“As people think in the heart, so are they….” Proverbs 23:7
Everyone prays, whether they realize it or not. Healthy people pray, sick people pray, parents pray, children pray, race car drivers pray, atheists pray, and certainly, politicians pray! But what is prayer? How could we improve and use our praying? Does prayer change anything? Why would one consciously practice it?
The word “think” comes from an old English word which means, “to make or cause to appear.” If we don’t like things as they are, we can begin to change them by thinking! In a study, many years ago at New York City Seminary, the leader said, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there!” For as we think, so we become.
The Greek word for prayer in the Bible is pros euchomai, meaning to think and express wishes. You can wish to change things around you. You can think of how to change people in how they act or treat you. All thinking is a form of prayer. “As we think, so we become.” (Proverbs 23:7) So, if we don’t like what we see or experience, we can change our thinking!
We start is with ourselves. The ancient Hebrew word for prayer is hitpalel, which means to “observe or judge oneself.” The idea is different from what most practice. We want to change how others think and act so we can be happy. We judge how others treat us: what they do, or where they go. The Hebrew word is more inward; “Who am I? How am I feeling? What do I want? How can I find peace and success?” The process thus becomes a more conscious one. We sit and mediate, observing ourselves; “What do I want? How am I feeling? How can I change?”
Such thoughts are powerful. They have built buildings, including churches. With thinking, we change appearances; get a new haircut or buy new clothes. Everything in this room around began as a thought or idea. Scientists even have said without thinking, there would be no world! To say nothing about this sermon.
Much of my understanding prayer expanded as I read and learned about Einstein’s discovery of quantum energy, the smallest particle of “substance.” A quantum is light energy and it radiates itself. This quantum moves at double the speed of light. It creates energy, a lot of it! Einstein called it “the spooky part of the universe.” It can be used to heal or make bombs which powerfully radiate heat and kill hundreds, thousands, and millions.
I have a brother in law with a Ph.D. in biological science. Years ago, I asked if he could explain quantum mechanics to me. He said, “Dave, when you look and gaze upon the moon, you will be changed. And so will the moon!”
Two years ago, I attended a summer seminar of the Theosophical Society near Chicago. One of the presenters was named “Amit Gotswami.” A brilliant scientist from India, for years he has taught physics at the University of Oregon for 30 years. He has become known for his work and writings in Quantum Mechanics. Several years ago, he married another native of India who moved to America. She amazed him with her “meditations” as she described them. Amit wanted to investigate what was happening from a scientific viewpoint. He became convinced she was connecting with her deepest self, a self even separated from her body, a Self which could communicate with the universe! Now the two of them conduct seminars combining science and meditation.
Thinking and mediation affect people around us. Experiments show how thoughts change people miles and continents away! A writer, named Lynn McTaggart, has studied and written books on this phenomenon. In 2011, she helped put together a group called “The Intention Experiment.” She and her helpers brought together thousands of people from 75 countries, including people of several faiths including Muslims with thousands from Arabs of the Gulf states. For 8 days, beginning with September 11, they prayed for violence to be lowered in two of the deadliest provinces in Afghanistan, Helmand and Kandahar. Then they waited three and a half months to see if there were any effects. They found that attacks in these two providences had dropped 29 percent during that period. And during the 8 days of concentrated prayers in September, attacks dropped by 790 percent! Prayer can change things. (For more details, see The Global Peace Intention Experiment by Lynn McTaggart.)
The late well-known psychologist, Wayne Dyer, believed, lived and taught this idea after discovering it. Raised his first 10 years in an orphanage, he discovered the power of positive thinking. It thoroughly changed his life and over the years, his teachings and lectures help change millions of lives. Dyer believed living with unconditional, positive love will be manifested in those around us. He believed our thinking affects not only one’s own family and community, but the whole world. Over the years, I’ve read many of his books, being introduced to them by a church Elder in Pennsylvania. A few years ago, through a survey of the top spiritual teachers in the world, Wayne Dyer rated in the top 5! Number one I believe was the Dalai Lama. Number 2 or 3 was a scientist named Eckhart Tolle. It was amazing that none of these recognized leaders spoke in churches!
