LET'S PRAY ABOUT THAT
This is going to be a very powerful month for Unity of Castro Valley because each week, we will address real life - human life - issues using our Unity principles and adding in wisdom from Gregg Braden's book Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer.
We will kick off the month with this statement: "Let's Pray About That." And what is "that?" you ask. "That" is anything.
Whatever is going on in your life, whatever opportunities have presented themselves to you, whatever life challenges you may be facing, whatever decisions are awaiting your discovery, wherever you are in your life right now, today we will pray about it following the guidance offered by what Gregg Braden refers to as the First Secret of the Lost Mode of Prayer.
Since our theme is prayer, I want to begin with a little story about prayer.
In a small Texas town, a new tavern business started constructing a building in which to open up a bar. The local church began a campaign to block the bar. They circulated petitions and held several prayer vigils. Every Sunday morning in their church service, they would pray that this tavern not be built.
Work on the tavern progressed, however, right up until the week before opening, when lightning struck, and it burned to the ground.
The church folks were rather smug in their outlook until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the destruction of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means.
In its response to the lawsuit, the church strongly denied all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise.
As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing, he commented,
"I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but it appears from the paperwork that we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that doesn't."
Well, we are a church congregation that absolutely believes in the power of prayer.
In fact, Ernest Holmes says in The Science of Mind: "No class of people on earth believes more in prayer than we do. Our whole theory is based not only on the belief in Spirit, but in the availability of It - Its immediate response. We even go so far as to say in everyday language: 'Pray right and God cannot help responding.'a" So what does it mean to "pray right?"
Well, that gets right to the First Secret of the Lost Mode of Prayer, and to introduce it, I want to read a passage from the book. It's a little long, but written so beautifully and speaks to the point so perfectly, I want to read it to you. So consider this story time.
"I was reeling from what I'd just heard. The cold from the stone floor beneath my knees had found its way through the dampness of the two layers of clothing that I'd worn that morning. Each day on the Tibetan plateau is both summer and winter: summer in the direct high-altitude sun; and winter as the sun disappears behind the jagged peaks of the Himalayas . . . or behind the high temple walls like those that surrounded me. It felt as if there was nothing between my skin and the ancient stones on the floor beneath me, yet I couldn't leave. This was the reason why I'd invited 20 others to join me in a journey that led us halfway around the world. On this day, we found ourselves in some of the most remote, isolated, magnificent, and sacred places of knowledge remaining on Earth today: The monasteries of the Tibetan plateau.
"For 14 days we'd acclimated our bodies to altitudes of more than 16,000 feet above sea level. We'd crossed an icy river in hand-hewn wooden barges, and driven for hours peering at one another over our surgical masks, which acted as filters for the dust that floated through the floorboards of our vintage Chinese bus. Although the bus seemed as old as the temples themselves, our translator assured me that it wasn't! Holding on to the seats around us, and even on to one another, we had braced ourselves over washed-away bridges and roadless desert, as we were jarred from the inside out, just to be in this very place in this precise moment. I thought, 'Today is not about being warm. Today is a day of answers.'
"I focused my attention directly into the eyes of the beautiful and timeless-looking man seated lotus-style in front of me: the abbot of the monastery. Through our translator, I'd just asked him the same question that I'd asked each monk and nun that we'd met throughout our pilgrimage: 'When we see your prayers,' I began, 'What are you doing? When we see you tone and chant for 14 and 16 hours a day, when we see the bells, the bowls, the gongs, the chimes, the mudras, and the mantras on the outside, what is happening to you on the inside?'
"As the translator shared the abbot's reply, a powerful sensation rippled through my body and I knew that this was the reason we'd come to this place. 'You have never seen our prayers,' he answered, 'because a prayer cannot be seen.' Adjusting the heavy wool robes beneath his feet, the abbot continued. 'What you have seen is what we do to create the feeling in our bodies. Feeling is the prayer!'
