Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Submitting Divine Petitions

- along a wilderness trail -

While browsing through Facebook yesterday afternoon I took notice of a posting in which someone was requesting prayers for her sick mother.  It wasn’t the request that caught my attention; rather I was struck by the responses to this request. In comment after comment people said things like, “my prayers are ascending for her,” someone else wrote, “petition submitted.” I wondered what it may mean when people say that their prayers are “ascending,” and where or how is a divine “petition submitted”?

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 "sending up" petitions to a heavenly superpower capable of either granting or denying the requests. I simply do not think of “God” as a supreme king holding court who has the power to control our lives.

Furthermore, in my experience, when people submit their divine requests they are sometimes hurt and even get angry if “God” doesn’t answer them favorably. They wonder why “God” ignored or denied their petition?  Did they do something wrong or are they being punished?

On the other hand, whenever someone asks me to pray for them, I always do so, and I also believe that praying for someone really does makes a difference. I just redefine what praying for one another actually means.

A while back I came across something priest and author, Richard Rohr, once wrote about how prayer works and why praying for others is effective. Rohr observed that, when we move away from an image of God as a distant controlling power and redefine God as the abiding energy in which everything and everyone is interconnected and woven together, the whole idea of “prayer” takes on a new perspective.  He suggested that the discoveries of today’s new scientists who talk about the principle of quantum entanglement may help us get a far better idea of what “prayer” actually 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.

It may sound a bit too “new age” for some people, and it is certainly not a traditional understanding of prayer, but as I see it, 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 and our prayer is a pebble thrown into that interwoven “field” of love.

So yes I do think we can and should pray for one another, and our prayers do have effects. Prayers are disturbing, they send out positive energy into a dynamically interconnected cosmos and this always makes a difference.

Yesterday, when I read that post on Facebook, I prayed for that person who was ill.

As I think about it, it also seems to me that you can be probably be an agnostic and maybe 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.

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