Prayer is all about connectedness with God
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Whenever I write my column, I'm never sure whether a particular week's topic "has a prayer," so to speak. Clearly, judging by the responses I received to last week's column, that one did have a prayer.
As you may recall, Calgary coffee companion Jeff Perkins had forwarded to me an e-mail claiming that prayer is essentially a selfish practice in which the supplicant tries to twist God's arm to get his/her own way, and that really prayer is just a waste of time, anyway, since the one praying might better use the time "to actually do something positive."
I replied that true prayer is not about us twisting God's arm, but allowing God to twist ours. I recounted the story of the waitress who spent time every morning before work praying that God would bless the people who would sit at her tables during the day, and in so doing, she was yielding herself to God as His instrument of blessing to her guests.
Calgary physician Josie Wilson liked my response to Jeff. "The Lord's Prayer really only has one phrase asking for any material thing," she added, "and that is a very simple thing: 'our daily bread.'" (Indeed, the rest of the prayer deals not with material wants, but with our relationship with God, with each other, and with our inner selves.)
She also shared a quote from Benedictine meditation master John Main: "In meditative prayer we are not trying to manipulate God for our own purposes... We are rather discovering the wonder of His involvement in our life."
Judaica mentor Sandy Corenblum suggested God's involvement in our life our connectedness with God through prayer goes two ways:
Prayer "not only keeps us in touch with God; it helps Him to be in touch with us. It keeps us both connected," she wrote.
"In the Jewish tradition when we pray we often bless God. 'Now who are we to be blessing God?' one may ask. We say: 'Bless God who is blessed, Bless God who is blessed for eternity.' When we pray to Him it is as if to say: 'We are trying to take care of You in much the same way You are taking care of us.'
"We take a lot from God's cup, but if we do not bless Him and fill up His cup and reciprocate, then He will have little to give back to us. I believe as childish as it may seem that He is lonely without our love, our blessings and our prayer. We have to send it upwards in order for it all to come back down to us.
"We are all part of one chain. I think that when we sing 'I lift up my eyes to the mountains from where I gather my strength,' God sings 'I cast my eyes down to the earth to where I gather my strength!' He gave us His love so that we can give it back to Him, and it is an endless chain of giving. Prayer is not selfish; it is reciprocal.
"My prayer," Sandy said, "is for more people to pray for God so that He can continue to pray for us."
Cochrane author Michelle Schoffro Cook her third book, The 4 Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, is hot off the press also sees prayer as connectedness.
"Prayer can be a beautiful way to connect with God/the Universe/Higher Power while also remembering God's connection to us and to those for whom we pray," she wrote.
"Many fascinating studies have been conducted regarding the power of prayer, including a recent one by Harvard University scientists. These studies consistently show the healing power of prayer, even on plants. Every study that I have seen concludes that people heal from illness faster when they are prayed for and here's the clincher even when they have no knowledge of being prayed for!"
Twelve-step program enthusiast Colleen Chapman believes listening rests at the heart of connectedness.
"People who don't know about listening to God and striving to do what He wants us to do have no idea how very happy, contented and joyous their lives might become," she wrote. "I mostly pray the 11th Step simply asking [only] for knowledge of God's will for me and the power to carry it out. Wow, what a concept!"
Yes, "Wow," Colleen, "what a concept!" More about prayer next week.
© 2004 Warren Harbeck