What about getting an answer to a prayer?
In my last post, I had a dilemma that was partially resolved. If there’s no anthropomorphic God, what is praying for? I solved part of my dilemma, when I realized that prayer is a way of experiencing love. It felt good to see that, but there was still the issue of answers. What about help for my problems? I pray and feel love and that’s supposed to make it all better? Yeah, right!
As I sit with this part of me that’s clearly skeptical about this whole thing, my insides remind me of some lessons I have learned from Focusing about receiving help, wisdom, and guidance. I have experienced that these “other ways of knowing” are not a process of ask-a-question-get-a-clear-direct-and-logical-answer. There are four tricks I have learned about getting “answers.”
Four “tricks” for receiving answers to prayers
1) Step out of the “I asked a question and I want a direct answer.” paradigm.
To do so, you might like to think of everything that comes as a response. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The very act of asking will evoke some kind of reaction, or, we could say, response.
The instruction is to pray (in whatever way you have decided works for you), then pay attention. Treat whatever comes as a response. In the moment or in the following days, whatever comes–thoughts, sensations, memories, emotions, situations–are possible responses.
For example, I was inquiring into how to grow my business. My inquiry was, “What needs to happen in order for my business to move forward?” With a question like that, you would expect a list of rational, logical steps: first you have to get an office; then you have to get clients; to get clients you have to meet regularly, weekly with local referral sources… etc. Certainly, that kind of list, many to-dos long, did show up. I wrote it down and put it in my file along with all my other to-dos. But later that week, as I was engaging in some other creative work: bam! An inspiration landed fully formed in my head. I stopped what I was doing and wrote the inspiration down. In 15 minutes I had my unique offer, an outline of the entire program and a sentence that described what my business is about. As all this was happening, I knew it was the response to the question. “What was needed in order to move my business forward?”. I had been missing the clarity I needed to move forward. When I asked the question, I didn’t know what was missing. I didn’t know I needed clarity. Nevertheless, it was given to me. Indirectly and at a later time, but I still received it.
2) Look behind you
In my experience, responses almost always come subtly and indirectly. If I’m not paying attention, I miss them, or if I do see them, I fail to notice the connection between them and how I made myself ready to receive them. Had I not taken the time to appreciate the inspiration that came in the story above, and if I had not been engaged in a practice of noticing the effects of being open to receiving responses, I would not have made the connection between the two events.
I propose that you regularly take time to recall what you were praying about, or for, and what has been happening in your life in the time around that prayer. You might see some connections. You might then like to take a moment to receive what that’s like, and possibly offer gratitude to all those involved, including yourself.
Now a person could say I’m misattributing cause and effect. Maybe I am. At the same time, over and over, I have noticed that I receive information and guidance from something other than my logical, rational mind (sometimes I would call it the Universe, sometimes I would call it my body, sometimes inner wisdom). Ive noticed that it is more likely to happen when I engage consistently in practices that encourage non-judgmental curiosity and openness and thus make me open to receive what may come.
At one point early in his professional life Ram Dass decided to give up the scientific model. He said he no longer wanted to see things from inside the probabilistic paradigm, taking a stance of doubt. He said, “I realized I’d rather cultivate faith than skepticism. It was a new definition of who I am.”
I’m willing to take the risk of misattribution. I am at a point now where it helps me more to cultivate faith. I live a more aligned life. I am happier and more peace-filled. Cultivating faith helps me live the meaningful kind of life I’ve always wanted. Maybe it’s not for you. Truly, maybe it isn’t. Maybe you might like to take a moment… to pause here… and notice what comes.
My invitation to you is, whatever way you choose to go, notice, notice, notice: what is it like to live this way? To what degree does what I’m doing support me in achieving what really matters to me?
3) Holding and letting
This is a kind of inner attitude toward getting an “answer” that makes room for answers to come. For example, take waiting for someone. You can wait with a relaxed body posture, taking pleasure in the spaciousness of the moment that opened wide because the person has not arrived. You could appreciate the clouds, you could take a moment to breathe. You could sit with yourself and appreciate the calm. The word that comes to me to describe this kind of waiting is “calm abiding.”
Then there’s the kind of waiting where your body is tense, you’re drumming your fingers, gritting your teeth, thinking angry or worried thoughts, worried about how this will affect the rest of the things you have planned for the day, etc.
If it feels right, take a moment to sense the difference between these two experiences…. Notice what your whole body feels like when you think of each one.
In these kinds of processes, when we are “waiting” for an answer, I’m suggesting that the first kind of waiting, a calm abiding, is the kind that makes space for something to come. It’s a kind of holding the inquiry, or the question, relaxing, having no expectations, and letting what comes come.
Another analogy is the attitude you would adopt if you wanted a shy animal to know it is safe to approach you. We don’t rush over to it, because it will retreat. We sit still, calmly, with calm breathing, sending body language that communicates receptivity and ok-ness. Similarly, when we are “waiting” for an answer, we can cultivate that same inner attitude.
4) Living the question
A last little trick is to carry the question with you, and keep asking it in your mind and heart, still not expecting an answer, just asking the question as an exercise in asking, in opening. As you walk in nature, as you’re at work, as you fall asleep, as you cook, or engage in creative activities, as you’re journalling, you can place your attention on the question, then notice what comes. (Remember, everything is some kind of response!)
I read over these keys and realize the words only point to the practice. They’re not actual instructions in how to do it. I’m thinking you can explore the hows for yourself. You can try something, and notice if it works, and if it does, great! If it doesn’t, you can check to see what else might be more right. I think your insides know!
It can help to get support for engaging in these practices, so you can bring a specific example and ask, “In this situation, how do I practice holding and letting?” Or, “In this situation, how can I live the question?” (I can help with this, if you want to work with me, I can refer you to others who can also help, and I’m sure you know people who can help, too.)
Maybe you’d like to take a moment to share your experiences in the comments below. What are your tricks for “getting answers to your prayers?” Have you tried any of these suggestions above? What was that like?