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Pray to Whom? And Why?

Last post 12-29-2007, 3:37 PM by Mink63. 17 replies.
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  •  08-07-2006, 1:57 PM 3656

    Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Hi all,

    I'm gonna put in a slightly more refined, polite form something I mentioned in the I fucking hate thread.

    I've been praying in a mostly Jewish style for the past few months, after growing up in Rabbi Zalman Schachter's house, which is rather steeped in mystical Judaism, and I'm running into the same trouble that a whole lot of other people do. I've talked to my father about it, but his answer was just to point out that it's all in my head and a silly problem, but I knew that already and it isn't enough. So here goes.

    One of the perennial struggles within second person spirituality is the issue of why one should bother praying. If we're dealing with an omnipotent, omniscient deity, who is perpetually creating me, and of whose consciousness my own is just a reflection, etc etc, the sort of God that I can believe in, God who is like what Ken calls Spirit, but viewed in the second person, what's the point of praying? God knows my thoughts before I speak them. He knows my needs better than I do. His decision making will take me into accout as much or as little as he wants, regardless of whether I pray. He can't be influenced by what I have to say, because he's just playing at being me anyway. Even talking about God in anthropomorphic terms to describe my trouble is bothersome. Referring to God's "decision making" seems kinda ridiculous, doesn't it?

    So I can't pray to that God, the God that I really believe in, because that God is so much bigger than my conception of him, bigger than my prayer, bigger than anything I could relate to in a meaningful way, except to just bask in. But if I pray to a "smaller" God, put a face on God that I can relate to, it feels like I'm lying or faking it, or just indulging my shadow and whim, instead of worshipping.

    If it's just a practice, like Ken makes it seem in Integral Spirituality, then its sorta self-indulgant, and the second-person part of it is somewhat illusory. There's no real Other involved in that, it's just first-person spirituality with a fresh coat of paint. The experience of connecting to God involves a sense that God is both other than me and making/sustaining/dressing-up-as me. There's a sense of connection, of resonance. I don't have these feelings when I'm doing 1st person meditation stuff. So I don't buy that theory.

    I'm willing to grant that, although praying for rain doesn't always bring rain, there may be some way in which intentions can be made manifest in a subtle way. I'll buy that prayer may effect the microcosmic things that have macrocosmic effects, in unmeasurable and subtle ways, maybe, but that can't be the whole reason to pray. It's kinda selfish, first of all, it doesn't account for the sense of God, second of all, and it doesn't explains prayers of request, but not prayers of praise or thanks.

    People often say things like "God made himself just a little bit less Infinite so that there could be relationship between him and us," but I don't really understand what that means. To get Wilbery about it, what injunction do I actualize in order to test the truth of that statement? It sounds like metaphysics to me, and I'm hoping that there's some post-metaphysical explanation of it.

    Now, this is, as my father said, all in my head and a bit silly. And when I don't think about it I can pray and connect and feel and express and all of that good stuff. I take my practice seriously, and I'm not doubting its validity. I just want to understand it a little better. I want some help fleshing out the post-metaphysical picture of God and prayer.

    So I'll leave it as I started it. It's the same old question as ever, just totally new. Whom do we pray to? And why?

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  •  08-07-2006, 8:30 PM 3687 in reply to 3656

    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    inspiring inquiry, Yotam. plz permit a tad clumsy ramble while passing through...

    Perhaps you could start by thanking that cup for holding your beverage so well.
    Then thank your hand for holding the cup so well.
    etc...

    After all, that cup is a piece of God in all the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person perspectives.

    Speaking directly to a thing...any thing, be it a force of nature, a mechanical device, a cancerous growth, a feeling about someone, a vision in a dream...is to speak to the spirit that is that thing, which is not seperate from anything or anyone else, and ultimately a microphone connected to the entire universe, and your ultimate self.

    It is quite something to truly feel this while doing it. 

    And not that we should get caught up in expecting something to happen, because so much will happen anyway, in our relationship to that thing, which is also a part of our relationship to Spirit.

    And so much happens in our relationships with everything. Prayer changes us in very practical ways, which then reverberates throughout.

    And eventually, what we consider possible may open up into something entirely new. What we allow and expect changes, and so our experience of life changes.

    We might not so easily cuss our car for breaking down. Or hate a pimple for showing up on our nose before a date.

    But i think all that is really just a hint at what a practical post-metaphysical prayerful life can be like in one's personal life. As you probably know...there are so many kinds of prayer, and reasons for prayer.

