“In my country, God is a part of our everyday life. … We live simply and close to nature. We grow the rice we eat. What is left over, we give to the duck in our yard. This duck lays the eggs we eat and also rids our garden of bugs so we grow better food. Everything depends on everything else. When you live this kind of existence … you understand how life is interconnected. You also learn how important it is to lend a hand to others, to help them evolve. — Le Ly Hayslip, N SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE
I recently had a conversation with an old friend about “this and that,” what life is teaching us through our experiences, how — over time — things often seem to make greater sense than they did when we were in the thick of them. ‘Yup,” he said, “everything’s perfect. Now that I understand that, I don’t even pray for people anymore.”
Though I believe his comment was intended to reinforce the idea that everything happens for a reason, what he said was disconcerting. On a personal level, “perfect” or not, there were times when his prayers would have been a comfort. On a more cosmic level, the level of “lessons to be learned,” hard times are an opportunity for some of us to learn to pitch in and for others of us to learn to be gracious receivers.
I also believe in the power of prayer, that it transforms both the “pray-er” and the “pray-ee.” I believe that when you make yourself receptive to God — in the giving or in the receiving — you not only lift yourself above the struggle and the chaos, you serve the Greater Good. There is satisfaction in being used like this — in being well-used, such comfort in the giving and receiving. It’s a shame when any of us misses the opportunity.
This idea that “everything is perfect” is a hard thing to wrap your mind around. It’s natural when we are confronted with pain and loss to question ourselves, others, the Universal Order, and God. “Where is the justice or the logic or the compassion or the goodness in this,” we think. “What did I or they ever do to deserve this?” Over time we can find our ways through it, or at least take the edge off, but we may never know what about the situation was “perfect.”
That’s where, I think, prayer comes in handy — our own payers and the prayers of others. If we don’t achieve perfect understanding or make our lives perfect (by our standards or by someone else’s) prayer can ease our pain, can help us make peace, help us forgive, help us be more compassionate with ourselves and others. Maybe that’s as close to perfect as we get.
I, for one, need all the prayers I can get to make this happen!