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In a children’s sermon one Sunday morning, I heard the associate pastor tell the children how she prayed. She said she started out with a prayer of thanks for all her blessings and then moved on to pray for those she knew were in need, finally ending with a prayer that expressed her personal concerns. I think that might have been what inspired me to see gratitude as the foundation for a life without fear.

A Course in Miracles tells us that there are two forces within us, fear and love. If we choose love, we are empowered. If we chose fear, we cripple our souls and live dispirited lives, clinging only to the meager energy of a mean and puny anger to see us through the trials of this life. Prayer is a very effective way to harness the power of love, and prayer can take many forms.

When we pray, we acknowledge a power greater than the ego, that nasty little gnome in the dark corner who insists that it can direct our lives by dint of will and authority. Prayer is surrender. It is acknowledging the limitations of our clamoring, struggling, scrabbling little selves and reaching out to a greater power. For Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, it was “The Force.” For Jews it’s God or Yahweh; for Christians it’s Jesus; for Muslims it’s Allah; for Buddhists it is the principles embodied by the Gautama; perhaps for Hindus it’s Ganesh, and on and on. I don’t think it matters a great deal whom or what we pray to as long as we can humble ourselves enough to realize that there is a force greater than any one of us, yet a force that is also embodied within us that inspires and empowers us. Odysseus told his son, upon returning home from a harrowing journey that taught him humility, the gods of heaven can easily “glorify a man or bring him low.” For modern people as well as Odysseus, we find our inner power when we become humble before the great mysteries of the universe.

For me as well as for many others, the Lord’s Prayer works just fine. The only problem with it, though, is that it is recited so often that most of us no longer focus on its depth of meaning. When we do, however, we can see that it gives us a roadmap to peace and inner strength.

Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
This acknowledges the power that is beyond our understanding (in heaven) and reminds us to be humble before it. Just standing next to a big tree can give one a welcome sense of humility, and humans need the comfort that comes from relinquishing pride. Hallowing the name of God is not about appeasing an egotistical god but about leaving
our own arrogance behind.
Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
When we say this, we are asking for peace on earth, but if we see ourselves as of the
earth, able to be inspired by a higher power, we are affirming that the kingdom of heaven (peace) can live within our earthly, individual selves here and now.
Give us this day our daily bread…
I think of how Life sustains life at every level, that the same force vibrating within me is the author of proteins and other nutrients that feed me. It isn’t just my job that generates money that buys groceries that keeps me alive. It is Life that gives me life, and I do well to express my gratitude for that.
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
It is through our forgiveness of others that we find inner peace, a letting go of grievances and a surrender to love “that passes all understanding.” This is our own forgiveness.
Lead us not into temptation…
It’s not that God would lead us into temptation and we have to ask Him not to. We’re asking to be empowered beyond our own ego-strength and the limits of our willpower to avoid excessive indulgences that might lead to our demise and bring destruction to our happiness.
but deliver us from evil.
It’s interesting how temptation and evil are coupled in this request. I think of this as a
plea for help in maintaining integrity in a world that seems set upon tearing us down.
We’re asking for a higher power to watch our backs, reinforcing our commitment.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
This last statement seems to me a magnificent, symphonic coda. It reminds us where we draw our power from. If we pause here instead of just hopping up and going along our mindlessly arrogant little way, there is a rich message for us in these words. I think of Gary Zukav’s idea of us as spiritual beings in “earth suits.” The kingdom isn’t some pearly gated community in the ether. It is here and now within each of us, and our business is to live a life that glorifies our spiritual heritage. The power? The power is love. The last statement is an affirmation that this power is supreme in our lives, even as we navigate through a world of meanness. Our biggest concern is not whether we live or die or how materially successful we are, for we often have no control over these things, but whether we find inner peace as we live our lives.

Somewhere along my spiritual journey, I stopped being concerned whether or not my prayers to change physical circumstances were taking effect. I realized that there was no way I could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my prayer for someone’s healing or safety actually made a difference. I could pray for some change of status for myself or someone else, and the change might or might not come. Someone for whom I prayed might even die. Yet I still pray for what I believe to be positive change, and I don’t fret if those prayers don’t seem to get answered. What I focus on most diligently these days is what the Lord’s Prayer focuses on–guidance and surrender–so that I might come ever closer to inner peace. I pray with gratitude, and I pray for the triumph of love. It seems to me that this kind of praying is the glue that binds together all facets of the kind of self-improvement that brings peace and joy to our lives. Anything beyond that belongs to the Great Mystery.

As I bring this meditation to a close, I recall a prayer that just came to me unbidden while I was working with a young woman with traumatic brain injury. I wrote it down and kept it safe in memory, and often I say it in my heart when I feel the need. It reminds me that any healing we experience in this material existence comes from love.

Christ, we invite you into this experience. Gratefully, we receive your healing and
your inspiration, relinquishing all fear. Amen.

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