What is prayer but affirming perfection?
There is only one thing going on–and it is God. God is absolute and from this perspective the world is perfect. Awakening is the realization that “all is well” even if in my limited perspective it does not appear to be so. All things that helps me align with this perfection is prayer
One of my earliest memories is of my father teaching me how to pray. I was adopted at age three and he must have taught me shortly after I came to live with them. I remember him teaching me to place the palms of my hands together and to bow my head. Later I would learn that prayer was used for two things: giving thanks and asking for things.
Mostly I thanked God for family and food. We prayed before each meal and always before going to sleep at night. My prayers for years was this innocent prayer, “Dear God, Thank you for this day, thank you for my food and for my clothes, thank you for my family and friends…help me to do the things I should do…in Jesus name amen.” No matter what is said, the prayers of a child are always about loving God and wanting others to be happy.
As life moves away from innocence to maturity there is an expectation that prayers are actually supposed to accomplish something. I prayed for gifts I never received, healings for friends who died anyway, and, events to occur that never happened. I still remember the time when I picked up my young son from Church camp and had to answer his question, “Is mom better now?” with a negative. He just knew that her pain condition had gone away because he and his church-camp friends had prayed so fervently. Things like this causes us to doubt the power of prayer–and rightfully so because these are the prayers of those living in the mythic religious stage.
Though it wasn’t the case for me, In my thinking, the mythic stage is where many people lose faith in God altogether. After all, if we could have been so mistaken about prayer, doesn’t it follow that we have been mistaken about God’s existence as well?
Suffering apparently goes on whether we pray or not and it is a real discouragement to learn that it doesn’t lessen just because we pray. This is where other universal faith traditions can be helpful. Buddhism stresses that we learn to accept “what is.” The cause of our suffering is our continued resistance to whatever is happening to us in the present moment. The unawakened self always believes that it must change itself, others, and the world in general for it to be happy–and that is the root of a lot suffering. But what if prayer, instead of being our method of trying to change the world, were something altogether different?
As a child we believe that our prayers control the all-powerful God to bring us more of what we want and to reduce our suffering. Some never graduate from this stage. Others disavow God altogether once they discover that prayer does not work that way at all. If we are lucky, we learn that the only thing we really need to do is to realize our alignment with God. There is only one thing going on–and it is God. God is absolute and from this perspective the world is perfect. God is all things and anything that happens is only God’s way of presenting himself to himself. When I suffer, it’s because I’m forgetting that I’m God pretending to be David. Awakening is the realization that “all is well” even if in my limited perspective it does not appear to be so. Thus, in my human state, all things that helps me align with this perfection is prayer–such as observing nature, meditation, affirmation, and practicing love, compassion, and other graces.
Only the true realization of perfection–that all is well regardless of how it seems–can end suffering. But until that perfection is truly realized, we pray. Our prayers are that we somehow learn to better align with the absolute view of God.