“Just a few minutes before they were praising God, and now they were cursing.”
That’s how a relative of one of the men trapped in the West Virginia mine described the abrupt mood change when the crowd gathered in a church learned that all but one of the miners actually were dead—not alive, as they had been mistakenly told several hours earlier.
It shows the absurdity of prayer. The belief that God listens to pleas such as “Save the trapped miners, Lord” and decides whether or not to intervene in human affairs almost certainly is superstition.
If prayer has any effect at all (and there is some quasi-scientific evidence that it does), no one knows how this happens. There could be a substratum of consciousness underlying materiality that links living beings in some unknown fashion. This hypothesis is a far cry from believing that a personal God chooses to fulfill some prayers and ignores others.
I like the honest human reaction of those in the church. The relative went on to say, “Our pastor got himself down and he said, ‘Look toward God in this tragedy.’ And one guy said, ‘What in the hell has God done for us?’ For just a few minutes before that, we were praising God.”
Earlier, the faithful believed that God had saved twelve of thirteen miners. A miracle! Now, the truth is that only one of thirteen miners is still alive. It’s still a miracle!
So, what if all of the men had died? Would even that be a miracle? So states Meister Eckhart, the great medieval mystic theologian:
Now I hear you ask: “How do I know that it is God’s will? My answer is that if it were not God’s will even for a moment, then it would not exist. Whatever is must be his will. If God’s will is pleasing to you, then whatever happens to you, or does not happen to you, will be heaven.
Anthony De Mello, a Catholic priest who blends the best of East and West, says that our main problem is simply that we don’t see correctly. We imagine stuff that isn’t there, and we fail to notice reality that is truly present.
In his book Walking on Water, De Mello never speaks of prayer as Christians normally construe it. Rather, he says that “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments, only consequences…When the eye is unobstructed, the result is seeing; when the ear is unobstructed, the result is hearing; when the palate is unobstructed, the result is tasting. When the mind is unobstructed, the result is wisdom and happiness. If you could get rid of illusion, you would be happy.”
Prayer to a personal God is part of illusion. Give it up and become more divine. Here’s another De Mello quote:
Prayer, love, spirituality, and religion are about ridding yourself of illusions. When religion brings that about, that’s wonderful, wonderful! When it deviates from that, it is an illness, a plague to be avoided. Once illusions have been abandoned, the heart is unobstructed, and love takes hold. That’s when happiness occurs. That’s when change takes place. And only then will you know who God is…