Prayer is about building muscle, a form of spiritual fitness. This blog teaches how to develop spiritual fitness through prayer when you feel disempowered.
Hurricane Ian has left devastating damage in its wake in so many areas, while the situation in Ukraine is in danger of serious escalation. And these are only two of so many circumstances in our world worthy of our prayers. And we can go further than the prayers in our minds and hearts.
Some of us might have other matters, much closer to home or right in our backyards, that preoccupy us much more than what is happening in our world. Nevertheless, figuring out meaningful spiritual practice in uncertain times is a great need of our times. Moreover, it is essential to develop long-term spiritual fitness built upon prevailing spiritual wellness.
No matter what moves you the most―major world calamities, conditions of friends or loved ones, or your problems—here are three ways to engage: through your love, prayers, and support.
Recently, during our Spiritual Wellness retreat, we discussed how helpless one could feel when asked to pray for some individual circumstance. For example, a friend or loved one is undergoing a terminal illness and asks for our prayers. We might wonder whether or not it is our role to interfere in someone else's karma. While it is true that we must be careful about our "spiritual interference," someone is reaching out to us in their need, asking for our help, our prayers.
Dr. Larry Dossey, a friend, and someone I copresented with at one time, wrote extensively on researching the power of prayer and its efficacy. His books offer so many case studies on the positive effects of prayer. So let us not underestimate the power of prayer, particularly group prayer, around a shared intention. And let us not hold back from asking for prayers when needed. But, most importantly, never doubt the power of your heartfelt prayers for others because you will question the efficacy of your prayers for yourself.
Is it sufficient to offer to pray for others, especially when a significant calamity is in place? The answer is yes because it is the "least" we can do, and it is not insignificant because it takes energy to pray for others in a heartfelt way. Moreover, we build spiritual muscles through prayer, which is essential to our spiritual fitness routines.
Prayer is also a way of being in a relationship with God, higher power, the universe, or call it what you like, as long as you believe it's real! And prayer is a sort of "exercise." If we don't exercise prayer, then we are not building spiritual muscles around prayer, and we will be left empty of prayer's power when we need it for ourselves or people close to us about whom we genuinely care. We draw from the closeness of our relationship with a higher power no matter who we pray for, so praying for others is essential to balance asking anything for ourselves from the same source.
On the other hand, limiting one's response to prayer (for others) can leave us feeling disempowered, that we are not doing enough, or that what we are doing does not go far enough to help the situation. So it is possible to do a bit more, just a little more, when we engage in the process. These extra things make our practice of prayer more concrete, giving it some meat and muscle so it is not limited to the head and heart but the body, as well.
If prayer is our core strengthening practice, we might consider these extras as bringing more muscles into our spiritual workout. We might think of this as a form of "spiritual fitness," although there is much more to spiritual fitness than prayer.
Prayer is essential, but so are tangible ways of offering support. In other words, we do not want to limit our engagement to it. Our charitable contributions to organizations at the front line, no matter what we can afford at this time, is a way of adding some muscle to our prayers. In other words, if we are praying for the children affected by the war in Ukraine, making a charitable contribution, however small, to organizations like Unicef or SaveTheChildren, empowers our prayer and makes it concrete. We are bringing the divine action [through us] into that situation and for a specific age group. Divine assistance requires human assistance and channels to become concrete.
Another example is when a friend asks us to pray for them or their child who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, we can make a small contribution to a charity trying to find a cure for that particular form of cancer. So again, this combination is potent because we allow ourselves to be part of the solution without feeling disempowered that our prayers may not help cure that specific person. By offering our prayers for that person and making a small contribution, we can be integral to the more prominent solution through our relative financial means.
Yet, many are hurting financially at this time, as well. So what if we cannot offer any time of financial contribution? Love is a way of engagement when we cannot afford to help with resources! For example, we can periodically call or text the person who is ill or the parent worried about letting them know that we are praying for them or their child and that we've asked friends to pray for the intention. It takes time to show that we care. It is not valid, therefore, that all we can do is pray. There's always a bit more possible, which puts some muscle behind our prayer.
Raising the bar on prayer is akin to raising the bar on wellness. We can always do more for ourselves, others, and God. But, the way things are developing in our world, we cannot afford to settle for how we've prayed or practiced spirituality in the past. We've got to expand the envelope.
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