Journal excerpt [A trip down memory lane]: I mix with people from many different backgrounds, faith-groups and ‘tribes’, and welcome the input and learning I gain from their different beliefs and ways of working. I am indebted to them.
‘Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance…’. Hebrews 10:22a. The Book
What they all have in common is a deep belief, and inclusiveness, and a passion. I value that today, and did so, just as much when starting out in matters spiritual, many years ago.
So, there I was (many, many years ago), a member of a ‘one-day’ healing workshop. It was hugely appreciated by me, as I wanted to be both a volunteer for this group as a prayer minister, and learn something from them about prayer, blessing and ministering to others. I was a wee, young man at the time. Maybe, somewhat naïve.
After all the theory and note-taking, and all the sharing in the workshop, and even more theory, we moved into the practical session – for some the least attractive part of the day.
We got into groups of three: for the first practical session, one would be the pray-er, one would be the recipient of the prayer-blessing, and one would observe and share their observations and encourage, afterward. We would then have two more practical sessions, and swap roles, and in that way all three of us would experience ‘wearing those three different hats’.
Everyone seemed reluctant to be the one to pray first, so even at that early age, I said I’d go first. And I did.
I prayed for Ben. [The name has been changed to protect his anonymity]. The idea was to pray for and bless the recipient, and for them to report any temperature external-skin changes. Did they feel suddenly hot, suddenly cold etc? Ben, I should point out came from a hugely hyper-hyper, reformed background, where such demonstrations are frowned upon, and had already said he was the kind of person that didn’t experience ‘Divine external experiences’ – never once in his life.
Nevertheless, I prayed. Mildred [the Observer – not her real name] observed. And, Ben ‘received’…..nothing. Well, nothing external, nothing detectable.
Mildred the Observer reported her ‘findings’ and declared that the prayer didn’t work because Tadhg departed from the healing prayer by changing a few words! I so wanted to thank Mildred for her encouragement – but we were in a holy place. I was nonplussed. I did ask Mildred, perhaps, it seemed as though nothing happened because Ben was the kind of person who had already declared that he was not the demonstrative type, and he nodded in assent. I also said, the blessing, nevertheless, had been given and we shouldn’t always be so worried about not receiving external ‘signs’. Ben had been blessed, I gently concluded. Ben smiled, assuredly.
‘No!’, said Mildred. ‘It was because you got the wording wrong. You departed from the prayer-formula because you changed a word or two. And, that’s why nothing happened’.
I did admit to changing a word or two, words that better seemed to fit my character, better fitted the situation, and which didn’t change the prayer-request one bit. Mildred was unconvinced.
Although of a young age, and somewhat naïve (then), there was something deep inside that informed me not to worry.
Changing a word or two in a prayer, if said from the heart, will have the desired effect. The Friend understands.
But it did cause me to question, later that day, what was Mildred thinking, when it came to prayer?
‘Be present with your want of Deity, and you shall be present with the Deity.’ Thomas Traherne
If she thought a word or two would change or nullify the prayer, then maybe she saw prayer as:
– magic? (A bit lit a Harry Potter spell, where, if you get the word wrong in a spell, then instead of making someone a price, you turn him into a frog), or
– dependent on her (or me, as I was the pray-er) (Our words, then, have total power over everyone, including God it seems, and that God cannot or won’t act if the wording is incorrect), or
– a right way to pray and a wrong way etc.
One thing I’ve learned (and hopefully, it’s more than one thing, but I’m only listing one here and now) is this: it doesn’t depend on us!
‘When your intentions are pure, so too will be your success.’ Charles F Glassman
My mature Christian friends, as well as my mature Druid, Celtic, Wiccan, Light-worker friends and others, at least those I’ve spoken to, on this matter, seem to agree: it’s intentionality that is important, and the Source that is all-powerful.
If we get the lines wrong, nothing bad is going to happen. Further, if we believe we can get it wrong, we might be deterred from praying or blessing in the first place. If we ‘have the wrong end of the stick’, well, who wants to be turned into a frog?
No, its our intentionality that’s important. A prayer or a blessing isn’t a spell that can be mis-cast if we get a word wrong. A prayer is part of our communication with the Other.
I was once at a prayer meeting – still young, and so this occurred many years ago. Someone, who had only just joined that church and was new to ‘church circles’, church decorum and church language, took a turn in praying. She started praying about a friend who was really unwell, and she felt this came from the devil (whether that’s so or not, might be the theme of another article).
Sarah [not her real name], stood to pray, got a bit tongue-tied, was full of emotion and passion, and started rambling a little. None of us could hear her properly, not even the minister next to her….until she shouted, ‘Satan ,why don’t you f**k off, and leave my friend alone’. The minister heard her, I heard her, we all heard her. I loved Sarah for her authenticity in that prayer meeting, and I admit to trying to stifle a wry smile. I do believe God heard her.
‘May your prayer of listening deepen enough to hear in the depths the laughter of God.’ John O’Donohue
But, did God hear her prayer? Did he honour it? I like to think he did. I don’t think that that prayer went unanswered because an ‘unusual’ form of wording was used. I don’t think he ignored Sarah because she used a rude word. Her intentions were pure.
Of Course, our prayers are not Harry Potter-like spells. Intentionality is important in our prayers – and we should never fear to pray because we might not know the words and get a word or two wrong, and yet many do fear. That’s a shame.
‘Pray continually…’ 1 Thessalonians 5:17, The Book.
[Apologies that the spacing on this article seems ‘odd’. I’m working on it]