“A patient of mine who is very ill was recently told by his oncologist that there was nothing more that could be done for him. The physician then said, ‘I think you’d better start praying.” For this doctor, prayer had become a kind of last resort, something to offer his patients when he runs out of ways to help them personally, when there are no more effective treatments. God has become his final referral.
“But prayer is not a way to get what we want to happen, like the remote control that comes with the television set. I think that prayer may be less about asking for the things we are attached to than it is about relinquishing our attachments in some way. It can take us beyond fear, which is an attachment, and beyond hope, which is another form of attachment. It can help us remember the nature of the world and the nature of life, not on an intellectual level but in a deep and experiential way. When we pray, we don’t change the world,we change ourselves.We change our consciousness. We move from an individual, isolated making-things-happen kind of consciousness to connection on the deepest level with the largest possible reality.” ~Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.
Prayer as Last resort
As Dr. Remen implies, this physician who recommends prayer only as a last resort when all else has failed has it wrong. In fact, he has it backward. Prayer should be your first resort. His attitude is understandable in our materialistic, and increasingly atheistic world, but it is still wrong. Just as good nutrition should be part of the treatment for all ailments, so should prayer, and from the beginning. Prayer doesn’t have to be used alone. It can be used in combination with any other types of treatments, from herbal teas to surgery. Get the sick person’s friends to pray for their health, and miracles can happen. If he has no friends, there are religious and spiritual organizations such as Cosolargy that will let anyone request a prayer for health, recovery, etc. Studies have found these group prayers to be effective. But as Remen notes, we have to have the right attitude when we pray, especially if we are asking for ourselves.
An Attitude for Prayer
If you want your prayer to be effective, you can’t be demanding and you can’t have the attitude that you know better than God. Many people pray as if they were ordering from a catalog or a restaurant menu. They tell God what they want. “God, I want a new car,” or “God, cure my cancer.” God is not your servant and you can’t reach Him by acting as if he is. More appropriate prayers for yourself would be, “God, please send me what I need the most,” or “God, send me healing energy if You think I should be healed.” God makes the decision, not you.
When part of a group praying for someone else, similar rules apply. The person may ask for a specific disease to be cured, but you should ask God to send that person healing energy and understanding. The energy will heal what should be healed, and leave what is needed to teach the person a lesson.
Dr. Ramen also thinks We should pray to relinquish attachments, not to cling to them, and I agree. If the only thing we can think of to ask God for is some material thing such as a car or a house, we are clinging to attachments. Instead of praying for those things, we should pray for God to help us free ourselves for attachments to material possessions. Now you might argue that you desperately need a new car, but that doesn’t matter. God runs the realm of spirit so you should ask him for spiritual things. When you pray for things of matter, regardless of your intentions, you are praying to the god of matter, which is Satan. Satan will often happily give you what you want—but bill you later!
The Purpose of Prayer
The purpose of Prayer should be to become more spiritual and to reach higher levels of consciousness. It should also be to help others, and the entire world transform in the same way. This is what God wants to happen in the world, and we should be praying to offer him our services to help achieve His Plan.
Our Daily Bread
One thing some people will bring up when you tell them that they shouldn’t pray for material things, material objects, is the line from The Lord’s Prayer, as delivered by Jesus, that goes, “Give us this day or daily bread.” They think this proves that even Jesus prayed for material things. They are wrong. This line is allegorical. Jesus isn’t talking about baked goods made of flour. He is talking about the “bread” that comes from God that feeds the spirit and soul. In other words, he is talking about the Divine Light that comes from God, through the Spiritual Sun, to us, and all beings on earth. This “bread” we should ask for. It is not matter at all, but spiritual energy that feeds the soul. It is what God wants us to have.
For more on the value of prayer, read this older post.