Thursday, April 18, 2019

You cannot swish through prayer...

Below is an excerpt from a visit with the cottage woman several decades ago, yet recorded then in the present tense. The italics are my musings on what she is saying. That spring day I needed insight into praying and its validity. Her wisdom, always simply put, seemed to inform me from a deeper or larger perspective and still does today.

At the end of that afternoon visit and just before she was to leave, I asked how I could pray more effectively.

Each person must be given space and time...

Before the cottage woman leaves, I need to ask about my uncle Ned. He is my mother's youngest brother and lives in Florida with his partner.  He tells me on the phone how much he enjoyed our family talks, during the previous summer. 

Now he has been diagnosed with throat cancer.  I have started praying for him but feel it is a feeble effort.  I also want to encourage him to visit again this summer.
 Nodding, this wise, old woman instructs, "You must continue to give him energy if he is to visit again. You still have an opportunity to work with his pain this summer, if he chooses, but he must be given the energy to do that.  You just listen.  If his energy drops low, you will pick it up." Really, praying lends him energy. Then maybe, I can lend him not only healing energy but also love and joy.

"Indeed, yet prayer is not effective if you swish through it." Oh, I know she is referring to my on-the-run prayers. Besides, I still don’t have confidence that my praying works.
"Yah indeed, prayer does not look tangible but it is, indeed, real." She continues, "Each person you pray for must be given a space and a time.  A mere second is not a fact.  Effective prayer is individual space given to each person one is praying for.  Scanning is not the same as focusing.  Take each person in their own turn.”

Attention and focus are what counts...

“Well, I am feeling uncomfortable about not praying as much as I should." It takes time to stop and pray.
 She bends closer and a wisp of hair falls past her ear.  "Good.  We are watching when you are uncomfortable. That awareness of being uncomfortable and knowing that we are here gets your attention.  That awareness is listening." This kind of listening is something she keeps trying to teach me in almost every visit.  "Effective intercession does not depend on time but on attention.  Your focus is what counts."

 Then she adds, "The person (Ned) has the need to know love.  At this point, he feels isolated, needs to talk, feels very misunderstood and feels not seen or heard."
Being several thousand miles away, I ask, "Who can help him?"
 "In part, the person who feels so moved.  Each can send love in their own way."

What has stuck with me over time are her words, "You cannot swish prayer" and the person that can help is "the one who feels so moved." The latter reminds me of Gregg Braden* when he asked a venerated, Tibetan monk in the highlands of Tibet, how did he pray? The answer was profoundly simple, "The feeling is the prayer."

That feeling is for whatever catches me and I relate too, be it young families separated at the border, sixty miles away, or maybe the feeling for the earth trying to rid itself of toxins. Thus, when the feeling is really there, I am constantly discovering, the prayer begins to pray itself.

*Braden is renown for his work in the study of science and spirituality which I have referred to in other writings.