The title of this blog is a little deceiving, I’ll admit. The question of why God doesn’t answer prayer is a flawed question; in fact, all prayer is answered. You may have heard the answer’s either “yes, no, or wait.” I think that’s a little over-simplified! Ernest Holmes says
IF GOD EVER ANSWERED PRAYER, HE ALWAYS ANSWERS PRAYER, since He is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” If there seems to be any failure, it is in man’s ignorance and misunderstanding of the Will and Nature of God.
I’d like to share some things I have read recently that may shed a little more light on prayer. I believe we don’t get the answers we want for a few reasons. This isn’t a complete list or the ultimate treatise on prayer, just a few thoughts of today!
We think God is moody. Some of us have picked up some pretty strange beliefs from our upbringing. One of these is that God is a big, grumpy man up there somewhere, and some days he’s happy to oblige our requests, and some days he’s impossible to please. This is very unfortunate, and this personified view of God makes us think of him more like Grandpa that God. So we start to relate to God in this way, and treat him like an ordinary person. But God is a Force… Spirit… Love. Not a “being” to be pandered to. We work with God to create our reality; if our reality is something we are really unhappy with, we should think about why we made such a situation. We can’t just blame God and call him grumpy.
It would be difficult to believe in a God who cares more for one person than another. There can be no God who is kindly disposed one day and cruel the next; there can be no God who creates us with tendencies and impulses we can scarcely comprehend, and then eternally pushes us when we make mistakes. God is a Universal Presence, an impersonal Observer, a Divine and impartial Giver, forever pouring Himself into His Creation.
– Ernest Holmes, from The Science of Mind
We manipulate God. This activity one comes from point #1 — the belief that God is inconsistent makes us want to manipulate God like a Mighty Parent to get our way. This doesn’t work for so many reasons! I’ve been manipulated a little lately, and I’ve had the opportunity to see it very clearly for what it is — the person manipulating is doing it because he/she thinks they don’t have enough. It comes from a belief in lack, or sometimes injustice. Which leads me to think that we tend to manipulate God when we believe in lack in some aspect of ourselves or our lives. And as long as we believe in lack, or injustice, that’s what we’ll get.
We think God is far away. We plead and plead, pray the same thing over and over, sometimes getting physically louder and louder, when we believe that God is far away. He might not hear us! Nothing could be farther from the truth (forgive the pun)! There is absolutely no distance between you and God; Spirit is Omnipresent. God truly is everywhere, in everything and everyone. Perhaps if you’re repeating yourself and feeling like you aren’t being heard, it’ll help you to think more about God’s omnipresence, or perhaps you are repeating a prayer because you are trying to convince someone other than God — yourself. (That’s a topic for another day!)
So ultimately, if we feel God isn’t answering our prayer, the solution isn’t praying more or louder. It’s not as simple as needing more faith; take a look at your thoughts and attitudes that hinge on your faith. It could be you’re praying for something you already have (or already have the power to have, if only you will recognize it), like praying for happiness. If you get quiet and meditate, the answer will come to you. Rev. Patrick Cameron often says “I don’t know, but something within me does know” and I like that thought!
The Spirit within me does not long for anything. It is free, safe, and satisfied. There is no sense of insecurity or of inferiority. I am not seeking to avoid anything. I am conscious of my ability to meet every situation. There is neither depression nor discouragement in my mental outlook on life. I do not look to anything outside myself to give me pleasure, comfort or certainty. I do not long for anything and I am not afraid of anything. My whole inner being is conscious of its unity with God, of its oneness with Spirit. There is no pleasure in intemperance, nor can it offer any suggestion of happiness to me…”
Wow. I wonder how I would treat people I encounter if I said that to myself every morning? Differently, I think. I had a challenging day today, and I wish I had read this in the morning… might have changed the outcome a little (although I was still quite positive and level-headed, despite some schtuff that happened. )
Remember I mentioned that this really spoke to me? Well, the paragraph is about intemperance, which I thought meant having a bad temper. But I wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d better look it up, just to be sure. I was wrong — intemperance is an expression for “immoderate indulgence of bodily appetites, specifically, drinking of alcoholic liquors.” Hmmm. A blurb about alcoholism spoke to me? I’m far from being an alcoholic (and not in denial, don’t worry), so what’s going on? Well, I might have other addictions, so… hmmm…
This is the second part of the paragraph — a-ha, it is all about habits!