"The clarity of the abbot's answer sent me reeling. His words echoed the ideas that had been recorded in ancient Gnostic and Christian traditions more than 2,000 years ago. In early translations of the biblical book of John (chapter 16, verse 24, for example), we're invited to empower our prayers by being surrounded by [feeling] our desires fulfilled, just as the abbot suggested: 'Ask without hidden motive and be surrounded by your answer.' For our prayer to be answered, we must transcend the doubt that often accompanies the positive nature of our desire.
"If the wisdom was that consistent over such vast periods of time, then it must be useful to us, even today! Using nearly identical language, both the abbot and the scrolls were describing a form of prayer that has been largely forgotten in the West."b
Holmes knew this when he wrote in The Science Of Mind: "Feeling is at the center of the Universe and, when reflected through our consciousness, sheds its glow wherever the thought travels. Law governs its action and God Himself fulfills its promise."c
And that, according to Braden, is the First Secret of the Lost Mode of Prayer -- feeling is the prayer.
I want to give you a concrete example of this from Braden's book.
It was a time of extreme drought in the high deserts of northern New Mexico and Braden's native friend David invited him to an ancient stone circle to "pray rain."
After meeting at the agreed upon location, they took an early morning hike for a couple of hours to a place that David had been to many times before and knew very well.
It was an earthen circle made of stones arranged in perfect geometries of lines and arrows, just the way the hands of its maker had placed them long ago. "What is this place?" Braden asked.
"This is the reason we have come." David said. "This stone circle is a medicine wheel that has been here for as long as my people can remember." He continued, "The wheel itself has no power. It serves as the place of focus for the one invoking the prayer. Today we will pray rain."
With that, David removed his shoes, and placed his feet into the circle. After honoring the four directions, he slowly placed his hands in front of his face in a prayer position, closed his eyes and became motionless. His breathing slowed down to being almost imperceptible.
But after only a few moments, he took a deep breath, opened his eyes and said "Let's go. Our work is finished here."
Braden was surprised. He was expecting to see dancing or at least some chanting! And it ended so quickly. "Already? I thought you were going to pray for rain," Braden said.
"No," David said as he sat on the ground lacing his shoes, "I said that I would pray rain. If I had prayed for rain, it could never happen."d
You see, prayers FOR rain empower drought. When we ask for something to happen, we give power to what is not.
So if David didn't pray for rain, what did he do in the middle of that medicine wheel for just a few moments?
Simple: He began to have the feeling of what rain felt like. He felt the rain on his body and he felt himself standing with his feet in the mud of his village plaza because there had been so much rain. He smelled rain on the earthen walls in the village and felt what it feels like to walk through fields of corn chest high because there had been so much rain. And following his prayer of rain, he felt appreciation and thanksgiving. This is how he prayed rain.
"Feeling is the prayer," the Tibetan abbot had said, paralleling the teachings of the great masters from the Native American, as well as the Christian and Jewish, traditions. How powerful. How beautiful! How simple!
Braden writes: "Feeling is the language that the Mind of God recognizes. Feeling is the language that David used to invite rain to the desert. Because it happens in a way that's so straightforward and so literal, it's easy to see why we may have believed that this principle would be more complicated than it really is. It's just as easy to see how we could have missed it altogether."e
But in New Thought, we haven't missed it. We know this, even if we don't always practice it!
Christian Larson in The Pathway of Roses, wrote: "And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me. And I know that thou hearest me always. - John 11:41f This beautiful statement was given before the answer to the prayer was received and is therefore an illustration of the very highest form of supreme faith. To thank God after you have received what you asked for is simple; any heart can, at such a time, be full of sublime gratitude, but to thank God before you have received what you intend to ask for, and feel the fullness of that gratitude thrill every fibre in your entire being - that is spirituality indeed. Likewise, to be able to say that you know that God hears you always; only the mind that is in the spirit can make such a statement and pray in this manner, but that alone is real prayer."g
What our feelings do is made really clear in an analogy in another Braden book, The Isaiah Effect. The section is entitled "The Soup of all Creation"h.
