PRAYER – YOUR SUPERPOWER
Eric Butterworth, author of many Unity books, says in THE UNIVERSE IS CALLING, that “Prayer is our natural state. It is a natural function of life, and not something superimposed on our life.” He further says, “Prayer is indigenous to every person.” Imagine, “natural, indigenous” – that means part of our integral inner culture; organic to our fullest functioning. From the Buddhist fingering prayer beads to an American farmer nailing a horseshoe over the barn door; we are a ‘praying animal.’
David Foster Wallace, who keeps a blog called “The Spirituality of Dog-Walking” puts it this way:
In other words, we are the fish, and God is the water. And just as fish have no idea what it would be like to live without water, we also have no experience of what it would be like to live without God.
We are often oblivious to the presence of God. Blindness like this is not the result of unfamiliarity, but of over-familiarity.
When we wake up to the reality of God’s presence all around us – when we notice the water – we become able to pray. Prayer does not magically bring God to us, but centers our attention on the fact that God is eternally present. Prayer puts us in relationship with the one in whom “we live and move and have our being.”
This means that God knows us in every life aspect. God knows us as the air we breathe for God is that. God knows us as the grass we walk on, the tree we touch, for God is also that aspect of us walking on the grass, touching the tree. Think on it – a poet once said, “I envied the water’s ability to touch her totally.” God touches us totally.
Now THIS is what I learned about prayer in my childhood. If I said five our fathers & five hail Mary’s, I could clear the account. (I wish the IRS felt the same way!)
In my child-mind, the “Our Father” said something about bread & trespassing (which was what Mrs. Canon hollered at me when I cut thru her yard.) And “Hail Mary?” Even I knew that telling my mom she looked like a million bucks only resulted in a narrow stare, the rise of an index finger & a strong suggestion that I go outside to play.
Prayer, then, for me, was walking a theological balance beam. And, frankly, Scarlett, I flunked balance beam.
If someone had tried to tell me the life of God is all around me, above & below me, inside & outside me, totally & integral to my being, I would have shaken my head and headed outside to play.
But pray is only one letter off of play. So I was doing the right thing. The organic thing for a child is to play, right? Without knowing, I was leading a life of prayer.
When I asked about becoming a Prayer Chaplain for URB, I didn’t really know many details on what that involved. When I attended First Church Unity in Nashville, I thought it ultra-cool that I could have someone pray with me when my life felt out of control. After all, as a Unitic, I wasn’t supposed to have anything but positive thoughts, right? It seemed a betrayal of sorts to feel awful about something.
But there were times when my life was hanging about me in shreds & I could barely speak. There were also times I was so delirious with joy I was unable to speak. Our prayer chaplains provided a beautiful extension of love & uplift & sharing. Nothing weighed the same in my heart after our Amen.
You’ve heard before that Unity started as a prayer-based ministry. Myrtle Fillmore, tells how she feels about prayer:
“The light of God revealed to us – the Thought came to me first – that life was of God, that we were inseparably one with the Source, and that we inherited from the divine & perfect Father. What that revelation did to me at first was not apparent to the senses. But it held my mind above negation, & I began to claim my birthright & to act as though I believed myself the child of God, filled with His life.”
What a rush to climb out from under what weighs on us. How fantastic to see the light streaming into our heart again, where there is just enough space to fit it! How soothing to step away from this intensity into relief. And all because someone chose to pray with me.
When I first attended Unity, I really couldn’t stand hearing I was a good person. Expected to be good, yes. I understood that! But after a couple of sessions in the sanctuary face to face with our minister, then invited to do hugs and handshakes with smiling strangers who were genuinely glad to see me… I retreated to the kitchen, where I could be appreciated for making a good cup of coffee. Then I helped out in the school where the kids kept me happy. I migrated to the bookstore where I never got the register to balance but I could read all I wanted about the life I was supposed to have.
