Many people feel honest puzzlement over the healing miracles Jesus was described to have done in Christian scriptures. The idea of his raising a child and man from the dead, and granting healing to people with sicknesses, seems truly miraculous, and many of us were taught these were literally the truth.
For years I have not viewed these healing miracles, or all the miracles described in the first century Christian writings, or the whole Bible for that matter, as literal. I’ve felt they had “metaphysical” or spiritual messages, but these were often missed in the insistence they literally happened. The purpose of these described miracles was to help convince Jewish followers that Jesus was worthy of their devotion and following. The miracles described in the gospels were written forty to seventy years after Jesus even walked on earth. They were written to help stem the tide of departure by most Jews from the movement, following the devastating destruction of the temple along with Jerusalem in 70 A.D. As John Spong has written and taught, these writings must be seen from ancient Hebrew eyes, connecting Jesus to the stories of miraculous events occurring in the lives of ancient Elijah and Elisha. Both of these former prophets had stories accompanying them about having powers over nature and the ability to raise up the dead. The writings did not work in the intended goal of keeping Jews in the early church, but they did work to draw in and keep many of the non-Jews, who indeed made the late first century church into a so-called “gentile” movement.
How then does this relate to our prayers, our desires to effect miracles of healing in our lives and in the lives of others? Don’t our prayers have power to change people, change history, and heal people of serious diseases? Isn’t that why we practice anointing here at Wayside each week? Can’t we expect “miracles of healing?”
To begin with, the most common idea or the word “prayer,” as used in Hebrew/Christian scriptures, is “self observation, self-judgment.” The deepest form of prayer is listening, observing our minds and attitudes. They are exercises to observe and discern if we are feeling and sensing our Oneness with God, with Spirit, and the same Spirit in all creation within our brothers and sisters. If we observe ourselves as helpless, unhappy, fearful, guilty, or angry, we have lost our connection. Lightning has stricken our power lines, and the communication has been lost. And so we choose again to go back, to return to the affirmation and idea that we are connected with our Source, complete, whole and free.
Thus I propose that the best use of prayer is for mind healing, the kind of mind healing that affirms whatever happens, I remain in my Oneness with God the Creator, and in whatever happens, I will be okay. In this attitude and belief, I can release the guilt, anger and fear, and through forgiveness, leave negativity behind. This is the central theme of the often misunderstood book called “A Course in Miracles.” The “miracle” in the book is a change of thinking from not having to having, from guilt to freedom, from turmoil and confusion to peace. Healing, in this writing, is close to the idea of “self-observation,” watching to keep our minds from slipping back into our accustomed identification with body and material matter.
The mind is a very powerful entity in our lives. The power of thinking can accumulate untold success of wealth and worldly power. The recent phenomenal explosion of Rhonda Byrne’s book, “The Secret” attests to the power of the mind to accumulate cars, houses, wealth, and spouses! The power of the mind helps people finish college and enter satisfying careers. The power of the mind helps people overcome sickness from serious diseases.
Currently, we are learning more about what is called the body/mind through auras, chakras, and energy flow blockages. Lives have been extended untold years by the application of such techniques. But the one thing such mind use cannot do is satisfy the ultimate question of what it’s all for, who really am I, and is there a eternal life anywhere. As John Harris, the popular author of the best selling book, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” used to say, when we use our mental, positive attitude to acquire things and great travel adventures in life, there is always the nagging question of “what is it all for?”
The deepest level of prayer, in my observation, is not to get things or even the illusion of perfect health, but the sense of Oneness with the Eternal. That to me is the deepest idea of spirituality; not to end the aging process, not to live as comfortable as the mind can be made to acquire resources, but to simply live with awareness that things don’t satisfy. Bodies are mortal also, and although we exercise, eat right, get new does and paint and tattoo ourselves into a deeper beauty, it all just goes.
I believe prayer in most religious expressions is the idea of raising the dead, healing diseased bodies, and getting ourselves material security. If blessed, we may finally come to realize that ultimate satisfaction is peace, the idea that we live even now on a level of Eternity. As Daniel Nahmod has written in one of his songs, “How do I live if my life is eternity? How do I live if I’m no longer afraid to die? It’s a mystery, no one’s (in most religions) prepared me to answer.”
Thus healing is not primary for things and bodies, but the mind. This deep peace of mind obviously brings a healing to the temporary body, but mostly, it brings awareness into minds of that which is beyond both time and space, which more and more scientists are now seeing as but an illusion of reality anyway.
“Prayer,” then, “is the medium of miracles. It is a means of the created with the Creator. Through prayer love is received, and through miracles love is expressed. Miracles are thoughts. Thoughts can represents the lower bodily level of experience, or the higher or spiritual level of experience. One makes the physical, and the other creates the spiritual.” (A Course in Miracles, chapter one.)
Meanwhile, don’t beat up on yourself for using prayer primarily to help your body and material wants and needs. Most all of us began there. As we age, we normally are struck more deeply with the realization that our bodies are not immortal; they are the aging, wearing tents that St. Paul wrote about to the Corinthians.
Prayer, and living, are like climbing a ladder. We begin to grow deeper in our honesty and awareness, and so we climb up another rung. We cross the rungs of seeing the body as somehow immortal to the awareness of our Oneness with that which is beyond all space and time boundaries. We finally reach the top rung, and there the Spirit welcomes us back home, having never left to begin with except in our illusions. We have then completed the journey, the journey which in reality, was over long ago, a journey which really had no distance except in our thinking.