The little elevator doors closed and I watched as the container began ascending the tube. First, slowly, and then it began to pick up speed. All of a sudden, however, instead of increasing in speed, it began to slow to a stop and there it remained suspended, as it were, at least for a few sections anyway, between the teller behind the glass and me.
Finally, the suction gave out and the container dropped back down the shoot, hitting with a thud, and the doors reopened.
“What was that?” I asked.
The teller smiled and said, as if she anticipated it, “Oh, it does it often. Just hit the “Send” button again and it should work this time.”
But it didn’t.
In fact, I made repeated attempts and only after about the seventh try did my transaction reached the teller.
She processed my transaction and then said, “Will that be all?” I nodded and drove away. As I did, I thought to myself, “I’ve just witnessed a real life example of what prayer must be like for many people. The analogies are all too apparent.
Isn’t it true, for example, many people say their prayers with the same sort of bewilderment, even frustration, that I felt with the pneumatic tube carrier?”
I think so.
Furthermore, I think this is because, what many people have been taught to believe about prayer is just plain wrong.
Here are four myths about prayer and what you need to know that could actually help you discover prayer to be a more meaningful and productive exercise.
Myth # 1: Prayers are requests we offer down here to God up there. For many people, God is like Cosmic Teller somewhere in the heavens and their prayers are the little requests they offer up to him in hopes they’ll actually make it.
Prayer is like a bank transaction at a celestial drive-through. The believing person offers up his prayer like a customer trying to send a bank deposit to the Grand Teller behind the glass…all the while, feeling helpless at whether the prayer had just the right amount of “Oomph” so that it could actually reach God.
Remember this, my friend.
God is not “out there somewhere” in the heavens. Admittedly, the people who wrote the Bible believed in a kind of three-storied universe – the surface of the earth on which they lived…the atmosphere above them with its many clouds…and, just beyond the clouds, there was heaven, the abode of God.
Though many believed this for centuries, even a school child today knows differently. Not only is heaven not above the clouds, one cannot be sure where heaven could possibly be at all. As a matter of fact, just trying to comprehend the infinity of space can leave one wondering not only where God is but if God is.
Here’s what I would suggest: Stop thinking of God as “out there,” but in here instead.
“In where?” you ask.
In other words, stop thinking of yourself as separate from God. There is no truth in believing God is a Cosmic Teller located somewhere in the heavens to whom you offer your prayers in hopes they’ll actually reach him.
Prayer is a conversation with you.
That’s right. It is a talk you have with yourself, as one in union with the Father (read John 17).
By the way, “a talk with oneself” only feels weird if, instead of feeling at one with God, you still think of yourself as separate from God. Let go of the separation mentality. It’s a myth.
Myth #2: The more prayers you offer, the more likely the response. I must have hit the “Send” button a half dozen times before the container finally reached the teller.
Many mistakenly believe the more times they offer a request unto God, the better their chances of getting the prayer answered. These same people tend to also believe, the more people they can enlist to pray with them about a particular concern, the less chance there is that God will mistakenly overlook their need. If one firecracker can make a loud bang, setting off a whole pack at one time is sure to get God’s attention.
How often have you heard sincere but misguided people say, “I need lots of prayers.”
Whenever I hear that, I want to respond, “What for?”
Do many prayers make the one’s need appear more valid?
Are prayers mere tokens dropped in a celestial slot machine? The more tokens you drop, the greater your chances of winning?
Does it take lots of prayers to overcome lots of reluctance on God’s part to answer them?
In every instance, the answer is “No!’ These are all myths. Jesus said, “Do no recite the same prayer over and over like some do who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him” (Matt.6: 7-8).
Myth #3: Those who believe the most get the most. Some believing people mistakenly think that the stronger their faith, the more likely their prayers will be answered. Which means, if it feels your prayers are getting no where – like the container straining to reach the teller – it can only mean one thing: your faith isn’t strong enough.
That’s a myth, my friend.
Yet, surprisingly, many believe it. Their belief is based on a misreading of Jesus who said, “And, when you pray, believing, you will receive” (Mark 11:24). “Believing” is objectified, as it were, into a kind of “belief” system. Further, it is quantified. In other words, if your prayers are not being answered, either your “beliefs” are incorrect or your “believing” is insufficient.
Both are myths.