I now see this habit for exactly what it is, an illusion, which seeks to force me to believe that there is some power outside myself which can give me either pleasure or pain. I do not anticipate such pleasure, nor is there any suggestive power in this habit which can cause me to believe that it has ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, given me pleasure. I am forever free from this thought, and from its effects. I do not will myself free from this habit, rather I perceive this habit is neither person, place nor thing. Having no law to operate, it cannot function. Having no intelligence of its own, it cannot suggest. Having no mind, it cannot will. I am now forever free from the mistaken belief that it was ever a thing of itself. I see it as forever separated from my real self, forever divorced from my imagination, thought and conviction. I am free now.”
That would be powerful against alcoholism! It will work on chocoholism, too, I think.
The paragraph above is actually a prayer treatment. A prayer treatment (or affirmative prayer) is something that you say, out loud, somewhat like a regular prayer, except it is more affirmative and “treats” you for a specific set of false-thinking you are stuck in. It’s a little like self-hypnosis, something you tell yourself so that you can change how you think, but affirmative prayer also lets God/Spirit help you in that area.
This prayer treatment comes from Ernest Holmes’ book The Science of Mind. Now maybe you think this is just too close to scientology or (what you feel are) other “quack” religions, not what you choose to believe. I hope you can see the wisdom in the words even if you don’t quite understand or agree with the source. For a little more info, click here. I will not try to convince or convert you, ever. Believe whatever you want to believe, but be aware that what you choose to believe and think shapes your reality! Aaah, this reminds me of my book! I am essentially finished writing it, although I need a cover design and some artwork done, then I really need to work on publishing it! Next year! Seriously, I’ll work on it in January when I have more time.
It just hit me one day, not long ago — I am a pipe! I’m not a valve or a pump, I’m just a simple conduit!
I don’t need to work really hard, or pray really fervently (pump). It’s not up to me to decide who will receive a blessing today (turn on or off like a valve). I am just a pipe — always in the right place at the right time to do exactly whatever is in front of me, whatever will bless or encourage or lift up someone around me. There’s no struggling, no thinking “oh, I’ve got to try really hard to be God’s special servant today;” I am not a pump for Spirit. There’s no deciding who to be kind to, and no “turning on the power;” I am not a valve. I am a conduit and all I have to do is be wherever I am, be conscious and alert. I suppose I wouldn’t be any good if I got clogged, or sprung a leak… “Getting clogged” would be trying to keep God’s blessings all to myself, as if there aren’t enough to go around. “Springing a leak” would be letting Spirit, or blessings, go in a direction other than the one I’m pointed in… like trying to be somewhere I’m not, wishing I were somewhere else right now (we all do that sometimes, don’t we?). But it’s not a serious problem because it’s not like I’m going to waste blessings — there’s always plenty more where that came from!
And the other cool thing: everything is a blessing! It’s not like “being a blessing to someone” is hard! It’s just being a little caring, kind, or thoughtful. Smiling when someone says good morning, and even letting someone be kind to me, or compliment me, graciously accepting it and absorbing it. Have you ever tried to give someone a gift who refuses to accept it? Not much fun in that, is there?
And believing that I am always in the right place at the right time takes so much pressure off! I don’t need to rush to be here or there, I am already exactly where I am supposed to be!
So that’s all! In the beautiful fountain of life, I am a pipe, not a pump or a valve. I simply conduct the good that the Universe wants to pour out on everyone!
Simple like borcht.
Like travel agents,
Handing out brochures for places
They’ve never been,
They speak of God’s love,
Grace and mercy.
Those who spend too much time
Still focusing on earning salvation—
Faith without works is dead, you know—
Believing that grace is really only needed
By hookers and drug dealers.
But oh, how wrong they are!
Grace and Love flow
Like rain in a downpour,
Like water in the ocean,
Like air in our lungs.
From the lowest to the highest
We’re all the same in God’s eyes,
And we’re all drenched in Love.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
One day it struck me that evangelists are a bit like used car salesmen. So I wrote this poem. Far better to experience Love and keep your mouth shut, than to try to sell something you don’t really know about.
I received the most beautiful gift just now! I was coming home from work, walking out to my car, and looked up. What an amazing display of aurora! It was faint across most of the sky, with the stars in the background, but then as I turned around, I saw a wonderful bright band towards the west–a ribbon of dancing, shimmering energy! Wow! I know, I shouldn’t be this excited; I’ve seen displays like this before, but it takes my breath away every time! I was mesmerized, and wanted it to never end.
