Midweek Faith Lift
November 21, 2018
Prayer al`a Butterworth
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
Prayer, what does it mean to Pray? When I was in seminary we did short talks during our Licensing and Ordination interviews, affectionately called L &O- sounds like a railroad, doesn’t it? My last L & O talk was on prayer with an acronym for PRAY- Presence Resonates As You. As I read through this chapter, that acronym continues to speak the truth about prayer al`a Butterworth. That’s reassuring! Presence Resonates As You! Resonance is like the sound of these Buddhist Temple Bells and the after sound that you continue to hear. Prayer allows the sounds of the Universe, the sounds and energy of the ALLNESS to permeate our “Eachness” our entire Being-ness- Body, Mind, Spirit. Prayer is not a doing, it is a Being.
When we pray, we are, as Butterworth says repeatedly, “Practicing the Presence” of God.” We are resonating that Presence throughout our whole Being, the whole of our experience. Practicing the Presence is prayer; maintaining that prayer consciousness is how we want to live. Resonating that Presence of the Allness of the Universe is to cultivate a prayer consciousness that resounds quietly and powerfully through all our lives. It happens in ways that we can see and in ways that are not visible to us. It is such an essential reality that this process of prayer is present in all religions as we experienced at the Parliament of World Religions. No matter the form, no matter where God is placed, the intention of prayer is to connect with God, the Allness that is God.
From a metaphysical, or Unity, perspective, prayer is all about consciousness-God Consciousness, the Allness that infuses each of us in our very Being. Prayer is connecting with what is already here, always present in us. We experience that Presence in everything to the extent that we invite and allow it. Prayer is intentionally connecting with that Allness that is within each of us, the Allness of our very breath. Allowing that Presence to permeate our entire life process is the kicker, the challenge, because so very often we participate in “Practicing the Absence” of God, “Absencing” the flow of Divine Love, of the Whole energy of God that wants to express at the point of us. We Practice the Absence!
Now I know you never do this, but in case you were wondering what “Practicing the Absence” looks like, l just want to give you a few hints to help you recognize it when you hear it or see it. It can be very sneaky and subtle and is a lot like having one foot on the gas and the other foot on the brake. Have you ever ridden with someone who drives like that? You make progress, but it is in fits and starts, and most unpleasant. True “Presencing” puts the foot to the gas and says, yes, let’s go! I am all in….all into the energy of Love, of God, even when I am not sure you are going to love me back, or be kind or even try to understand me. I’m all in anyway!
Absencing is our hesitancy, our “yes, but….do you realize how difficult that is, or do you realize how painful that will be, or do you realize how much money that will take, or do you realize how awful she is, or you don’t know my personality or do you realize how confusing that is, how unfair, how one-sided, how miserable, how wrong……and on and on and on. We know this one really well and we do it with great regularity and usually a lot of zeal and enthusiasm to boot!
Prayer, Practicing the Presence changes our “yes, but” into “yes, and….” Prayer changes us. Ultimately, that is why we pray, to change our consciousness. What are we changing from? From the “Yes, but” dead end to the heart opening “Yes, and.” We want to live where there is more of the Allness consciousness of God and less of the Absence consciousness. How do we do this? Good question! It takes practice, but not the kind of practice that you think!
Butterworth says this about prayer on page 158 of Practical Metaphysics:
Prayer is not something you learn to do, like learning to drive a car, learning to type, or even working crossword puzzles. A little girl was once asked when company was present to come out and say her prayers for the company because her parents were delighted with the way she could say her, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” The little girl came out, all agog with the anticipation of performing before the guests, and stood there and closed her eyes and said her little prayer. They were all very flattering, and they praised her and loved her and blessed her, and the little girl finally blurted out, “But you ought to hear me gargle!”
Before we laugh too hard, it is essential to realize that we, in Unity can get just as caught up in the gargle…the performance of affirmations, repeating them incessantly, as if that would make them come true. There are even programs in Unity such as 4T about prosperity that ask the participants to say “I am prosperous” at least 100 times per day. I have never done that program here or anywhere. Why not? Well, I asked my prayer partner, Rev. Carol if it made any difference for her congregation with respect to tithing over the long term and she answered, “No, not any long term difference!” Which is just as Butterworth says: Mindless repetition of affirmations does not change consciousness. If our intention is to make something happen with prayer, we might just as well gargle!
What we truly desire, our heart’s desire with prayer is for the Practice of Prayer to truly change our consciousness. That means we have to be still and know the Presence of God. We have to know that God is praying for us. Jesus told us this when he said as recorded in the gospel of Luke 12:30-34
Luke 12:30-34 (NRSV)
30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Our prayer practice is to make us more God- conscious and less self-conscious.
Jesus reassures us to not be afraid, but to put all our resources into “God Consciousness-the Kingdom, which God wants to give to us. It is clearly not in our possessions for attachment to possessions, to ego, results in Absencing, not Presencing. Prayer is about being Present to the activity of God within and all around us. Jesus also repeatedly states “the Father” knows our need even before we ask. There is that pesky little word: ask. It can lead us astray quickly if we use it in the human sense of wanting something.
So what do mean by ask with regard to prayer? It roughly translates as claim or demand and it means that we claim the experience of what is already true. Our asking is to claim what is already true, that the energy of the Universe is there for you, that love is there for you. Butterworth likens it to throwing the switch to turn on the lights and claim the flow of electricity. We don’t implore the electricity to flow and the lights to come on, we just expect it to happen. Likewise, we do not implore God to hear our prayers and make things happen the way we want them to.
Instead, we get very quiet, very still and tune into the vast love energy of the Universe to realize that we are part of that, and to know the Truth, that with Love all things are possible. In Unity, we practice the Silence, that place of deepest connection to the Allness of God, to the experience of Oneness with all love. It is living in the realization that God can only do for you what God can do through you (a Butterworth cliché). In that stillness of Silence, it is then as the Chinese saying goes: “If a person be absolutely quiet, the heavenly heart will manifest itself!”
Practicing the Presence or Prayer is about opening to the energy, about feeling it throughout your entire body temple. It is an opening that takes place in the Silence, the Stillness and when realized within, it expresses outwardly in all our affairs. We have to always begin with this consciousness of inner centering; without that there is no real prayer. Butterworth quotes Plotinus, and ancient Greek philosopher: “The whole universe rushes, streams, and pours into me from all sides while I just sit quiet.” We sit in Silence to allow the whole of God to rush into us from all sides. Jesus did that regularly when he went to the mountaintop to pray.
We have been practicing the Presence during our meditation times for the past several weeks when we open to the energy of the heart and an experience of overflowing love. How does this look when we take it out into our world? Well all I can say is that I prayed my way through every step of my recent trip to Canada. How do I know that I did this? The same way that you will know. Every time my human mind wanted to say “Yes, but..” I had to pause and pray and shift to a consciousness of “Yes, and….” Can I use all these apps on my new phone? “Pray, yes, and….” AND Ihave never ever done so many electronics related tasks in such a short time in my entire life. And then I also expected to successfully use them! And I did!
Can I find my way through customs in Canada and again when coming back to the US? Yes….but, breathe, pray, “Yes, and….Ask for help as many times as you need to! There was a time in my life when all of this would have made me a nervous wreck, wringing my hands with stress and anxiety. With prayer, and an active prayer consciousness, it was an adventure I could enjoy not an ordeal that I had to endure. That is the power of Prayer, the Power of Practicing the Presence and changing your “Yes, but ….to Yes, and” with each now moment.
Blessings on the Path,