There is no proper “belief” to which you must subscribe before God will hear your prayers. Furthermore, there is no minimum amount of faith you must acquire in order to deserve Divine attention. God is not gasoline tank into which you pump the fuel of faith and, after having reached the proper limit, the pistons fire and the answers flow.
Let go of all such thinking. Instead, think of “believing” as “trusting.” Offer your prayers but make “trusting” your practice. It won’t be easy, I admit. Which is why trusting is a necessary practice. Praying to God may take no effort but trusting God will take a lifetime of practice.
Myth #4: God hears all prayers but only answers a Christian prayer. I have one particular bank that I go to and I have for as long as I can remember. In fact, it is the same bank my parents used and in which I opened my first checking account when I was but a teenager.
Now that I am an adult, I know my bank is not the only bank. There is another bank just across the street. I am neither naïve nor so arrogant as to suggest the other bank is merely a replica of a bank, built only to look like a bank when actually it is something else altogether. Oh, I suppose I could make such silly claims but who’s to say their customers are not just as convinced that it is my bank that’s actually the phony one?
Some Christians mistakenly think they alone hold the keys to the vault of heaven. But this, too, is a myth.
God has many banks…as well as religions or spiritual traditions. They’re known by many different names. All are legitimate. Only the naïve, even the arrogant, would suggest God hears only their prayers.
I have always loved the way the Catholic nun, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, put it, when she said: “I love all religions; but I’m IN LOVE with my own.”
That’s the proper spirit, my friends. That’s genuine humility at work. It is the kind of attitude that will make prayer more meaningful to you even as it makes room for all other prayers.
And, all other people, too.
Your Best Life Now!
Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, counsel to non-profits, faith-based organizations and congregations, and a spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers all over the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m in love with my own.” Read more from Dr. McSwain on his blog Your Best Life Ever.
The delays…interruptions…to your important life, as well as mine, are quite frustrating, are they not?
Who hasn’t experienced a flight delay? A mechanical problem? A cancelled flight? Or, a traffic jam? Or, having to wait in the checkout lane?
They’re everywhere. They’re a nuisance. They interfere with the best laid plans. They’re a pain in the you-know-what.
Well, of course, that’s one way to look at them. But there might be another, suggests Mark Nepo in his wonderful The Book of Awakening. Maybe these delays and interruptions that interfere with and disrupt our very important schedules, instead of being life’s little and frustrating interruptions, maybe they are Divine interventions…messages from beyond…or, perhaps God’s invitation to pause…to slow down…to pay attention…to reflect…to enter into the very Presence of God.
What if, my friend, you were to practice this day viewing every delay, every interruption, even traffic jam or even the wait at the restaurant for a table…what if, you decided to enter into the flow and, instead of reacting, you slowed down? You paused? You paid attention to your surroundings? You entered into the moment?
What would happen? Here are the ways life’s interruptions help you…
1. They offer you the opportunity to actually slow down. And, who of us would not benefit from this? See if you can feel your heart beating. Observe your breathing. Use this delay as an opportunity to dial-down the frenetic pace of your life. See what happens.
2. Life’s little interruptions are portals into the present moment. The main reason you and I so often feel disconnected from life is because we are disconnected from NOW! We’re thinking about where we’re going, what we have to do, the activities of the day. Or, we are remembering the past, the argument we just had with our spouse, the employee with whom we had a disagreement the day before…the…
Well, you get the point. What if, when you catch yourself today racing about, running here and there, preoccupied with all the important, earth-shattering stuff of your life…what if…when the interruption comes – and, it is likely to come – what if you viewed it as an opportunity to enter into the portal of this present moment?
3. Life’s delays can be occasions to connect with others. I was reminded of this on a recent flight through Atlanta. Unanticipated harsh weather literally shut down the busiest airport in the world. Flights were cancelled by the hundreds. Passengers were stranded and I was among them.
Such occasions can be opportunities to complain, gripe, fuss, and fume and there was plenty of that to go around. But they can also be opportunities to engage…to share stories with complete strangers…to make new friends…to connect with others. And, in the end, my friend, what could be more important than this?
4. Here’s the fourth thing to remember about life’s interruptions: they are Divine reminders that the Divine Presence is with you…and with you always. Much of the displeasure we feel at many of life’s disruptions stems from our disconnected feelings with the Source of Life itself.