    And we can plug in things like our deepest and widest nondual compassion, and the diamond focus of our highest cognitions and visionary capacities, as well as skillful means...and in light of someone who is ill or suffering, 2nd person relationship with spirit simply melts into everything else, where "miraculous encounters" abound, but without the need to add a myth or rational explanation to them. We just surrender to what is, chalk it up to those mysterious ways and keep moving while sitting still.

    I have seen that where bold declarations of greater possibility, in the face of reality, can lift the awareness and intention of a community. When practiced, it can transform a community.

    I dunno...just a few thoughts. But overall, i think what you are asking is the perfect kind of thing that needs to be asked. Especially in light of the oceans upon oceans of cynical intentions and unconscious prayers being cast about these days.

    Peace,
    Todd

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  •  08-08-2006, 4:56 PM 3775 in reply to 3687

    • maryw is not online. Last active: 12-02-2007, 1:05 AM maryw
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    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Todd --

    I love what you wrote. I am now thanking our keyboards, our computers, the internet, this institute, and all who toil to create these realms of communication that enable us to gab with each other about these subjects!

    Yschachter, I thought I'd provide a few links to some discussions about prayer on the old Integral Naked forum (and now I am thanking God as Corey for access to those old forae) because I think they offer a nice variety of responses to your question and may perhaps inspire more sharing on the subject here:

    Prayer, A Recent Study ...

    God Doesn't Participate in Studies

    The Way of Love and Devotion

    I sometimes think of the kosmos as the body of God, and sentient beings as cells in that body. (Or: God as the sea, and beings as the rivers flowing to or from the sea, etc....) The cells in the body "are God" but can also have a dialogical, "second-person" relationship with each other as cells and with God as a body. Say the body gets hungry or is wounded. Cells/organs will send signals to the brain via neurons and chemicals and electrical impulses to eat (in the case of hunger) or to send healing materials (often other kinds of cells) to the site of the wound. [Added after edit: btw, looks like this is that "Web of Life" / "Gaia hypothesis" type reasoning that has major limitations, as KW explains in Ch. 8 of Integral Spirituality ...]

    It is through cells and organ systems that the body "works." If you think of prayer not so much as specific petitions but as an ongoing openness and surrender to the presence and action of Spirit, then you might say that it is through us that God/Spirit "prays."

    Peace,

    Mary

     


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  08-08-2006, 5:28 PM 3779 in reply to 3775

    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    My experience with this provides a very simple answer:

    Don't ask me, ask in prayer.

    Really. Ask whoever the fuck you are praying to to tell you the answer. Really.

    Do it. See, the confusion is blocking your prayer, so bring the confusion to prayer.

    Seriously. Try it.

    The 2nd person relationship is much more mysterious than you and your ego would ever dare to think . . . .

    Trust me.

    The only qualification is that you have to really do it. (and keep doing it until it works . . .)

    Surrender the confusion to prayer.

    (Oh, and if not, Pray to me.Smile [:)])

     

    PS-I do have more answers if you still need help.


    "With whom or with what are you in communion at this moment?"
    . . ."I?" he replied, almost mechanically. "Why not with anyone or anything."
    "You must be a marvel . . . if you are able to continue in that state for long."
    -Constantin Stanislavsky
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  •  08-09-2006, 9:34 AM 3840 in reply to 3779

    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Tim,

    1 - done. I have quite often asked the one to whom I pray to identify Himself. The answer I get is not to worry about it. So I don't, for a few minutes.

    2 - Writing this post was pretty helpful in and of itself. I've been doing better at resting in the mystery of it lately, having released the question somewhat.

    3 - My personal practice is only one of the goals I'm serving here. What that can be satisfied in the unknowing, I also have an interest in expressing as cogently as possible what I believe and how I practice, which is not served well by just accepting the mystery. So more answers are always welcome (and I'll go check out those old forum discussions, too).

    The trouble is that, while dwelling in the unknowing allows me to pray well and feel my communion and union with God, it feels kinda like saying to my mind "go away. I'm praying, and it's none of your business," which is hardly the Integral thing to do.

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  •  08-09-2006, 9:45 AM 3843 in reply to 3775

    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Hi Mary,

    Thanks for those links. I'll check them out soon.

    I've had some very profound experiences relating to God as mega-organism. There's something very inviting about that, as though my urge to connect to God is mirrored by an urge to include and connect to me. I think there is definitely some truth in that analogy. But I can't quite fit all of my intuition and feeling about God into that picture. Maybe you can help with that. God as mega-organism, or God as holistic-union-of-all-consciousness, wasn't there before there was Time. That face of God isn't perpetually creating and recreating all that is. That face of God isn't outside of the Universe as well as infusing it.

