I find it very enlightening to write this blog for several reasons. The chief reason I have found blogging insightful is that I can finely hone my actual spiritual beliefs by interacting with others, by asking and answering questions that I put forth or that others do, and by discovering that I can temper what I say with some grace, however annoying others can be in their dogmatic certainties. This hasn’t always been the case. I have never been a calm, rational persona. I’ve learned to integrate many skills that college taught me during my six years there earning a Master’s in English. I learned how to argue persuasively. Philosophy taught me about logical thought and false arguments. English courses taught me theoretical analysis and close reading technique as well as introduce me to broad ranges of imaginative thought. History and social sciences taught me about the world and diversity without having to leave my native country. Mythology classes taught me about the diversity of religions and the sources of myth; patriarchal cultures who silenced women’s voices. But other things are best learned by experience and which college cannot teach you. Spirituality is one of those things. It cannot be taught. It cannot be handed down from a parent to child. It cannot be defined by other people, because everyone’s spirituality is different, unique, and a direct result of your lived life. You and I may have similar thoughts or beliefs, but no one can live your spirituality for you and you can’t live mine for me.
Writing this blog has also helped me define what I have faith in. It may not be logical according to some “system of theology.” It may not match someone else’s spiritual writings (bibles, scriptures, holy texts, etc.) It may even offend some who experience spirituality differently than I do. But, it is my spirituality and no one else’s. I worked hard for it, am still working hard for it. Therefore, I get a little testy when people question my experience and my hard-won faith as if you can take faith out of a box and have it fit like some one-size-fits-all body suit. Faith doesn’t work that way and thank the Divine, God doesn’t either. No one can measure faith. Faith is just faith. You either have it or you don’t. You can’t manufacture it. You can’t force yourself to have it. One day it’s not there and the next day it is. No one should measure spirituality by how much faith one does or doesn’t have. Some set themselves up as arbiters of faith and spirituality. On their personal barometers, they can just “tell” that others do not have enough faith, enough prayer, enough bible reading. You are not enough, enough, enough, is their mantra. It’s never enough with these people. Why? Because some think they have arrived! They ‘think God’s thoughts after “him.”‘ They have THE answers and woe to those who don’t think exactly like them. I find this kind of faith and spirituality oppressive and boorish. Why? Because it’s prideful for one and a lame excuse for not wrestling with the hard questions. It’s easy believism.
NO ONE has the answers, least of all me. I’ve discovered many things along my long, long journey toward the Divine within, but one thing I have discovered is that prayer is not at all about getting this or that request “answered.” Prayer is not about “healing” what humans think is wrong with nature. Prayer is not about miracles because miracles do not exist. Nature and the manipulation of nature exists because the Divine has endowed doctors with the knowledge needed to fix what can be broken and to accept what can’t be fixed with the tools of the world God has created. The Deutero- canonical Apocrypha, written by Israel’s prophets, taught that doctors were sent from God:
“1”: Honour a physician with the honour due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him: for the Lord hath created him.
“3”: The skill of the physician shall lift up his head: and in the sight of great men he shall be in admiration.
“4”: The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them.
“6”: And he hath given men skill, that he might be honoured in his marvellous works.
“7”: With such doth he heal [men,] and taketh away their pains.
(Sirach 38, The Apocrypha (sexist language theirs)).
Prayer is not a “tool” to apply. Prayer is communion with divine. Prayer is a disposition. We should never look for “answers to prayer” because the Divine does not “answer” prayer with a human yes or no according to a formula. Yes and No are false dichotomies, just as mind and body is a false dichotomy. We are so inexplicably entwined as a unit that to live as if we are separate is to deny either the mind or the body’s importance. Prayer, as an attitude, serves only to predispose us toward what appear to be “answers” where “answers” would have followed anyway had we quietly waited for actual life to happen upon us. I’ve found that prayer is an attitude of life-listening. This life listening is called intuition in other spiritualities. Intuition is frowned upon in fundamentalist circles. It is perceived as a doorway to “evil” and using it means you are listening to yourself not God, another no-no in said circles. I follow my intuition (another word for prayer) because the Divine has ingrained in our natures an innate ability to spiritually know where we should go or what we should do, if we but tune ourselves into the Divine within each of us. Yes, the Divine wants us to listen to ourselves because prayer in this innate knowing. It’s not an active thing. Blasphemous! In all my years, this Divine intuition has never failed me yet. It’s gotten me through many a trial and many a bad situation. But most of all, my Divine intuition is informed by Divine Comfort, the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, the Sophia of Godde. Jesus said that after his death, God would leave us a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to lead us into all truth, which everyone who listens has access to automatically, without limit. We do not have this gracious access so that we can claim we’ve gotten prayers “answered,” or that we can claim to have arrived, but so that we can rejoice in communion with the Spirit of the world and all humanity.
This view will not, I am sure, resonate with those who still seek confirmed “answers” rather than communion. Prayer, to be true, is not something we stop and do, or measure, or point to as a sign of our spiritual fitness. Prayer is living life consciously and with reverence and most of all, with the Spirit of Comfort that means God is with us. This angers people because they want to be gatekeepers, whether in the form of priest, prophet, believer, imam, you name it. They want to horde the grace of God and are angry when others who believe differently are blessed. Spiritual legalism is never pretty.
My prayer (intentional walk with the Divine), will be with a spirit toward unity this season. I hope yours is too.