So, next time you see the red rear lights on the cars ahead of you all brighten and you quickly discover the interstate has slowed to a near stop with traffic, instead of reacting…reeling inside…
Instead of responding with curses and cries of frustration…
Open your eyes my friend and look for the Presence. God is in every moment…every experience…even in every disruption.
– See more at: http://www.stevemcswain.com/?p=3704#sthash.opYSIWnW.dpuf
“Mantra” is a sanskrit word made up of two other words: “man” meaning “mind” and “tra” meaning “instrument.” Hence, a mantra is an “instrument of the mind.”
Not mental gymnastics or a kind of pattern of positive thinking. More like instead the philosophy by which you determine your life…the guidance principle or the underlying motive that motivates your actions, behavior, priorities, and life.
If you were asked to sum up the overriding philosophy…the guiding light of your ambitions…the prevailing objective or principle both of how you live and the way you life, what would it be?
Could you state it?
I think you could. And, I think you should. You’d be surprised at the power of a Mantra when, not only have your articulated it, but, when it comes from your heart and you regularly repeat it, it becomes an instrument that, like the rudder of a ship, guides your life or like a GPS system, it’ll provide direction, helping you reach your life destiny.
Here’s my Mantra for Living…
We could not be luckier here in Kentucky. We are that state that promotes religious quackery. Oh, in case you don’t know or are making thinking of traveling south to warmer climates, on your way through Kentucky stop and see the Creation Museum. It is our pyramid to primitive faith.
Soon the Museum will serve as host to what some are saying is the debate of the century – Creationism versus Evolutionism. Not since the days of the Scopes Monkey trials has there been another more important debate.
Are you kidding me?
I am so weary of this nonsense. This madness just won’t go away, will it?
I suppose not. At least, not as long as there are Christians who mistakenly think that the infallibility of scripture all collapses if Genesis is not regarded as a scientific treatise on the nature and origin of the universe.
The story of Creation in the Genesis account of creation is the story of Adam and Eve, the story of human community. Or, the lack of it.
That’s about it.
What the Genesis account is not is a historical account of the creation of the universe.
Why can’t puny little minds let this primitive notion go?
You’ll have to answer that.
If, however, you were taught in Sunday School, as I was, that Genesis is all about how God created the world in six literal days of 24-hours duration and that Genesis is the explanation about how “original sin” came to be on this planet as a consequence for the sin of Adam and Eve, then you will understand just how conflicted I’ve been most of my church life after learning the truth that Genesis is not about any of this nonsense at all.
Furthermore, the madness misinformed Christian zealots taught me as an impressionable youth – “brainwashing” might be a better description of it – and so undermined my natural capacity to live by faith by saying stupid things like – “If you don’t believe Genesis…if you have doubts about its authenticity…you are not living by faith” and other such maddening and heretical faith statements – then you can understand my consternation over debates like this one that just won’t ever go away.
I’m sick of it. And, I know that this is just another reason why scores and scores of thinking Christians have left – again, not their faith or their devotion to Christ – but the churches and parishes that promote this heresy. This Creationism craziness is indefensible and only ever succeeds in making Christians look like a a bunch of intellectually-bankrupt nitwits.
That there are still Christians promoting Creationism is actually more unbelievable than the illogical nonsense in Creationism they wish everyone would just believe.
What is this story in Genesis all about?
The story of Adam and Eve, my friend, is really just the story of you and me.
You are Adam and I am Eve and together…well…that makes we.
Genesis is the Jewish version of the mythical stories of creation found in virtually every primitive culture and religion. Its emphasis is on the Creator, creation, and community. It isn’t about proving the existence of God. It isn’t about proving that God created the universe in six literal days. And, it isn’t about how human beings all got inflicted with something it calls “original sin.”
It’s not about any of this at all. It is instead, and mostly, about the failure of humans to guard and grow the community God created. Just ask any Hebrew. Which might be a good place for Christians to start anyway, since the book of Genesis comes from their scriptures, not ours.
The creation story is about human community or, more accurately, the propensity of humans to destroy the potential for community.
When you get this simple truth about the purpose of Genesis, you will begin to grasp the point of the Jesus story – which is all about the creation of a new humanity and the potential for a new community. Which is why Saint Paul called Jesus the new Adam (Romans 5:12-18). In other words, Jesus’ message…the Genesis message…is that we are one human community, one new humanity!