    It's frustrating, because I realize that I've set up the game so you can't win. Any suggestion that you guys make of how to think about God I'm sure I'll be able to discredit. Any mask I put on God I can tear off, any analogy I make for God I can poke holes in. So long as I can imagine something greater, I won't be satisfied, and if I can't imagine anything greater, I won't really understand it. So I'm kinda screwed. But I want to be able to characterize the relationship, if not my partner in that relationship, and I want to be able to understand the post-metaphysical nature of my inability to grok God even as I'm relating to him. (Wow, pronouns just seem so silly sometimes).

    It's a bit of a gordian knot, a catch-22, etc. But while I don't know that the question of "Who am I praying to and why" can necessarily be answered, I feel very intuitively confident that the question can be transcended somehow, in a way that goes beyond just admitting I don't have an answer. Does that make sense?

    And again, as I replied to Tim, I meditate on this and pray for understanding. I get the feeling that God likes it when we wrestle with these things. I just have no idea what I mean, really, when I say that "God likes" something.

    Yotam

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  •  08-09-2006, 9:56 AM 3846 in reply to 3687

    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Todd,

    The expanding waves of gratefulenss is a beautiful practice, and one that I hope to do more. You are quite right that locally I am thanking God-as-cup, and expanded far enough it begins to hint at God-as-God. I'll play with this more, thank you (err, thank God-as-you?).

    And I agree with you completely about the effects on worldly relationships of such a compassionate practice. Even from the short time that I've been doing my practice, I can see such effects, and I'm very appreciative of them.

    Yours was a beautiful ramble. I'll think on it more.

    But, as I'm sure you can imagine, as my replies to Tim and Mary indicate, the question remains.

    Yotam

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  •  08-09-2006, 11:30 AM 3871 in reply to 3843

    • maryw is not online. Last active: 12-02-2007, 1:05 AM maryw
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    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    It's frustrating, because I realize that I've set up the game so you can't win. Any suggestion that you guys make of how to think about God I'm sure I'll be able to discredit. Any mask I put on God I can tear off, any analogy I make for God I can poke holes in. So long as I can imagine something greater, I won't be satisfied, and if I can't imagine anything greater, I won't really understand it.

    Hi again, Yotam -- I do think that God is greater than any and all of our analogies -- and also that God is both within and beyond time. I can never fit all of God into an analogy, and I actually don't try to. I simply trust that God Is. Whatever I can understand or imagine or say about God will always be partial and limited in this manifest realm -- useful for conversation, maybe -- but nothing more than a finger pointing at the moon. Descriptions of God are always an "as if." I may try to find more ways to ponder and "point to" God (and I agree that God "likes" that) -- but never with the goal of fully grokking God.

    My feeling is that your question is transcended with the recognition that God is both within and beyond our ideas and understandings of God. And I know this is not a satisfactory answer for you, but I offer it here anyway, in all its limitations.

    Salud,

    Mary


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  08-09-2006, 12:08 PM 3880 in reply to 3871

    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Thank you.

    "within and beyond our ideas and understandings" is a big step towards transcendance. It's one I need to dwell on further.

    Yotam

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  •  08-09-2006, 12:24 PM 3881 in reply to 3843

    • geomo is not online. Last active: 03-14-2007, 1:33 PM geomo
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    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Hi Yotam,

    This thread is kind of a question after the fact for me today.  Reading some stuff by Swami Ramdas, reading in the Bhagavad Gita, doing some practice of reciting the name of God, as recommended by Swami.  I highly recommend reading some of his stuff.  He was intensely devotional, just as the Gita is maybe the premier devotional text of Vedanta (not that I know all that much of Vedanta).  His primary practice and the one that spurred his awakening and intensely deepened his realization was simply to recite the mantra Ram over and over again, and to do it joyously, not as a compulsory practice.  It seems that it is a matter of attunement to God, a harmonzing of human consciousness with Divine Consciousness, that is at play.  As for the Gita, I posted on another thread a few lines from the beginning of chapter 9.  At the end of chapter 9, the last lines are speak to that kind of devotional prayer, as follows:

    "The Blessed Lord said:

    ...Concentrate your mind on me,
    fill your heart with my presence,
    love me, serve me, worship me,
    and you will attain me at last."

