Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Calculated Risks of Prayer (Part 1 of 4)

Virtually all people, all cultures throughout the planet have some form of prayer. Perhaps you are, like me, a religious scientist who uses a form of prayer called “spiritual mind treatment”. Have you ever given any thought to the risk of having your prayers or treatments answered? You might ask how there could be any risk at all? Before I speak to that, let’s look at prayer and treatment.

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There are several kinds of prayer, but most are offered up with the hope of comfort or assurance. Spiritual mind treatment usually involves five steps that are adapted to the reason for the treatment. The more traditional kind of prayer that most Christians use includes the three elements of confession, petition and thanksgiving.

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When we talk about confession, many people think of admitting sins to a priest or coming clean to a law enforcement officer. Confession can also simply acknowledging where we are. Being brutally honest with ourselves about where we are at any given time is the first step to changing our experience. Anyone involved in a 12-step program of any kind will tell you admitting where we are is a key element in recovery.

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To petition usually means to us that we are asking someone for something. Another meaning is “to seek”. In treatment we do not beg God to answer our prayers, but rather seek to understand our circumstances and align our thinking in a more positive way. We are not petitioning Spirit to give us something, but rather seeking the truth and wisdom within us. Treatment positively states what we desire to be and affirms that we are willing to accept it.

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Finally, thanksgiving or rejoicing is the way most people end a treatment and traditional Christianity gives thanks to Jesus Christ. The Hebrew scriptures of the Bible are filled with stories about how the Israelites rejoiced with song, dancing and celebration when the nation believed the God Jehovah had blessed them. It’s just my personal opinion and judgment, but it seems like so many wonderful people who call themselves Christians often fail to rejoice in the blessings God pours out upon them for fear that they are not living up to the appearance of being modest and humble. I think that’s sad….but, I digress….

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So here is Risk #1: We can beat ourselves up if we think our prayer is not answered or that treatment “didn’t work”. If this happens we run the risk of falling into guilt or shame of a toxic nature. The prayer or the treatment did not cause these emotions, but they can easily be blamed for them.

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Spiritual mind treatment differs from traditional prayer because of the power of treatment. It is also dissimilar in the amount of personal responsibility we take for the outcome. A caution in being a religious scientist or any metaphysician is that because we do take responsibility for our lives we can easily blame ourselves when things do not go the way we expect them to turn out. This is the difference between believing in a God that punishes or rewards based on our behalf compared to the belief that we live in a “user-friendly universe” that only says “yes” to our desires. If we believe the latter, we might think that we “didn’t treat right” or it was our entire fault we did not get what we wanted, i.e., if God only says “yes” and something did not work out, then we must have blocked the goodness of the Universe.

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So what do you think of Part #1 in the Calculated Risks of Prayer? Let me know! Email me at: panewthoughtcenter@gmail.com, or make comments here in the blog. Until next week with the next risk: Seeing Ourselves as We Really Are.

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Happy Easter, Blessed Ostara and Good Passover – The Season of Resurrection and Rebirth!

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Dr. Terry

4 comments:

Barry Nazar said...

Since Terry placed a label in this part, "Risk #1," it may be a little premature to add a thought at this stage, but ... (anyway)

I think engaging in prayer puts at risk, everything. When an artist sets out to create a work, he lays himself "on the line." That is, the artist's creation is an expression of his being. However it turns out, it is a statement of, and about, the artist. If it turns out badly, well, Amen.

The same goes with prayer. It's a deliberate connection between ourselves and the Creator of the universe. And how we set that relationship defines who we are. What could be more daunting than that?

Presumably, if we are "holding hands with God," we should be enormous. But few of us have the faith or courage to reckon with that. So, we opt for something a lot smaller, supposedly something safer. So, we make ourselves smaller than we really are. We pray our way into diminutiveness.

What could be more insulting to God Almighty. We say, on the one hand, my dearest ally is the Creator of the Universe. But I feel small and weak, nevertheless.

Or, worse still, we pray toward big stuff, but secretly have doubts about whether this will be so. In effect, we say, my dearest ally is God Almighty, but I don't know if I can really count on Him. Or, more plainly, He is not a trustworthy ally.

Or, sometimes we pray with a hedge on the request. We say, this is what I want, but I'm leaving it up to You to decide if that is what is best. In effect, here we are saying, I think you are greatest, but I don't really know you.

A prayer is an affirmation and it risks having exactly what it affirms. If we say, "I want to win the lottery." That is exactly what we get; "wanting to win the lottery." If we pray in humbleness, we get humbleness. If we pray with doubts, we get doubt. If we pray with uncertainty, we get uncertainty.

So, again I say, praying risks it all. We put our being on the line. All prayer is answered, and that is the big risk.

Terry said...

Barry makes a good point about being "enormous" when dealing with a higher power. My late friend Don (who was an artist) said that are prayers are sometimes like asking God to paint a picture for us on an 8x10 canvas with one brush and two colors, when the Universe wants to paint a mural for us on the side of a building with more colors than we can imagine.

CindyLous News said...

Something we've been studying lately - okay had pointed out to us - is how far below the possibilities we are operating! Jesus said,"These things I do you will do also and greater works." Signs and wonders should be following us! Miracles should be a daily occurence in our presence because we bring the presence of God!
We are wrong to pray for things such as winning the lottery bcause God said, "Seek ye the Kingdom of God and all things shall be added." He knew us before we were born! He knows that a pile of money will not bring happiness! Being debt-free feels great. But it still doesn't bring happiness. Happiness is an inside job!

I love your analogy about the 8X10 canvas and two colors!

Walter Shatto said...

Barry comments that prayer puts everything at risk. This is true to the point of everything we think we are. Only the Lord understands the range of who we truly are. What we think always has limitations. Prayer needs to be a constant effort of always seeking his revealings, this is the only way we experience constant growth and pressure our boundaries of limitations.

The Lord has confidence in us, but we do need to trust in him unconditionally. After all we are made in his image, who are we to think we can make something better of our selves than that.

Calvin has said, "So long as we resist looking beyond ourselves toward God, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue."

To resist looking beyond ourselves in prayer seeking His revelations is to grow inward and restricted.