For some, it is an axiom that prayer is always answered, even if you don’t appear to get what you requested. And of course for others, prayer is a pointless exercise, because ‘there is nobody listening’. Well, I, too, don’t believe there is anybody – or anything – listening; or not in the way we would usually understand that. And yet, I do believe that prayer is always answered. How so?
I have written in other posts how I perceive the nature of what people label ‘God’. I could also use that label, except that the common view seems to relate the label to some anthropomorphic (human-like) being, residing in a separate ‘dimension’ or ‘reality’ to this, material world. And that’s not at all what I would mean by that label. I would use it to mean what in Freudian terms might be called the ‘super-ego’ of all life, although I would also have to qualify that view, as one that contains no “I” – only “all”. (I suspect that Freud also intended the super-ego of an individual to include no “I”, as it is composed of societally induced ideals.) What I call God is immanent in all things in this universe, and very much within the material world. Immanent in all, but only capable of consciousness through life.
I do not mean, by the above, that one cannot ‘talk to God’, as one would talk to a trusted friend. It may be that you are the only ‘being’ that is listening, but God is immanent in you, too. To the extent that you have the potential of consciousness, you contribute to the consciousness of the whole. So do I mean that when you formulate a wish, it, too, is part of the whole? Indeed so, but of course a very small part. When many people wish the same or similar things, their composite wishes become part of the ‘tide’ of this planet. And to the extent that others become aware of that tide – even ‘sub-consciously’ – they respond to it. Lots of people, sharing a wish, act to make it happen.
“But that’s not prayer,” you might be crying. Perhaps it is not what you would label as prayer, but it’s a real phenomenon that moves beyond the consciousness of any one, individual. However, let’s address the wish that perhaps no-one else would share, because it is intensely personal. Maybe it is the wish, or prayer, to be able to do something that you feel a need to do, and perceive that without help, you can not. Maybe you need to complete a particular task for the benefit of someone else.
The point is, that when we can formulate a definite wish, we already hold within us the ‘formula’ for its completing principle. We even know the shape of the denying forces. All that we really lack is the ‘right attention’ that draws the necessary reconciling forces into the formula. But the frame of mind that we do have, already makes it possible to recognise those reconciling forces, when we see them. Even if we pray and then leave it up to God – or the universe – to find the ‘answer’ (reconciling force), we still have enough to recognise that answer, as long as we stay even modestly ‘awake’. (If we merely sleep and dream, then all is left to accident.)
Wait a minute, am I saying that if you can pray for something then you already know how to achieve it? Yes, I am. Because of the fractured state of our ‘ordinary’ psyche, we may not be aware of that knowledge, and we may even be ‘buffering it out’, because it involves something we don’t want to do. But yet, that knowledge exists within us, or the wish – the prayer – could not appear. If we pray, for example, to ‘be a better person’, then it means we already know how and why we fall short of our ideal; we already know what we choose to do that goes against that ideal. All that’s lacking is the definite will to change, and the most likely cause is that we’re ‘buffering out’ the knowledge that being closer to our ideal means giving up something we enjoy.
In short, many prayers could be likened to wishing for jam without the price. We want the tasty outcome but we won’t pay the fee, and we ask God to waive that fee: to give us the jam for free. Even those prayers are already answered: it’s just that the answer we want is only going to ‘work’ by means of freakish accident.
A more appropriate prayer (surely) is that where we open our minds, after we have posed the desire, and see if the answer is already in us: just, perhaps, overlooked until then. And I don’t mean just ‘listening as if with our ears’, for some holy voice to speak; I mean opening the scope of our awareness to as much of our being as we can reach, with an inner attitude of just allowing any answer to surface – to make itself known. The result may surprise you. Typically (in my experience) you may well find that a fully formed ‘answer’ to your problem just pops into your consciousness, as if by telepathy.
And perhaps a more appropriate prayer, still, is one where we ask the question, “What can I usefully do next?”
It may seem from the above that I am decrying the idea of God answering prayers and providing miracles. Not so. I am saying that prayers are answered – even before we actively seek that answer. We just have to be open to whatever answer we find within us. And the more we do that, the more open the channel becomes.