    Chapter 10 is titled "Manifestations" and speaks maybe more to petitionary prayer, such as praying for rain.  In it, Krishna goes on and on about all manner of manifestations which are nothing other than Him.  That is sort of in line with a previous post (forgive me but I can't recall who posted it right now) talking about just generally being grateful for all that arises in our experience, such as the cup in your hand.  The end of Chapter 10 goes like this:

    "The Blessed Lord said:

    ...These are just a small number
    of my infinite manifestations;
    were I to tell you more,
    there would be no end to the telling.

    Whatever in the world is excellent
    and glows with intelligence or beauty --
    be sure that it has its source
    in a fragrant of  my divine splendor.

    But what need is there for all these
    details?  Just know that I am,
    and that I support the whole universe
    with a single fragment of myself."


    yschachter:

    Any suggestion that you guys make of how to think about God I'm sure I'll be able to discredit.

    Who cares how to think of God (not to make slight of your predicament...it's one I share and am working to overcome, not necessarily by any doing of my own).  Just think of God.

    Keith


    Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -unknown
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  •  08-21-2006, 9:22 AM 4837 in reply to 3656

    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    yschachter:

    So I can't pray to that God, the God that I really believe in, because that God is so much bigger than my conception of him, bigger than my prayer, bigger than anything I could relate to in a meaningful way, except to just bask in. But if I pray to a "smaller" God, put a face on God that I can relate to, it feels like I'm lying or faking it, or just indulging my shadow and whim, instead of worshipping.

    If it's just a practice, like Ken makes it seem in Integral Spirituality, then its sorta self-indulgant, and the second-person part of it is somewhat illusory. There's no real Other involved in that, it's just first-person spirituality with a fresh coat of paint. The experience of connecting to God involves a sense that God is both other than me and making/sustaining/dressing-up-as me. There's a sense of connection, of resonance. I don't have these feelings when I'm doing 1st person meditation stuff. So I don't buy that theory.

     

    Yotam, I love these questions and I love your posts in general.  You're doing a fantastic job of stimulating us all....

    Who am I praying to?  Its actually a great question, deceptively simple.  I really relate to what you say about feeling you're faking it when you pray to that small God.

     

    I count myself a Christian, though now unchurched.  One of the reasons I left the Anglican (= Episcopalian) church after many years of active membership is that I felt that I’d had a bellyfull of what seemed to me to be simplistic and anachronistic Blue meme doctrine.  Oddly, though, I’ve always, since childhood, had a sense of 'God's presence' in mystical, non-dualist, terms, and for many years had no difficulty in simply translating standard doctrine into my own private non-dualist concepts. I would lead the prayers on a Sunday and lead them sincerely, while privately treating everything I was saying symbolically.  For example, I could appeal to Our Father in Heaven, and know that many in the congregation would be picturing an old man listening to us from another dimension, while at the same time using the words for myself as a way of accessing what Wilber calls the intra-physical, rather than meta-physical, spiritual world.    But: a time came when I stopped being able to manage this trick of speaking on different levels at the same time.   I saw myself as a hypocrite, and have never darkened a church door since. 

     

    But.  You know, I’m coming round to thinking I was far too hasty.  After all, most other aspects of my life are lived on different levels at the same time – I appear to be interacting superficially with my kids, but the joking and moaning are tiny surface manifestations of a profound undying love for them, and vice versa.  I kiss or hug someone and it’s a mere passing gesture, but at the same time it’s a token of a silent yet authentic hidden ocean of feeling.  In the same way, religious acts which in themselves could be merely empty, right quadrant rituals can be treated symbolically if we allow awareness of their ‘interiority’.   It was the great mystic Meister Eckhart,  non-dualist religious par excellence, who said that he prayed to God to get rid of God.   By which he meant, I guess, that he tried to transcend and include religious dogma rather than to simply comply with or confront it.  Any concept of a transcendent God is inherently non-sensical, a non-dualist concept as much as a traditional human father image. Yet we do seem to need concepts, don’t we?    Its how we are wired.  This is presumably why Jesus taught that God should be envisaged as a human father, and used all those little parable dramas as teaching aids.    I think that its about using the religious concepts in an informed way – in the same way that we can enjoy a scary movie while knowing that its not real – if we thought that it was real we’d be traumatised, but if we don’t temporarily entertain its fictional ‘reality’ (‘suspend our disbelief’) we lose out on the fun.  ‘I gotta use words when I talk to you’, wrote a poet, and in the same way, as you and Mary say, spiritual experience, however sophisticated or profound our understanding and experience of the divine may be, often seems to need concepts, fingers to point at the moon.   Who knows?  I might find myself back in church again soon – wouldn’t that surprise my vicar after all these years – the prodigal returned….  And it wouldn’t be because I’d regressed – I actually think that in this instance, if in no other, I’ve grown more mature.  If you’re not attached to words, concepts, rituals, then you’re free to use them as you wish.  Attachment to religious concepts leads to inflexible dogma.  But that doesn’t mean that religious activities such as petitionary prayer are therefore invalid.  Non-attachment permits them to be used in the service of the Spirit, as stepping stones to the truth which transcends all thought.  Yes, maybe its faking it, as you say, Yotam:  but great drama also consciously 'fakes it' as a way into the truth.....

