But that’s not what I asked for!
If like me, you received a Christian education, you probably have an idea of the method and purpose of prayer that is different from what Unity teaches. In some traditions, some prayers are memorized and repeated for specific purposes – The Lord’s Prayer, The Rosary, Hail Mary, and Grace before meals. These are all good and useful, but when we simply repeat them as a reflex, these prayers and any others, including prayers made in the Unity tradition, we run the risk that they become little more than a habitual activity without any thought, feeling, or reflection.
Rev. Joanne’s talk this week centered on explaining the support that the Unity Spiritual Center Prayer Ministry offers to all who wish to receive it. With the assistance of Lead Prayer Chaplain, Michele Coles, she and Michele discussed the role Prayer Chaplains fulfill and the form their support takes.
Prayer Chaplains support our community in many ways, including: leading our Community Prayer during Sunday services; praying individually and privately with anyone who desires it; and praying with the prayers requested in the Prayer Box for thirty days, after which time they are forwarded to Silent Unity at Unity Village, who also pray with those prayers for another 30 days.
Michele and Rev. Joanne explained that the role of the Prayer Chaplains are to hold sacred space for anyone and everyone who desires that support – they “stand in the gap” for us. The Prayer Chaplains are there to listen with open hearts and open minds, offering no judgments. It was also explained that Prayer Chaplains do not offer “fixes” or “solutions.”
Confidentiality is also paramount. Every prayer spoken, or received in the Prayer Box, is always held in sacred trust. Prayer Chaplains stand in the gap for us, but will not ask the person the next week, or ever, “how’s it going with your situation?” Once the prayer is shared and held, the Prayer Chaplains hold it in their hearts knowing that the highest and best outcome will be yours.
Prayer support from the Unity Spiritual Center Prayer Ministry and from Silent Unity at Unity Village are a wonderful gift. However, we may not be able to come to services on Sunday, or call Silent Unity. While the support these wonderful organizations provide can be “just what the doctor ordered,” the true power of prayer is experienced on an individual basis.
Many people who learned about prayer from traditional Christian churches may have the idea that praying to God is sort of like putting a token in a “wish machine” in the sky. The thinking may include things like – please God, heal me of this ailment; please God, make my spouse stop drinking too much; please God, let me get a better job because my family needs the money. There may even be some bargaining involved. “God, if you grant this request, I’ll donate more money to church, or volunteer at a soup kitchen, or attend church every week.” Praying in this way comes from a viewpoint that prayer is meant somehow to change God’s mind, and by our asking nicely, and even bargaining, God will bestow our request.
Unity teaches something quite different about prayer. Charles Fillmore tells us in The Revealing Word:
Do not supplicate or beg God to give you what you need, but get still and think about the inexhaustible resources of infinite Mind, its presence in all its fullness, and its constant readiness to manifest itself for you when its laws are complied with. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
For some people, not accepting what Fillmore is telling us is not necessarily because they do not understand what is being explained. It can also be because they actually do understand what is being explained, and are unwilling to do what is being suggested. Most people can get on board with the idea of getting still and thinking about the inexhaustible resources of infinite Mind, but resistance can arise when they realize that manifestation occurs only when the laws of Divine Mind are complied with.
This means taking responsibility for everything that happens in our lives. With the traditional view of prayer, if we pray for something and we do not receive what we asked for, then God has made a decision about it and that’s that. Not our fault. Not our responsibility. Of course, this does not mean that bad things do not happen to good people. It also does not mean that life will never bring us unpleasant episodes over which we have no control – natural disasters, death of a loved one, random acts of violence, accidents, etc. We may not have control over everything, but we are responsible for how we react to our circumstances.
Unity writers Mary-Alice and Richard Jafolla provide us with excellent insight regarding the purpose and method of prayer. They tell us in The Quest:
Our whole life is a prayer. Every thought and every emotion and every act is a message to the great Universal Mind of God as to what we are claiming for ourselves, what we want to see established in our lives.
The highest use of prayer is to announce your intention of opening yourself to God’s will and God’s good. It is your endeavor to link up with and accept all of the qualities of God. It is a sincere invitation to allow God’s life to be lived through you.
So what does it mean when we follow a path of a prayerful life but still do not see the outcomes we want or expect? This is a difficult question. One possibility is that our prayer conflicted with the highest and best good of another. We cannot manifest through Divine Mind if it is harmful. For example, we cannot manifest through Divine Mind by praying for someone else’s marriage to break up so that we can then marry that person. Another possibility is that our prayer was not for our highest good, and that the natural laws of Divine Mind do not allow such manifestation to occur. Finally, it is also possible that we are not fully evolved enough beings to understand all the nuances of Divine Mind. We may have received our answers, but not in the way we expect, and therefore do not recognize it as an answered prayer.
Prayer is a very personal thing; it is about as personal as anything can get. Humans are social creatures, and successful relationships are at the core of our being. What could be more important than a successful, personal relationship with Divine Mind? All of this is to say what Paul told the Thessalonians way back when:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24
You can choose to pray with a prayer chaplain who will stand in the gap with you. You can also realize you can be the one to stand in the gap for yourself. Take time each day to pray. If you need support, join our 8 am prayer call at 319.527.2704; access code 559110#
I will continue my established daily prayer and meditation practice. This week, I will be particularly attuned to how I can “stand in the gap” for others.