I was way more comfortable doing something than being told something. I had no frame of reference for being intrinsically good. Nothing in my life prepared me for being told I was a perfect child of God, let alone beloved. Telling me I could pray my heart into alignment with the God within to achieve my fullest life? Yeah, riiight!
After five years of hearing the message every Sunday, I was still stubbornly clinging to my old ideas. Take a guess at what I did after five years of faithful attendance. Anybody?
I left. Sundays passed & I missed every one. I was a pretty grim customer! Would you like to know why I left? Because I couldn’t reconcile my inner self with what I was being told. But prayer was still working on me. My life was like living in a rock tumbler, but prayer was still at work smoothing out my edges.
So much so that when it came time to make a life-change, I was able to summon up my praying self to sit in meditation every morning. I pushed myself to walk outside & do qigong to re-learn how to breathe. And while I didn’t go back to church, I dreamed of tie-dyed angels carrying suitcases & I knew my path led out of where I was living, away from what I had done for almost forty years. I put my prayer life on the line in one huge gamble & I’m here to tell you I won a bigger score than ever before. I got happy.
I know my prayers to be a powerful reality. I know that now I am comfortable with the God-self within which I live & move & have my being.
Prayer can lift you above denial for to pray is to invite in. And you need to specific as to what you invite in. Here’s a story for you about how my prayer life can go sometimes: I’ve started a new business & clients seem few & far between. So I prayed for people to come to my studio door b/c I’m down a little corridor next to the storage closet. I even had to put up a sign that said I was not in the closet. Of course in my mind, I was praying for people to come by to book a treatment. But that’s not what I prayed. I simply asked for people to come to my door. I looked up one day to see a really tall man standing there, hesitating about coming in. I effusively invited him, only mildly surprised when he asked, “What do you do here?” I replied, “Have you ever had a massage?” He said, “No,”, then he leaned forward, looked deeply into my eyes & said, “Young lady, you’re only forty years old!” I looked back, wondering if I could keep this man around, when he leaned in again to say, “Young lady, you look twenty years old!” at which point I figured it might take some rope, but I definitely was keeping him around…
One of the gym trainers came in to ask if Ryan was bothering me, but I was busy massaging Ryan’s hands just so I could hang onto this wonderfully uncomplicated spirit. Gary, the trainer, waited by patiently, saying “Ryan goes to my church where his job is to light the candles.” After all was said & done, I realized I’d been sent a prayer re-vision notice. Not just to come to my door, but to want a massage. Never let it be said Spirit has no sense of humor.
I love the story about how our co-founder, Myrtle Fillmore, renovated the cubbyhole under her stairs into a prayer space. She took literally that Matthew 6:6 quoted Jesus advising “go into your closet to pray.”
With three boisterous boys, probably shouting, and running around slamming doors… with Charles clomping up & down the steps or through the house, that little space must have been a sanctuary where her jangled nerves could smooth out, where her aching body could rest in the comfort of dim light. A place where turning pages of her own Bible was the loudest sound and where she could hear heaven whispering back to her. Answers to all her questions, ideas for all her worries. She was determined to succeed in this do-over of her life as she knew it. Her success is out-pictured here each time we meet.
I think Jesus talked about “going into the closet” because in the Aramaic, “closet” could translate as “shed.” So He actually said, “Get out of the house & go the shed.” Why there? Well, let’s go on an imaginary trip to Nazareth, tho the woodshop. How good it all smells when we walk in. All the tools to make a life are in here…implements hanging from the pegs, lined up on the tables; unfinished projects just waiting for our hands.
Outside there would have been sheep baaa-ing, horses & tack making noise, cows mooing, dogs barking, children playing, women calling to one another, men greeting friends… going into the shed would have been entering a quiet out of the ordinary, one where you could gather your thoughts in the heat, put your hands on the works-in-progress & take a measurement of where you are in that singular moment.
Do you ever forget to pray? Do you forget that prayer is the go-to, not when all else fails, but in the very beginning? Don’t shake your heads out there, of course you do. Ever had someone call to tell you, “I have had this headache for three days!” and you say, “How many aspirin are you taking?” and they say, “Aspirin? Oh yeah, I can take aspirin.”
