Small Seeds: Experimenting with Prayer and Hope
Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week
Limit screentime, especially if it is COVID or election related. Of course we want to know what is happening with the pandemic. And many of us are worried about the coming election and its aftermath, so we want news there too. However, many forms of media are designed to be addictive. Like TV. Our phones. Social media. So it is hard to not to overdo. We can get our circuits overloaded all too easily. Way overloaded.
So do try to tear yourself away from the screens in your life for some alternative favorite activity--for me that could be cooking, taking a walk with my husband, reading novels or, I confess, watching Shawn the Sheep videos. Check out the Index of all toolkits for other ideas.
(This tool is from the first Toolkit, slightly edited.)
Experimenting with Prayer
In these anxious times, I have to admit that my prayers and thoughts have gotten more anxious. In these contentious times I think they may have gotten more contentious as well. Perhaps even combative on occasion.
Not that the God of my understanding can't handle all these feelings and ways of being. But they are not healthy for me. All those stress hormones flying around. All those fight/flight reactions.
And recently I have come to suspect that they don't get the job done very well either--the ultimate "job" of prayer, which in my opinion is healing, reconciliation and re-connection for all of us, with each other and with God (or the Universe, Higher Power, Higher Self or the Good Big Thing--whatever works for you).
Prayer to me is a very intimate activity. When I pray I am expressing who I am, my deepest longings for myself and my loved ones, for the world and for those who suffer--and every once in a while, even for my enemies.
This intimacy with self is also, in a deeper way, intimacy with God. A time of being and connection, sometimes with words, sometimes without.
Just as it is hard to connect with a friend or family member if I am tense and stressed, I find it hard to connect with myself and with God when I am all squenched up with fear or anxiety or anger. Hard to receive the grace I need to live a hopeful, centered and compassionate life. God can work around that squenching but everything goes a little--or a lot--easier without it.
I have been tending, I realized, to pray against people: "Dear God! Those people who don't seem to get your modes of mercy and humility--make them understand!" Or "Those who use violence, who lie, who try to use power selfishly--wake them up, get them to see their ways are wrong. Make them stop!" (I usually pray more specifically than that but since I generally try to keep this blog non-sectarian, so to speak, I'm not mentioning any names!)
While the desires behind those prayers, to increase sanity and safety in the world, are totally reasonable, for me they are often come out of fear or anger. And I expect those negative modes may be self-replicating, just like a virus.
If prayer is intimate then perhaps in some way I also telegraph my state of hope or fear to those I pray for. If, as Carl Jung thought, we are all deeply connected on subconscious, unconscious levels, what is going out as I pray is not just the words but the feelings, the modes of being. So praying against people or movements, tends to not only come from a place of fear but to increase that fear, in me and perhaps in others.
Recently I've been getting nudges and invitations to chose someone or something to pray towards. So I've been experimenting.
Why not try aligning myself mentally and spiritually with someone who is increasing love in the world, or someone who is helping dreams come true, or who is supporting children who are suffering? Or someone who writes or paints or sings from a base of hope? Why not support that love?
Why not find a home in the heart of the God of my understanding, then from that place think of people who are living their lives in love and service, and pray for them? Why not participate in the Good Big Thing and then reach out from those places to join with those are living out grace? Maybe I can think of it as helping to load up or staff a supply train for hope workers.
I know I feel more calm, and more hope, when I do that compared to when I pray "against" someone or something.
There's a verse in the New Testament I've always been drawn to that fits here. "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things" (Philippians 4:8). And then lean and pray towards those who are living those things out.
Maybe it's like casting a vote for healing and reconciliation. One vote may not appear to make a difference. But if many of us cast votes for justice, mercy and humility with our ballots, our bodies, our actions and our souls, I think we can help bring about change.
Until next time,
Photo and illustration credits:
X'd-out Screen, unknown
Woman with hand on heart, Darius Bashar, unSplash
Babies touching, Alona Kraft, unSplash
Mother and daughter, Eye for Ebony, unSplash
Climbing towards the light, Hillie Chan, unSplash