“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.”
Notwithstanding this entirely understandable human reaction, there’s no way that true believers can be convinced that prayer doesn’t work. Witness this West Virginia sign: “Only one miracle.”
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…
In my view, its not absurdity of prayer. The people who believe in God, look for some strength coming from up there.
Most of the times, these prayers are originating from selfishness. If given an option, we will always pray for ourselves. Cursing God is due to the fact that though people believe in God (atleast for the times when they are in bad phase) but they are not ready to surrender to his will and be contented with it.
If the life is smooth, most of the people even don't care about God's existence (except some curious minds). And if something goes bad, its difficult to come to terms with the reality. And it takes courage to accept it and move on.
If prayer is done just to feel the strength of the alimighty (I used the word feel) or somebody UP there and not for selfish cause, it would do good.
And if done for a selfish cause, then if it happens (one can never be sure) we praise the Lord, if it doesn't we curse him (which is again our inability to come to terms with reality).
The answer is to be in a state where you can not define a good or a bad phase and you can not even distinguish.
Posted by: hotsparc | January 05, 2006 at 08:14 AM
This has nothing to do with the blog other than what I saw...
I read this blog, went about other work, came back to this site. I looked at the sidebar to see what new posts had been added and saw, to my surprise, a post that was titled in German.
I looked again. It wasn't in German. It was "Mine disaster..."
I've always found it interesting what a change in emphasis will do to words!
hmmm...then again, maybe it *does* have to do with the blog!
Posted by: GM | January 05, 2006 at 01:37 PM
Copied from another comment
"His another post of prayer absurdity is also the same. Though he takes references from other mystics/writers, but he talks about your Sant Mat. I came to know that Sant Mat does not just believe just in prayers. So, taking on from there, Brian writes that "Leave them and become more divine". Just that he did not use word Sant Mat."
I say chaps, I am afraid its true but Brian has given an excellent real life example to support this.
Posted by: i am not good | January 05, 2006 at 06:17 PM
I think there's a big assumption being made on both sides of this argument here.
Prayer works because some-one believes in a God and that God responds?
Prayer is absurd because someone prays earnestly for something and wrongly believed that their prayers had been answered?
Both parties are assuming that whatever divinity is being petitioned operates in the same chronological time-frame that we do. Surely if there is a God (or such like), then that being occupies all moments in time all the time. This puts a big stick in the wheel of our perception on prayer and changes matters a little.
If it is the case, then prayer suddenly becomes something essentially human. That doesn't mean it won't perhaps be 'heard' by a divine Being, but rather, any effect it may have is certainly not fully chronological in the sense that we perceive things.
For all we know, those prayers of thanks that the congregation offered for two hours could have impacted the lives of the miners days, months, years ago - because, quite frankly, if a divine Being had heard them, then that Being would have heard them long before they knew they had prayed.
Posted by: Jonathan | January 05, 2006 at 10:57 PM
Hello from rainy Washington state!
There's an article today in our local newspaper that intersects with your commentary. It seems a God-fearing woman in North Cove has put her faith in the almighty to save her house which, due to strong storms and erosion, is about to fall into the Pacific Ocean.
She is confident that the Lord will hear and answer her prayers. She has announced that she's staying put because she knows God will protect her...
Oh, did I mention that she recently bought a trailer just in case her house DOES in fact fall into the ocean? Did I also mention she's made a plea for some rich person to buy her home or give her another one?
She has complete faith that her prayers will be answered unless, that is, they aren't.
Posted by: The Rambling Taoist | January 07, 2006 at 12:30 AM