RIPPLE EFFECTS: WHERE PRAYER CAN BE VALID
The story of Elaine’s illness is her story. She is the central character and, in describing her experience, she has used the language of rebirth. Her words sound congruent and meaningful to me. I have a place in her story, and she in mine. We are together a lot of the time. Her dramatic hospitalisation and return have had significant ripple effects on me – not as a stone thrown into a pond rippling out in circles, but as distinctive currents moving in one body of water.
From an inquiry perspective, I find myself in a new place concerning prayer. Something in me broke open when Elaine was in hospital, after her own life-and-death crisis was past, but when she was still very ill, and it was still possible for something to go wrong. We couldn’t see each other of course but were texting. I wept and prayed when alone, having completely forgotten that I ‘don’t believe’ in petitionary prayer.
This is something that happens for many people in crisis, and I could have gone back to my previous setting, especially after Elaine came home, out of danger. But I haven’t – because I know that, regardless of any effect that my prayers may have had on Elaine’s wellbeing, they made me somehow more present, with a more porous and open sense being. Prayer seems to push me in the direction of compassionate capacity and availability, at the very least making me more conscious of my existing limitations and willing to move beyond them.
I have reflected on my practice, and the understandings behind it, and I have made changes. I wrote about my previous position in the post My Druid Prayer – https://contemplativeinquiry.blog/2020/08/27/ . I still respect it. I stand by my references to ‘Oneness’ as universal interbeing. The version of the prayer I offered was liked both by Humanist and Naturalist Druids and by those influenced by the example of non-theistic forms of Non-Duality, such as Buddhism and Taoism. I am glad to have written this revision, and I will continue to use it on some occasions. But in my daily evening practice, when I say the Druid Prayer, I have returned to tradition, beginning ‘Grant O Goddess your protection’ rather than ‘In the recognition of Oneness I find protection’. For my changed relationship to prayer also opens up a changed relationship with the divine, which I am exploring now and will write about soon. I am working towards a more integrated Druidry, inclusive of a devotional space where prayer can be valid.
I recognise this being broken open to prayer from both personal and familial events. I guess, having been a devotional polytheist for many years, it is something I am now more familiar and comfortable with, although that urgent need for divine… help… aid… presence… in life-and-death situations is always derailing.
It has always rung very true to me that prayer shares it’s root with ‘precarious’ and we often tend to pray at precarious times when we have opened by our precarity.
Best wishes to both of you with your healing from your traumatic time.
Thanks for your kind and insightful words Lorna. These experiences have changed things for me and – in my inquiry context – shifted my perspective on what I am doing.
In my interfaith activist group here I am constantly hearing the prayers of my co-conspirators and I have come to see much value in them. It remains true, as one of them observed to my great amusement, that prayer can be easily “weaponized,” and this of course is objectionable, even (dare I say it?) sacreligious. But even a person like me, fancying myself a thorough-going naturalist, can see that the act of petitioning activates some very important and beneficial capacities of our being.
Thanks for your comment Bart. This is new territory for me. Like many people, I suspect, I have negative memories from my childhood and adolescence, mainly of alienation, boredom an d confusion, in this arena. I’ll stay in inquiry and see how I find prayer as a practice in a very different context now.
Karl, I can certainly emphasize with your concern for Elaine. I can only hope that Rose, my wife of 50 years, never has a life threatening illness or injury.
Thanks Ron. Happily Elaine and I are in another place now. My best wishes to you and Rose.
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