However, negative thinking and prayer also has effects. Ancient Plato, philosopher and founder of the Academy in Athens, recommended death for anyone using negative spells, charms, incantations and sorceries for purpose of mischief! We see examples of such negative use in the Bible. In the Old Testament, Elisha placed a hex on children who made fun of him and his looks! Two bears came out of the woods and ate them! (2 Kings 2:23-24) Now you know why I don’t take everything in the Bible seriously! Clergy, as Naomi and I have experienced, can scare the daylights out of people by threatening eternal hell fire and damnation if they “don’t believe!”
Negative thoughts and prayers destroy relationships, churches, civic organizations and countries. Hitler used negative thoughts about people, mesmerizing people to destroy millions of Jews and “undesirables.” It happened in history many times; Russia, China, and of course, in our own country with the slaughter of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans sold in slavery!
Today some of us worry about the negative campaigning which elected our new President. I’ve never heard such mean descriptions of other races, promises to build high walls to protect our border, deport people seeking escape from poverty and brutal governments, and talk of stopping Muslims from entering from several countries with “extreme vetting.” It often frightens me, as it does others. As written, hatred toward Native Americans and Africans forced into slavery were historically practiced, and the attitudes still linger in the vow to “make America great again.”
Change, however, brings consequences. Some will be good and some not. Medical doctors such as Larry Dossey, have used and written of the power of meditation and prayer. Dossey wrote several books including, “Be Careful What You Pray For, You Might Get It!” He described a woman psychiatrist who prayed with her mental patients in a Vermont hospital. The administration stopped her since it gave her patients “unfair advantages!”
Have you ever decided to better yourself only to find things worse? Most find this in marriage, or a chosen career, or moving to a new area. We discover everything and place has “its own poison.” Spiritual teachers suggest we adopt a more “acceptance of the present” attitude and find contentment with what we have. Count your blessings. A Bible verse goes, “…. I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)
Positive prayer, however, is loving and kind, wishing the best for oneself and all those around him or her. To obtain this state, most of us need hours, days, and years of routine self-reflection. The word in ancient Hebrew from prayer, hitpalel, basically means “self reflection.” One becomes conscious of his or her own thoughts and actions. I practice daily meditations and prayers, as I described in my memoir. Finding this practice in 1979, it remains a staple of mine today.
In 33 years at Wayside, people helped me incorporate, I believe, a deeper understanding and practice of prayer. We prayed for people who requested it during services. We offered the laying on hands, not only by myself, but by others with the anointing of oil. We trained people to visit homebound and hospitalized people, offering them communion of wine and bread as a sign of Divine Energy within them.
As a 9 year old boy, I remember going to Daytona Beach races in the early 1950’s. Then then was a two-mile track on which drivers raced cars south on pavement and then around a curve to roar another mile north on the beach sand! Occasionally, we attended smaller races around our home in Sherman where in the 1950’s cars were raced in an abandoned gravel pit by the feed mill and milk plant. Once, early in our marriage, I went with my father to a race near Jamestown where one of my high school friends was a mechanic on one of the cars. During the race, I noticed a bright red car that looked new. It was one of the most powerful cars in the race, one of the early “Dodge Challengers.” But the driver always held back, staying away from the front or other cars. I was told he never won a race. “Why?” I asked. “Because he doesn’t want to damage his new car!” Seemed kind of silly.
Without daily inventory of our minds and directions, we could be moving around our bodies without reaching our potentials of deeper peace and fulfilment. Minds are powerful. They are the engines which drive our lives toward goals of joy and deep peace. I urge you to often drive them “wide open and awake!” Spend daily time in silence and meditation, go over your goals and intentions, and watch them become manifested in your lives!