     

    Good wishes

     

    David

     


    'This is all the time you'll ever have'.
    ~ Dr Hannibal Lecter
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  •  10-05-2006, 10:30 AM 10316 in reply to 3656

    • nicksflicks is not online. Last active: 03-09-2007, 1:03 PM nicksflicks
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    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    In the realm of infinite energy, of which we are an intrinsic part, one has the freedom to choose one's thoughts.  Our thoughts make up the ONE mind.  (All is mind)  Our thoughts are energy and waves and when we put out powerful emissions of our mind in love and with a strong will to be causative, we are manifesting along with creation.

    To be aligned with the ONE mind is to think in ways that are for the greatest good you can possibly wish to manifest.

    The golden rule applies (do unto others....)

    If we strive for the betterment of ALL- All gets better.

    We have tremendous power, for this power is given by the Omnipresent Omniscient Omnipotent ONE. 

    We can choose to utilize this power wisely for the will of creation or destruction

    negative thoughts are destructive, positive ones are constructive.

    Your free will is in your conscious decision of what force you feed.  Nothing more, nothing less.

    Choose wisely



    .·°¯°·.¸.->Nikki<-.¸.·°¯°·.
    _______________________

    ¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯There is no THEM, only US¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯

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  •  12-17-2006, 5:25 AM 16723 in reply to 3656

    • vairachna is not online. Last active: 06 Aug 2007, 12:28 AM vairachna
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    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Here is my take on prayer (which I don't practice.) Prayer is best performed as a ritual, because in the tradition of rituals, added memory and therefore thought is empowered to the prayer or whatever ritual you may be involved. Note: performing on rote does no good because it about manifesting the will and intent. Much healing and energy manipulation is done this way. Notice the study done by the Japanese alternative scientist in his books on water and imposing words. Prayer is a ritualized form of human power. It is ritualized because it is easier for the masses to remember a standard practice by on organization than the fact that each human has innate power that go beyond the physical. Although, it actually is physical by in a subtle sense that physicist are more accustomed. Hope that I am not being redundant as I did not read the rest of the posts as this subject strikes close to my heart and I was intent on just speaking... typing. Remember
    Sorry further response canceled due to Ragnarok.
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  •  12-21-2006, 5:32 AM 16946 in reply to 3656

    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Your prayers in consciousness merge to indigo from whereever you begin. Prayer is to the Christ-Consciousness and while seeing that you live or lived in the house with Jewish mysticism, it also holds true with Christian mysticim, something Father Keating teaches. Levels and stages of consciousness prayer can be seen in the integral format, but it is a direct experience of God you wish to experience.
    JC
    33° 13' N 87° 37' W
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  •  12-22-2006, 6:25 AM 16990 in reply to 16946

    • ats is online. Last active: 02-03-2008, 2:31 AM ats
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    Re: Pray to Whom? And Why?

    Lately, I have been using prayer and ritual, to mend my undernourished beige and purple inner child.  I grew up with parents who did not accept me for who I was and wanted me to be their puppet.  I learned early on that to reveal anything was to get hurt, and became very introverted.

    So, I try to teach myself to anchor my beige and purple inner child onto Spirit, or Big Heart, instead of onto other people's opinions.  I breathe in Big Heart, sometimes accompanied with a mantra and motion, and breathe compassion back out to the world, to nourish my inner child.  It's a very 2nd person perspective.  I hope to someday spontaneously see others as Big Heart as I interact with them.

    In a way, small me matters.  I pray to find out how to be a "vehicle" for Spirit, which is different from being identified with Spirit.  I ask to find out what small me is supposed to be.  What small me is supposed to do.  We're here to do.   and be.


    myspace.com/zentaimusic
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