Jesus did not come to create some new religion. Bishop Desmond Tutu is right when he says, “God is not a Christian.” Jesus no more set out to begin “Christianity” than Buddha set out to establish “Buddhism.” These religions, or philosophies, were creations of the followers who came after these spiritual masters. Both groups have done much good, as one might argue with all religions. But virtually all religions, including the Christian religion, have been responsible for incomprehensible evil throughout history.
If all of this sounds like heresy to you, think again. Much of what you and I were taught as Christians about Christianity…about other religions, and much of what many Christians are still being taught today, is where the real heresy lies. And, creationism is just one of its many heretical ideas. It may have been helpful in pre-scientific periods of human history. But to argue that the creation story in Genesis is a literal, historical account of the origins of the universe is to make yourself look to the rest of the world as an ignoramus whose words, and I would add, whose witness, cannot be taken seriously at all. If you’re an Evangelical Christian and reading this, is that what you want?
The story of Genesis, as well as the story of Jesus, is the story of the creation of humanity and community and a new humanity and community, respectively. When you get this, my friend, every Adam and Eve you meet, which is to say, every person you meet, will be a member of your extended human family…your human community.
This is what Saint Paul was pointing toward when he said, “There is no Jew or Greek or bond or free male or female…”(Gal 3:28). In other words, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, Hindus, Churchgoers, those who’ve left the Church, insiders, outsiders, black, white, yellow and red, gays and straights, lesbians and transgendered…indeed everyone you meet…we are all just different Adams and Eves and, as such, we are all brothers and sisters.
This IS the Gospel story. If this is not, then what is it? If this ideal is not realized, worked toward, then what else really matters?
When you get this truth, then you can appreciate Genesis for what it is. But you will also have a new appreciation for the story of Jesus as well. Furthermore, when this truth grips you…and, when it does, it will transform you…you will stop the blind and ignorant labeling of people…the categorizing and judging of people as “believers” versus “non-believers” or “creationists” versus “evolutionists.” You will also give up the silly notion that the Bible needs your puny and primitive rants to protect its sacredness. Most importantly, however, you will suddenly, almost magically, start seeing people everywhere, not as enemies to be eliminated, but as brothers and sisters, even as your family members, who must be loved, forgiven, even redeemed.
Because stuff like this is the proof of real conversion…real salvation…real enlightenment. Not the little rants disguised as Christian apologetics by less than intelligent-thinking Christians.
The day will come – and not too quickly – when the Creation Museum will disappear like the dinosaurs in it. What will remain will be people of faith who have not rejected evolution in favor of creation but have rejected religious ideologies and beliefs founded on fairytales and primitive thinking.
“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge,” warned Einstein, “will be shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.”
It took the Church nearly four hundred years to admit its stupidity and apologize to Galileo.
For centuries, the Gods laughed.
On February 2, 2014, the Creationists will stand up to declare their Truth and Knowledge…
Meanwhile, the Gods…
And, I’m wondering, “When will their madness, and the laughter of the Gods, finally and forever end?
In The Book of Awakening, the poet Mark Nepo writes: “In seeking what is essential, we become essential.”
This is true.
Seek a sacred life, you become spiritual.
Seek to live by faith, you become faithful.
Seek compassion, you become compassionate.
Seek kindness, you are kinder.
Seek joyfulness, you are happier.
Seek patience, you become long-suffering.
Seek peace, you become a peace-maker.
Seek mindfulness, you become more conscious.
Seek God, and you become…well…I almost said it…maybe I should say it. But, the fact is, some of you would be offended. You still think of yourself as separate from God, in spite of the fact that Jesus prayed you would become one with God just as he was (John 17). So, to avoid offending you, I’ll limit it to this: “Seek God and you become, at the least, God-like.”
You are that which you seek. I carry a list in my head of the traits, goals, ambitions, longings…that which I seek and the conditions, or environment, I wish to create in my innermost self, as well as the world around me. I know, as many of you know, too, that what’s going on around me is but a mere reflection of what’s going on inside of me. This is the point in the oft-quoted statement first made by Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” What others mean when they say, “Change the way you see the world and the world you see changes.”