Seeing the awesomeness of the northern lights reminds me of God–how can it not? It is so amazing, awe-inspiring… I am at a loss for words! I just start trying to think up more synonyms for “awesome.” I guess that’s what God’s power is like–awesome beyond words! He created the universe, and although it is unimaginably vast, he’s found in every part of it… so huge, yet found in the smallest snowflake or tiny amoeba. There is order throughout all of nature (although it might look chaotic on the surface), and that’s a clue about his nature and power, too, I think. Very orderly, yet with lots of room for creativity and unstructured beauty. It’s interesting how so many things are symmetrical, like basically all flowers and animals, but also things like matter and anti-matter (and many other particles), and the galaxy, although not perfectly so. The solar system isn’t really symmetrical, since all the bigger planets are farther away… but when you learn some planetary dynamics, and how solar systems are formed, then it makes sense too. So, much of his creation is nice and orderly.
And then there’s us humans. We aren’t very orderly (although at least we are symmetrical). We are mean when we should be kind, thoughtless when we should be attentive, blunt when we should use tact… We don’t seem to be very good examples of God’s nature at all, do we!! Well, there’s a reason for that! For all God’s power, there is just one thing he cannot do: He cannot interfere with the free will he’s given us. That’s what makes us different from most of his other creations (the jury’s still out on Chimpanzees and cats). He can break any other law he wants, the laws he created, like the laws of physics, or chemistry (although he doesn’t do that terribly often), but he cannot break the law of free will. We can choose to do whatever we want–to be whatever we want. If we’ve chosen to be miserable, God cannot make us happy. To force happiness on us would take away our free will, and that’s simply impossible, even for a second. If we want to be happy deep down inside but don’t know how, that’s different! That he can help us with, because he sees our hearts, our deepest desires, our unspoken needs. But that’s getting into his omniscience, and that’s a topic for another day! So, we should take this gift of free will seriously and be careful about what we choose!
Hope you’re enjoying my “ideas about God” series!
P.S. I usually try to post only pictures that I have taken, but I don’t have any of the northern lights. Not yet… The pic below is from NOAA POES satellite (http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/pmap/) showing areas of intense electrical activity in the atmosphere! Red is most intense, and this view from space, generated by many satellite passes, is superimposed on a map of Earth. It’s pretty easy to see Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes, and of course, I’m not that far from Great Slave. Overall activity today is 8 out of 10!
I think a lot of people who believe in God don’t really believe in his omnipresence. Omnipresence means that God is everywhere–that there is nowhere, in space or time, where God is not. But many people don’t seem to believe this at all. Let me explain.
It’s easy to see God in good, beautiful things! Sunrises, sunsets, delicate flowers, the Milky Way… It’s also easy to believe that God might be found in good people. In bad people, people who are rude, selfish, criminal or evil–not so likely! But maybe you’ve even realized that we’re all human and as such, we’re all capable of being rude or selfish, but equally capable of being kind and loving. All the potential for good is in every person; not everyone has realized that potential or made any use of it! This is an awesome revelation! But what about people seen as truly evil?
Let’s discuss the idea of good and evil. You may have been taught that there is good and evil in the universe; God is good and Satan is evil. The two are at war and although God is more powerful, Satan is not to be trifled with. (God is trifled with all the time, and often treated with less respect than “forces of evil.”) You may have also been taught that God is holy and therefore cannot mingle with evil things (like sinners, demons and the like). Heck, sinners and demons are almost the same thing in some people’s eyes! Anyways, I think the idea of God being separate from evil comes from the Old Testament, where God lived in the tabernacle, in the holiest of holy places, where only the high priest could go, and he could not come in contact with unholy things! Talk about putting God in a box! Anyways, if he can’t be near unholy things, what does that leave? Isn’t everything that isn’t him unholy? So does that mean he can’t be anywhere?!?
Do you see the problem? Well, what if I suggest that there are no unholy things. Or, removing the double negative, that everything is holy. So, God truly is everywhere and in everything, including demons. Now you might be saying “whoa there, Teresa, you’re jumping off the deep end!” Well, I guess I have, because I no longer believe in demons in the traditional sense–that they are pure evil, battling God for control of the world. In fact, I’ve come to believe there’s no such thing as pure evil either, but rather see demons as lost souls, beings that have gone astray, who need to know God loves them just as much as you or I need to know. Crazy? I don’t think so. As long as you believe in evil and good–two polar opposites in the universe–you can’t believe that God is everywhere (unless God is evil, but that’s crazy). So what do you want to believe:
1. that God is omnipresent and good is everywhere in the universe
2. that evil exists and God is not in it (therefore God is not omnipresent)
3. that God is evil (please don’t pick #3)!
Whatever you choose will colour all your other beliefs about God–and life–so think carefully! By the way, it’s not that I believe there are no bad influences, un-loving people or negative situations, just that these things aren’t inherently bad or evil. In other words, at the core, the essence of everything is good. Including me! My soul is good! And it’s totally untouchable by evil, because evil is not real. It’s eternal and full of love, and that brings me a lot of peace.