaritans who did not make Jesus welcome, is one not often made the topic of a sermon. "Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?" Yet it seems to be the unspoken undercurrent of all too many sermons...

James and John, whom Jesus called "the Sons of Thunder," seem to typify quite often the radical fundamentalist branch of Christianity, breathing fire and condemnation on all of "God's enemies" (=their opponents). At times Jesus became so frustrated by their failure to "get it" that he cried out, "How long will I have to put up with you guys?" (Matt. 17:17).

I do know that the day I was able to let go of the fundamentalist "my way or the highway" approach to spirituality, it was much like being released from a dismal, damp prison into the sunlight. :laughter:

Jai Ram
Art

Re: Prayer

Posted: February 14th, 2009, 8:38 pm
by Speculum
Even from early on along this way, I understood the concept that it was not about Stefan, that the outcome was not going to be Stefan’s enlightenment, that “Stefan” was the obstacle not the hero. I understood it as a concept, I had read it, I had talked about it, I had written it, but despite all that, for a long time I wanted it to be about me, and so I continued believing that in some way it was and would be. “Stefan” would be enlightened, “Stefan” would be Self-Realized, even as I knew “there was no such thing as a person” (Nisargadatta).

So, I understand those, whatever their religion or tradition, who cling to the conviction that it is about “me” and “mine”.

Years ago, Anna and I used to exchange back and forth between us the money handling function. That is, for six months or so, one of us would handle the checkbook, pay the bills, and so on, and then, we’d change hands, and the other would take over the task. We did that in part because in those days particularly we were poor as church mice, and it was no fun having to stretch every dollar beyond its hundred cents. During one of the periods that I had the keys, I devised an accounting system which simplified the book-keeping process, and generally made the whole thing easier. We called it “the red book” because the covers of the book in which it evolved were red.

Well, I became attached, even very attached, to the red book, and when the time came to switch places, I didn’t want to. Not one bit. There ensued a brouhaha of considerable proportions.

Finally, I let go, but only begrudgingly. I stormed from the house and out to our country road, where I walked for about an hour, steaming … until suddenly I realized that giving up the red book, passing it to her, meant that I would be free of the worry and frustration of the accounting. I hadn't lost anything, I had been set free.

It was obvious, of course, but I had allowed myself to get so thoroughly tangled up by my attachment to what I had come to think of as “mine”, I was blind to the fact that it was an ordeal, even in a way a sentence.

You wrote, “it was much like being released from a dismal, damp prison into the sunlight”. Precisely.

We imprison ourselves, all of us, all of the time, by our fears, our desires, our attachments, our cravings.

“The Truth will set you free.” There is no such thing as a person.

Re: Prayer

Posted: February 15th, 2009, 3:55 pm
by Speculum
My previous post brought to mind U.G.'s powerful, not to say disconcerting, title, “the courage to stand alone”.

Those words and the image they generate are like yeast to me: enlivening, changing, expanding everything they touch.

“The courage to stand alone” is not about avoiding other people, because that surely is “avoiding relationship”, to use Da Free John’s great phrase. Rather, it is about standing alone without one’s perceived self, without Stefan, without Stefan’s framework, thoughts, supports, beliefs, prejudices, protections – everything that generates and sustains what Stefan calls “me and my life”. To stand alone naked.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). He stands alone.

Re: Prayer

Posted: April 8th, 2009, 4:20 am
by anvil46
A Minister told me once that the translation of ' The Lord's Prayer' is very simplified for the laity . If that is true I would like to know what a more expansive translation is and have not been able to find one.. . Any Fencers out there know anything about this ??? thanks
namaste
anvil
stew

Re: Prayer

Posted: April 8th, 2009, 12:21 pm
by W4TVQ
Nothing in the biblical studies I have done over the years has contained another or expanded verson of the "Lord's Prayer" ... though many have had long and sometimes interesting commentaries.

I can see two possible reasons for this: one, the biblical literalists, convinced that every word of the bible is divinely dictated, would not presume to change a word of it. Two, the contemporary scholars, with whom I tend to agree, are in agreement that these words were not the specific words of Jesus at all, but a liturgical formula that developed over the first century and got inserted into the narrative by Matthew (or whoever wrote the book we call "Matthew"). The words would still be authentic, as recollections of instructions that were given, probably over a period of time, by Jesus himself. In other words, the "Lord's Prayer" was a "template" for personal prayer, developed from memories of Jesus' teachings on prayer and, not surprisingly, turned into a formula to be repeated in rituals.

I think (and this is JUST my opinion) that Mark Twain was right when he said that "Sunday School prayers are gathered by angels in large bags, and used for wind to blow the ships at sea." No matter what the mouth is saying, it is what the heart is saying and wanting that is heard by The Listener. Thus, I can be praying, "God bless Charlie," and if my heart is saying "I hope Charlie drops dead," the latter is the prayer that is heard and for which I am accountable. Scary -- but only scary until I realize that The Listener is not taking notes and planning reprisals.

Jai Ram
Art

Re: Prayer

Posted: April 12th, 2009, 8:40 pm
by Speculum
...the latter is the prayer that is heard and for which I am accountable. Scary -- but only scary until I realize that The Listener is not taking notes and planning reprisals.


Nicely put.


A Minister told me once that the translation of 'The Lord's Prayer' is very simplified for the laity .


It is likely that the Gospels Teacher spoke at different levels to different devotees. From what I have observed, that is common practice everywhere in life. Kids in kindergarten are taught time with a Mickey Mouse watch, adults at MIT with an atomic clock and quantum physics. It isn't that the latter group is loved more by the Teacher than the former, rather that the capacity of the two groups to receive is different ... for now.

So, of course, it is possible that there is a "secret" Lord's Prayer, just as, some scholars think, there is a "secret" Mark which contains esoteric teachings not included in (or removed from) the canonical Mark.

But, except as a matter of curiosity (and I am curious), it is not an issue for me as a seeker. The particular beauty of the Gospels Teachings, as I read them, is that they speak clearly and relevantly to seekers at every level. They grow as I grow, their meaning expands as my understanding expands.

Here’s the thing. Everything I have learned and discovered and been shown along this path convinces me that there is no set of words, no secret handshake, no silver bullet, that catapults us from ignorance to Wisdom, from separative perspective to Self-Realization. Rather, it is a process of awakening to the reality of what is (Awakening to the Reality of What Is), to seeing What Is at it is in Truth. It is about perceiving and Seeing. In Chapter 11 of the Gita, there is a moment where Krishna shows Arjuna the Universe as it truly is, and what we learn there is precisely that the difference is not so much in the Thing itself as it is in the perception of the thing (for more on that, please see here). Just so, the Gospels Teacher tells us that the Truth (Kingdom) is within, but we don’t see it because we aren’t looking there. Being separatively inclined, we are always looking outward!

As regards the Our Father specifically, even as a youth it did not seem to me that the Teacher intended for us to pour it into concrete, but rather to take it as an expression of the nature and shape and direction prayer should take. Here again, I agree with w4. When the Teacher said something like, “pray like this”, which undoubtedly he did dozens of times, I don’t think he meant for us to turn on our tape recorders. But that’s exactly what we did, and continue to do. I have heard Teachers and Gurus say things just like that, and watched disciples and devotees furiously scribbling every word into their notebooks. They do it, of course, out of their abiding love and devotion for their Guru. But the result is that they later quote him or her in a way that binds themselves and any who listen to them in ways that I do not believe the Guru intended.

Consider this from the much maligned author Sam Harris:

Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything --
anything -- be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in.