My favorite story about forgetting is the one about the husband who, upon discovering his wife had changed the computer logon called out, “Hey honey, what’d you change the password to?” She sweetly replied, “I used our anniversary date, dear.”
Prayer Chaplains can provide the words to remind you who you really are, how to lift yourself into that space where what you want to happen potentiates. In the moments when our impulse is to say: “Oh, I can’t”, you need to double up with another, someone who believes in you in a way you can’t quite muster up in the moment. You put yourself into that place where two or more are gathered in Jesus’ name. It’s really a lot more comfortable there than standing out of the crowd alone wondering how to get back to the “I can.”
So it is with prayer. You quiet and focus your thoughts. You think of just what it is you want to accomplish in the holy space of communicating with One Who can change your life in a blink. Whether you are upset & seeking comfort, or elated & wanting to hoot out your joy…this is a listening place where you hear & are heard always. We Prayer Chaplains are here to hear you.
I want you to remember that even Jesus didn’t always perform a miracle on the first go! Sometimes we need to adjust to healing, appreciate each aspect of it, change into what we will become.
The butterfly doesn’t pop out of the chrysalis. Rather it slowly disentangles itself from that holy place where it was safe to grow wings. And once free, it tests those wings, feels the sunlight opening them to fullest measure & only when the wings are infused with Light does it fly. Are we any less of a miracle brought about by God? For indeed, the universe prayed out each & every one of us, pushed & pulled on Prime Creator until the thought of who we are took shape in human form, stepping down from the divine into flesh. Now we build the bridge to divinity with our words & feelings.
Sometimes we just need some wind beneath our wings, no?
Unity is a medium of prayer. Unity sets intention into the field of all possibility; you remember who you want to be, who you already & really are: a beloved child of God.
Let’s explore this child of God bit as it relates to prayer. Max Lucado, author of “Before the Amen,” says he did a study. He goes on for some time about our relationship with our Maker being that of loving parent & child. He relates that he drove to a local playground to do a field check. He mentions that when the kids saw their dads, not one of them said, “Oh Father! Thou hast blessed me by thy presence here upon the ballfield. Grant that I make the winning homerun for the team, for thine is all glory & power.” Max says the kids reacted to Dad pulling up in the car with, “Hey! Can we get ice cream on the way home?” or “You shoulda seen me when I was up to bat!” Or even just a heartfelt, “Oh, Daddy!”
I believe when we pray we need to relate to the divine Parental Units in this way. In the familiar, with our real thoughts, stating our true wishes. Like any parent knows what their child really needs, Mother/Father God knows. We pray as an asking, but as Marianne Williamson says, “We have to get over the idea that God is an errand boy.” So I know I’m understood when I change my prayer from someone coming to the door to someone coming to receive what I have to offer in exchange for living wage.
Unity Prayer explores that separate peace, the one where a resolution (re-solution) becomes possible. Unity prayer discerns YOU are not the problem, & in that separation there is room to review (re-view) it in the Light. Unity Prayer escorts you from the valley of negation into the reality of possibility. For if all things are possible, what profit is it to think you can’t get there from here?
Myrtle Fillmore started it all rolling when she believed that in being a child of God, she didn’t have to suffer. Let’s believe that too. Let’s light the match to that candle instead when the world seems to demand we suffer in darkness. I think Myrtle was the first prayer chaplain – she received letters every day in which people, having heard about her healing, asked her to pray for them. Her response was to teach them they each had the power to pray for themselves after her example by praying with them. And she made it understood she was standing by to lend her strength of belief if they faltered.
The Prayer Chaplain Program Sandy & the Board of Directors are introducing today is the beautiful way Unity of Rehoboth Beach is standing up with you.
Today we honor our new Prayer Chaplain Team who step forward in loving service of prayer.
When you’re ready to step into your Superpower, we’ll help you tie on the cape & stand beside you in the wind. Thank you!