So, when the environment around me is chaotic or stressful or full of anger or drama or negativity or any environment I’d rather avoid, I pause and look within to check on the weather conditions within. Admittedly, there are things that happen that at first blush you did nothing to cause. But there is a mystery here that eludes everyone. It is the mystery that nothing happens that is ever completely random. No need to get all bent out of shape over such a statement. Just know that buried beneath the heap of randomness there is a treasure of self-discovery…a life lesson…a transcendent experience…a something so magnificent that, when it is known, your life will never be the same.
I recommend to you the following practice. Write down the five statements below or, better yet, write your own and carry them with you every day. When standing in line waiting to order a skinny latte, instead of texting incessantly, why not recite these statements?
Copy them to a “Notes” page on your smartphone if you’d prefer. But, whatever you do, practice repeating them. Over and over again. In time, you’ll not need the “Notes” prompt. You’ll just find yourself repeating them from memory.
Most importantly, however, you’ll find yourself becoming becoming like the very qualities, or “intentions,” as some call them, that you seek. You’ll discover that you, the seeker, as well as that which you seek, are becoming one-and-the-same.
Which is why I call these the five “I AM” statements “powerful,” or “transformative.” They are. They will change your life
Consider the following “I am” statements…
“I am one with God.”
“I am complete just as I am.”
“I am equal to everyone but superior to none.”
“I am at peace now and full of joy.”
“I am present, aware and conscious.”
Remember the “I am” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John? “I am the light of the world.” “I am the bread of life.” “I am the good shepherd.” “I am the resurrection and the life.”
There’s something here, my friend. Do not miss it.
It has the power to transform everything. To change you. Forever.
Again, I make you a promise. If you will write these down, or write your own, and repeat them several times each day for one week, the oneness you are with God, for example, will begin taking on a whole new meaning; the completeness you are already will actually feel that way inside. You will become more peaceful…more joyful…more present and aware…more connected with the Eternal Now. I promise.
If you’d like to know more of The Power of “I Am” statements, may I recommend to you Howard Falco’s book, I Am: The Power of Discovering Who You Really Are? He’s written a wonderful book and a great place to start.
“Just mental gymnastics,” some will say.
Perhaps. But, I am creating my own gym and, just as I see changes in my physical life when I regularly exercise at the gym across town, when I practice creating the mental and spiritual environment wherein I wish to live, I see changes, too.
I have discovered that what the Dalai Lama said is true: “When you are discontent, for example, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you say to yourself, ‘Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.’ ”
Make this your practice, my friend, and the day will come when you find it no longer necessary to say, “I am one with God.”
“I am…” will be sufficient.
When you no longer have to ask “Why?” you’ll know.
This is the season for New Year’s Resolutions. Actually, however, there is only one resolution you could ever possibly need. Not surprisingly, it is also the one resolution that, when practiced resolutely, changes everything, about your life and our world. That resolution? To…
Consider this: What do you suppose might happen in this New Year if you determined daily to treat yourself with compassion and to greet every situation, as well as every person, with a compassionate disposition?
How could this not change everything about your life? How could this not dramatically impact how you act, interact, and react to others, as well as to the world around you?
I was thinking recently about all the new friends I’ve made, as well as old friendships I’ve renewed, through the social media platform of Facebook and the like. If you think about it, it is really amazing. Friends I have not seen or talked to in decades, I now talk to regularly. People I would likely have never met, I have not only met on Facebook, but we have become dear friends.
Recently, for example, I made a new friend who is co-author the post you are reading. Although we live four thousand kilometers from one another, Bill Butler in Chilliwack, British Columbia and I in Louisville, Kentucky, we somehow connected on Facebook – at least, I think that’s where we first met – and we quickly discovered just how much we think alike.
It is our hope this acronym will inspire you to join with us in making the one resolution that could change everything about your life and in our world.
Offering the gift of yourself
Intimacy is “Into-me-you-see.”
From Bill Butler and me: “Be Compassionate” in the New Year!
It’s the one resolution that changes everything.
Mr. Bill Butler is a humanitarian, thought leader, teacher, spiritual guide, and a John C. Maxwell certified coach and speaker who counsels executives, professionals, and clients within every professional field.
Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, thought leader, and spiritual guide whose blogs here at the Huffington Post, BeliefNet.com, and from his website are followed by people across the world.