Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Understanding prayer via faith and reasoning

In the news one reads that people ask for prayers in time of hardship, for themselves and for others, such as loved ones. Some if not many of those requests are sincere and justified. Some are sincere but not justified, and others are insincere. The great worry is who exactly are they recommending praying to? Here is where I want to use an analogy to help you to better discern what is really going on and to understand genuine, effective prayer.

Genuine, effective, justified prayer is directed to God alone. Now, some of you may ask, wait a minute, what about traditional cultural prayers that are directed to presumed divine entities other than God? Remember, as I have always stated, I am not critiquing traditional faiths that are not monotheistic. However, many, if not most, modern people, particularly those who have access to the media, are hypocrites who try to artificially cement together some sort of New Age "belief" where they believe in God when it is convenient, but they subordinate God's reality and primacy to pieces of crazy quilt chunks of "other faiths," resulting in pure idolatry that they punctuate with supposed belief in God. In essence while they state God on occasion with their mouths, they venerate the works and beliefs of their own hands and thus are idolaters. This is particularly true of those who claim (in Star Wars kind of voices) that the "force" is with them. That is a thinly disguised idolatry where they feel they can manipulate power that is "available" to them. So I thought of this analogy to help you, especially young people, who have been raised on a diet of believing in theoretical cartoon super heroes but not the real God.

When one prays to God, one can put in front of God your wishes for resolution of a matter, but you realize that God may or may not respond to your hopes as you may wish. So in this sincere and justified prayer, you know that God is in control, and that he will do what he will, and that even disappointing results will yield at some point that you cannot see good fruit and grace. Grace is given to those who pray in this way, with a sincere heart, to God, not as a "reward" for obeying, but because that IS the way it "works."

When one prays to some sort of "forces" in the "universe," and worse, actually perform deeds and works to try to invoke the powers of those forces, one is, of course, treading on the ground of witchcraft, sorcery, idolatry, fraud, self deception and danger. Here is the analogy to help you. Most defenders of such beliefs use the expression that they are "tapping into" this or that "force" or "gift." The English language idiom "tapping into" means to insert a device by which one can siphon off a flowing product. Thus people who harvest tree sap for making syrup "tap into" the tree. People who steal TV cable service "tap into" the legitimate cable with their own connection leading to their own TV. People who listen in on phone conversations "tap into" the telecommunications signal. New Age believers and other idolaters most closely envision themselves "tapping into" electricity, just like plugging an appliance into the electrical wall outlet.

So here are the two problems with that imagery. One is the obvious that they are all "tapping into" not divine "universal" forces but simply strongly concentrated manmade or otherwise created "forces," and by no means are they tapping into anything divine or of God, not even his smallest fingernail's worth. When one plugs an electric fan into the wall, one is using a manmade plug to insert into a manmade socket in a manmade wall to access manmade wiring that carries man generated electricity (that you receive manmade bills for and pay with manmade money) all generated by a manmade power plant. So their understanding of how the universe is bogus from the get go because they are mixing apples and oranges in their own verbiage and understanding. The "forces" of the "universe" are not "just like" "tapping into" "something." When one prays to "forces" and attempts to invoke them through works, deeds and thoughts, you are, by definition, working only with manmade devices. You are not surrendering to God your problems, your hopes, and your faith, and "allowing" God to respond as he will. You are simply juggling, fruitlessly, manmade concepts, devices and efforts.

So that is the faith part of the faith and reasoning balance. Faith is understanding and believing that there is God alone, God who is in control and who will respond, even if you cannot see, cannot fully believe yet, and cannot comprehend his reasoning. As the man said to Jesus, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief." Faith is being at that starting point of genuine belief, even though one needs assistance, from God himself, and from others in the genuine faith community (which is why the pathway of the genuine saints is often studied by those seeking to develop and strengthen their own faith). "Tapping into forces" is not faith. It is idolatry, which is to attempt to give godly powers to devices and imaginings of one's own making. There is an entire industry and self delusion about "tapping into" "one's own" "inner" whatevers, including presuming one has one's own "godliness." I think not, and I have yet to meet a single person alive today who has had a genuine godly thought in him or her. Godliness comes only from God himself, I mean, duh. "Tapping into" forces or one's self leads away from God, not toward him.