Here's the concept: The soup of creation exists as a state of possibilities, all of the components for all of the things that we could ever conceive of and beyond, including life itself, exist as this state of possibility. Although the components are there to build them, unless there is a trigger to nudge them into motion, nothing happens.
The idea is similar to creating rock candy from a jar of water saturated with sugar. We may place many tablespoons of sugar into the water and watch as the sugar dissolves and disappears. Though we no longer see the sugar, we know there are several tablespoons hidden somewhere in the water.
The sugar remains invisible until something comes along and changes the conditions of the water. There needs to be a catalyst. In this case, the catalyst is a string placed in the water. As the sugar laden water seeps into the string, it evaporates, leaving behind the sugar, making rock candy.
When we create feelings about the things that we choose to experience in our world, our feelings are like the string in the sugar solution. Into the infinite possibilities of creation, we place a feeling picture, which is the catalyst for a new possibility.
That's the definition of "mental equivalent," by the way.
The key is to put your energy where you want to go, not where you don't want to go. And if you can't get it to where you want to go, at least get it out of worry and doubt. Do something to shift - music, dance, pets, funny movie, etc.
In Secrets, Braden simply states: "Through this quality of feeling, the ancients believed that we're given direct access to the power of creation: the Spirit of God."i
I want to give you another example.
During World War II, a US marine was separated from his unit on a Pacific island. The fighting had been intense, and in the smoke and the crossfire, he had lost touch with his troupe. Alone in the jungle, he could hear enemy soldiers coming in his direction.
Scrambling for cover, he found his way up a high ridge to several small caves in the rock. Quickly he crawled inside one of the caves. Although safe for the moment, he realized that once the enemy soldiers swept up the ridge, they would quickly search all the caves and he would be found and most surely be killed.
As he waited, he decided to pray. And as he prayed, a feeling of protection came over him. He simply felt himself being completely and totally protected by God. The fear dissipated. He knew; he just knew he would be ok.
After praying, he lay quietly listening to the enemy begin to draw close, and once again fear welled up inside of him. He even thought, "Well, I guess God isn't going to help me out of this one." Anyone ever do this? We have a moment of absolutely clarity and a total feeling of conviction, only to have the fear creep right back in?
And what do we know to do? Go back and pray/feel again. So he did and as he did, he noticed a spider beginning to build a web over the front of his cave.
As he watched, listening to the enemy searching for him all the while, the spider layered strand after strand of web across the opening of the cave.
"Ha," he thought. "What I need is a brick wall and God sends me a spider web. God certainly does have a sense of humor." But right next to this thought was a sense of calm; a feeling that he, in fact, would be ok.
As the enemy drew closer he watched from the darkness of his hideout and could see them searching one cave after another. As they came to his, a moment of fear crept in again, but then something astonishing happened. After glancing in the direction of his cave, they moved on.
Suddenly, he realized that with the spider web over the entrance, his cave looked as if no one had entered for quite a while. With that realization, his heart was filled with overwhelming gratitude!
You see, he had forgotten that in God, a spider's web is stronger than a brick wall.
So, my friends, take a moment right now to think of something that you'd like to experience in your life - anything. It may be the healing of a physical condition for yourself or for someone else, abundance for your family, finding the perfect person to share your life with, clarity around a decision, the easy and grace-filled unfoldment of an opportunity you have before you. Or, if you can think of nothing right now, use church growth.
Whatever you're thinking of, rather than asking for it to become present in your life, feel as though it has already happened.
Breathe deeply and feel the fullness of your prayer fulfilled in every detail in every way. . . . Now, feel the gratitude for what your life is like with this prayer already answered. . . And so it is.
aErnest Holmes The Science of Mind p. 283
bGregg Braden Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer pp. 4-7
cErnest Holmes The Science of Mind, p. 414
dGregg Braden Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer p. 10
eGregg Braden Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer p. 18
gChristian Larson The Pathway of Roses, p. 181
hGreg Braden The Isaiah Effect p. 157
iGregg Braden Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer p. 2