Alfred, Lord Tennyson
More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of
Idylls of a king, The passing of Arthur
Im aware that I have taken this quotation out of its original context, but it is a phrase that I have often heard and in recent weeks I have found myself wondering what prayer is really all about. So many people ask me precisely that question and expect me to answer it quickly and in a few sentences. I cant in a few words, but I am stimulated and teased by the question.
Before boarding an aeroplane, a friend of mine always says to God, "God, for the next few hours I need you to give this plane your undivided attention." I like that. This is blunt, direct, incisive, honest and puts into words what many of us think when the engines start to roar, youre pulled back into your seat and the world shrinks underneath you. As human beings we seem to have the ability to appeal to something or someone outside ourselves when we are in trouble, danger or desperate need. There is a human yearning for explanation and understanding in the face of troubles that are unsolicited and blatantly unfair. Chance and choice are equally cruel. In the same way, we cry out beyond ourselves when were grateful, amazed and full of wonder or excitement.
I cannot accept a magical god, who chooses to listen or answer or respond to some and not to others. That produces too many "Why?" and "Why not?" questions, which stimulate pious answers that are blatantly unhelpful, smack of unreality and lack integrity.
I believe that there is a real God at the heart of all that is. I believe that he loves me to death. I believe that I can enter into that love. I believe that I have to love to death too. I believe that love balances between letting go and getting involved. It hurts to love and there is hurt at its heart. To pray is to engage with, communicate with and enter in right in to the centre of the love that hurts and gives and loves to death. Then I am absorbed into the heart of love, into the being of God. Because love is more powerful than anything else, something transforms what is not of love to that which is of love. So Easter Day and Resurrection make sense, and suddenly I realise that the magical is fake. It oppresses and tricks and deceives and manipulates for fun. I cant go along with that. So I believe in prayer, because I believe in love, and love has a price and I must pay it or, has Jesus paid it for me, I wonder? More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of?
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