True Prayer is the Language of the Heart - Greg Barrette
Three Sanskrit scholars passed by a beggar who was chanting Vedic prayers by the side of the road and, after not placing any money in his begging bowl, corrected his pronunciation with haughty disdain. They were surprised later in the day while crossing a river on a ferry boat when they heard the splash of the same beggar--who was walking on the water and asking them to please refresh his memory as to the correct way to pronounce those prayers!
Jesus said that it is the spirit that gives life, not the form. Our spirituality must lead with the with heart first, not stuck in our heads. If we are too rigorous in our adherence to only one way of languaging our prayers, we may lose the spirit and choke the love out of our God-experience.
Emilie Cady, who wrote Unity's great and seminal textbook Lessons in Truth, spent the whole first three-quarters of Lessons in Truth powerfully making the case that God is not a being, God IS Being--and that God is not a person but principle. But then in the last chapter, she asks us to consider not giving up our warm personal relationship with our divine mother and father in whose arms we can rest. She admits that it is paradoxical and suggests that we get over ourselves. "God as cold principle alone will not suffice any more than in the past God as personality." "Both are true, and both are necessary parts of a whole. The two were made to go together, and in the highest cannot be separated." We understand this paradox instinctively. Jesus told us to "become as a child" and a child leads with the heart.
Maya Angelou would never have had her life-transforming experience when she recited Cady's prayer "God loves me" during a class with her mentor, without this flexible relationship with the Divine. Myrtle Fillmore, Unity's co-founder, whose healing prayer began "I am a child of God" also related to God in this heart-centered way.
My older sister's miracle healing resulted after my mom repeated a prayer that she had received from Silent Unity that began "You are God's whole and perfect child" for a year.
She was born with massive birth defects. The prognosis was that she would never walk. My parents received the address of Silent Unity and through constant prayer treatment for a year, they were led to an experimental reconstruction of my sister's pelvis that at best would only allow her to hobble with braces painfully for the rest of her life. When the cast was removed at two years of age, she developed normally and had not a trace of a limp, not a speck of pain. The doctors had never seen this. They attributed it to prayer.
I almost always use the language of the God within, in prayer. That said, sometimes I don't hold to a rigid construct. At times, I need to know that I am God's child, and love and cherish my higher power. I don't lead with this, but there are times when, like Ernest Wilson, I just need to feel held by God.
Remember the paradox of light being both a particle and a wave? Sometimes we need to see it one way, and sometimes we must see the other. Spirituality is a jewel containing infinite facets and at times it is helpful to view things from the opposite side. A bird that cannot open and close its wings as a crippled bird. A hand than I cannot open and close is a broken hand.
A teacher many years ago shared with me that in this world of polarity and paradox, something can be true and then pushed so far that it ceases to be true. Theological legalism is not rooted in love. And love is the fulfilling of the law.
As we do healing prayer treatment, we must understand poetry, metaphor, and paradox. Spirituality must be held with a light hand. Just as a bird must flap its wings open and closed, we must also be flexible in our approach to the Divine. I remember as a teenager hearing Ernest Wilson say that he understood that God was immutable impersonal principle, but that sometimes he just needed god with skin on. We know instinctively what he meant.
We all understand the poetry and paradox of mysticism and spirituality. In an English class, would a teacher tell the poet that they needed to rewrite "my love is like a red, red rose" because no person is composed of vegetable matter? In the same way, would we tell a person who lights a candle before meditation to rid themselves of that primitive barbaric practice because, after all, spirit is certainly more than wax and wick?
The language of prayer is only a signpost, Eckhart Tolle says. It points to something more. We must take care not to turn these signposts into the destination itself. Flexibility is a must. "Become as a child" Jesus said. True prayer is the language of the heart.