Friday, November 13, 2015

Praying for One Another

- At the Desert Retreat House -

A few days ago someone approached me and asked if I would pray for her because she was having a medical problem. People ask me to pray for them all the time and I always honor their request but at the same time I am always conflicted about doing so.

For one thing when I pray for someone I never imagine that I am submitting petitions to  some heavenly superpower capable of either granting or denying the requests; and since I am a priest some people think that I have some sort of special influence with this super power who is more likely to honor my petition. But I never think of “God” as a supreme king holding court or superman in the sky who has power to control our lives, and the fact that I happen to be  an ordained person has nothing at all to do with my prayers being somehow better or more effective than someone else’s.

But I have an even more serious problem with petitioning "God” for my own needs or for the needs of others. In my experience when people make their divine requests they are often hurt and even angry if “God” doesn’t answer them favorably. They wonder why "God" ignored or denied their petition?  Did they do something wrong? Are they being punished?

So I am always conflicted when people ask me to pray for them; yet whenever I am asked to pray I always do so because I believe that praying for one another is not only important but it makes a difference. I just redefine what praying for one another actually means.

The other day I came across something priest and author, Richard Rohr, recently wrote about “how” pray works and “why” praying for others has effects. Rohr suggests that, when we move away from an image of God as a distant controlling power and redefine God as the abiding energy in whom everything and everyone is interconnected, the whole idea of “prayer” takes on a whole new perspective. The discoveries of today’s new scientists who talk about the principle of quantum entanglement may help us get a better idea of what “prayer” does.

All reality is nonlocal, in other words
things can affect one another despite distances or time space coordinates.
Nature is not composed of material substances but deeply entangled fields of energy.
The nature of the universe is undivided wholeness.

When we pray for one another, the prayer “disturbs” the entangled field of energy (like throwing a little pebble into a pond that ripples throughout the entire body of water.) “God” is the energy of universal love in whom we are all connected. Our prayer is a pebble thrown into that “field” of love.

So yes I do think we can and should pray for one another, and our prayers have effects- they stir up the energy, they make a difference. And the thing is that you can be an agnostic and even an atheist and still pray for others when you think of prayer in this way.

The ecologist John Muir once said:

Tug on anything at all and
you will find it connected to everything else in the universe.