Therefore, let's give the person who is "tapping into universal forces" some credit in this next part of the analogy. Let us suppose he or she (I use expressions like 'manmade' for brevity and also for ease of reading by those who do not have English as their first language) responds to my criticism of the plugging an appliance into the manmade electrical power generator and he or she says, "Fair enough, what you say is accurate. But what do you say if I change my thinking so that I'm not tapping into a manmade electrical outlet, but tell you that my imagery is tapping into the power of natural electrical forces in the universe, such as lightning, or the electric field of the planets, etc." You see, there is the problem. Even a sincere minded person such as this imaginary dialog partner continues to try to "tap into" something that is mindless. Do you really want to try to wield supposed power from a lightning bolt? Or imagine that you are gathering in your hands the electrical force field that is in theory emitted from Pluto or whatever? First of all, this person is assuming that like maple syrup that such fields truly exist and they exist in a divisible and usable way. How does a person using reasoning and logic respond to this preposition? Reply, "OK, all powerful one, hand me some gravity. Just break off a piece for me to carry around and use."

Quickly the logical person perceives that no power in the universe can be "tapped" or "utilized" without a manmade device. The only way someone can "hand you some gravity" is to build devices that allow you to experience forces of gravity, or punch you in the face and abuse you until your battered body hits the floor due to gravity. Neither is very godly. You see, using logic and reasoning you are able to not get swept away in a bogus analogy but say, "Well, hang on, how exactly would that work?" And you remember that the "forces" in the universe are emitted due to natural activities, and any "tapping" of them is not divine, but good old machinery if done in reality, and good old idolatry if done in one's mind.

Again, giving the person credit for being sincere, although totally lacking in genuine faith and understanding, imagine that he or she says, "Well, alright then. You've got me there. But that does not explain ESP." (What self puffed up people call being "psychic" nowadays). Erm, um, sorry, but oh yes it does. What do you "tap" into your supposed ESP or "psychic" power with? A human brain. And we all know the human brain is far from all powerful or divine. I mean, you can't even explain migraines but you think that because some ESP power is a reality that this is somehow evidence that you wield divine ability or "tap into" "universal forces?" I think not. Again, just like tapping the maple tree to get the sap to make the syrup, the human body and all of its parts are a created thing, not divine. Those of you who have been reading my God the All Knowing series understand how a human brain (no matter how presumably "smart" the person is) cannot be compared to God's All Knowing. See, a person cannot "tap into God consciousness" because the human brain is limited by not only its obvious size and other flaws but its structure as, like the tree, a created object. God exists outside of time, outside of matter, and outside of energy (aka "forces") and thus cannot be understood nor can he be "accessed" by any created object, such as a brain in a body, since those are totally in the world of matter, energy and time.

Just to go a little further with this, again, anticipating what the person might respond to this, consider angels, genuine angels. They were created by God and abide in his realm, where there is no matter, energy or time. That is why they are able to receive and share in God's beatific vision. But just suppose for argument's sake, in order to help you to understand this crucial point, for some reason, to show this to you, God took an angel from heaven and put him into a human body on earth. That angel would no longer be able to receive or share in God's inner being since the angel is now within "incompatible with God hardware," to use a computer term. Any created object, particularly the human body, is incompatible with "tapping into" God. Totally. Those of you who are geeks and wonks can probably best appreciate this understanding. God is outside of time, matter and energy, and humans would be an input/output device that is entirely bound by time, matter and energy. Angels are entirely outside of human and universe constraint in that they are created, but they are created by God outside of time, energy and matter.

So no, not even genuine powers of ESP demonstrates any "tapping into" of supposed "universal forces," since it is simply an evolved trait of animals too, akin to what we call animal instinct. It's a survival trait and what is a survival trait? An ability that helps a biological being (created not divine) to survive (its matter and energy continues to exist for a period of time). Voila!

The scales certainly should be falling from some eyes now. It is so abundantly clear that prayer is directed toward God and God alone, and can not and should not be confused with even impressive attempts, all of which are manmade or man controlled, to "tap into" natural energy in the universe (energy being created by God but not of God or angels at all) or to vaunt their own biological survival traits, such as ESP, which again are survival traits because they assist in achieving a measure of time (time) of life (matter and energy), again which is totally not of God. Created by God, yes, "of God," no. Prayer is the only I/O "device" that bridges the totally incompatible hardware of humans (time, matter, energy) and God (eternity, always being, no matter or energy, those being only some of his creations but not what he "dwells" within.) And prayer only "works" because you are not attempting to manage God's reply, his "output."

I hope you have found this to be helpful.