Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Power of Prayer

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, guru,and founder of the Art of Living Foundation, asked a question about the experience of the power of prayer in Yahoo Answers. It was a question to the world, and has been receiving answers for 5 months. Over 10,000 people have answered with their experience of prayer. I decided to add mine to the growing number. The following is my response.

I have experienced the power of prayer in many situations in my life. Prayer is never ending; I try with God's help to live the practice of the presence of God. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, God is a part of it. My work then becomes prayer, and my relationships with others become prayer when I recognize God's presence within them.
When I experience nature, I am often filled with an overflowing sense of gratitude, joy, and love for God. My first memory of this kind of deep, powerful prayer was when I was younger than ten, and we were hiking in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. I am still overcome with gratitude every time I go back and visit those places. It can happen where I live now, the Mojave desert. The long views on clear days of ancient mountains bring to mind the smallness of each human person in relation to God, but each tiny short lived person is of utmost importance, and loved infinitely by God, and again I am filled with awe and gratitude and wonder.
It can happen when I am ill, and I think of the suffering of Jesus, when he gave his life for us, and when we don't understand his message. I join my suffering with his as a member of His body, and suddenly it is transformed into a good thing, the redemption of the world. For this I am also grateful. My suffering is made meaningful and does good for the whole world. When I feel helpless, I remember that in the long view, in God's time, all will be well, and it only requires that I have faith that God ordered the universe in such a way that each event, even though to a human's eye seems chaotic, is part of the dance of life, and I and my experience is part of it. For me, it is gratitude and an acceptance of things I can't change that is either the beginning or ending of powerful prayer. When I let go and accept whatever is happening with faith and hope, I find myself deep in prayerful union with Love.
It is prayer when I think of all those who suffer in the world from war, poverty, ignorance, illness, misunderstandings, personal and institutional injustice, to the petty meanness or spitefulness of some toward others, bigotry... all the ways that human beings hurt each other; and then I think of God's infinite love and concern for each of these people, and how God loves each of them and you and me so much he became one of us, walked among us, and showed us how to live and love as he does. And then he told us to do the same. When we do, performing works of mercy, that is prayer, and we become the hands and feet of God. It is through following him, having faith, and doing as he did that we find that we are indeed members of one body, brothers and sisters, adopted sons and daughters of God, who has shared his divinity with us. These thoughts and actions are transforming. The power of this kind of prayer is huge- it transforms me and the people I meet. I pray for the Spirit of God to pray in and through me, because without God's help I wouldn't know or do any of this. Again, just at the thought, I am filled with gratitude and joy. I pray that I grow in this every day, and that I can share even a little of it. God is good.