On Finding What Works and Working It

A Course in Miracles can get awfully lofty when it comes to prayer. It is, according to The Song of Prayer, “the greatest gift with which God blessed His Son at his creation” (S-1.In.1:1).

It was then what it is to become; the single voice Creator and creation share; the song the Son sings to the Father, Who returns the thanks it offers Him unto the Son. Endless the harmony, and endless, too, the joyous concord of the Love They give forever to Each Other (S-1.In.1:2-3).

Prayer is the very means by which “creation is extended” (S-1.In.1:4).

All of that is well and good – it’s lovely, it’s inspirational, it’s metaphysically provocative. But how does it apply to those situations when we need or want to drop to our knees and scream “help!”?

In a way, it doesn’t. While I deeply love and admire The Song of Prayer, it reflects a very sophisticated view of communing with the divine. There is a place for that – and I visit that place quite often – but there is also a place for vocal prayer, for simple and heartfelt pleas for guidance, or expressions of gratitude.

For a long time I felt pressured by the course to be sophisticated and elegant in my spirituality. I’m a bit of snob that way. But after a while I realized this wasn’t especially honest – or not always honest.

Then I did Lesson 70: My salvation comes from me.

Lesson 70 is one of those unsung course gems, in my opinion. It places us at the center of salvation, urging us to at last recognize the power of mind and put it to its best and highest use.

Today’s idea places you in charge of the universe, where you belong because of what you are. This is not a role that can be partially accepted. And you must surely begin to see that accepting it is salvation (W-pI.70.2:3-5).

But it also recognizes that while this is relatively simple, it doesn’t seem simple. It seems complex. We’re used to looking for salvation outside – in the world, in books, in people, in churches and temples, in diets and exercise routines, in work, in family.

All of that is the haze of clouds that obscures the Christ in us. We have to stop looking in those clouds for what can never be found in them.

And then the lesson says something very beautiful, empowering and liberating.

 Try to pass the clouds by whatever means appeals to you. If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy (W-pI.70.9:2-3).

By whatever means appeals to you . . . I saw in that line that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not asking us to toe any theological lines. Find what works for you and then work with it. Salvation is too important to get hung up on the form by which it is realized.

If we give those few words some space and attention, we will see how profoundly radical and empowering they truly are.

I saw, then, that it was okay that prayer for me was stumbling around in the forest with a dog. It was okay that writing about the course is how I learn about the course. I began to give attention to the practice that was inherent in me – that naturally resonated for me. It was – it is still – a beautiful gift. And we all have it – a form in which our spirituality naturally and surely orients toward God.

The other thing that lesson offered me was the realization that for all its abstraction, the course was perfectly willing to let me hold the hand of Jesus. I didn’t have to intellectually justify it by calling it a symbol or a helpful illusion or anything.

We can reach out hands out and they will be taken by the hand of Jesus. It is no “idle fantasy.”

Thus, as students of A Course in Miracles, we are allowed – encouraged even – to find what works. Sometimes my prayer is very much in the contemplative mode Thomas Merton so eloquently talked about: wordless and formless.

But other times I fall to my knees and ask for help. Or say thank you and ask to be forgiven for not trusting that help would be given. I talk to Jesus the way I would talk to you.

In other words, we don’t need to sweat the form of prayer – or of our spiritual practice generally. Jesus doesn’t, so why should we?

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Susan September 10, 2013, 9:27 am

    Thank you for this post. It is timely for me. Sometimes I get so caught up in the having to know the “right way” to pray, etc. I get caught up in my “head thinking.” It is a nice reminder to remember to grab the hand of Jesus and trust the process. I do not pray for “stuff” but boy oh boy do I pray for guidance. I enjoy your posts.

    • Sean Reagan September 10, 2013, 9:46 am

      You’re welcome, Susan. I’m glad it was helpful. Yes – the lure of the “right way” to pray or study (or do anything) is one of the ego’s favorite tricks, at least for me it is. Sometimes I have to just shake it off and keep things super simple.

  • Margie September 10, 2013, 12:21 pm

    Well, needed to hear that. I’m a walk in the woods with the dog prayer also. And my part of Massachusettes has some beautiful and serene places in which todo just that. My dog Charlie is the perfect companion when it feels right to sit by the pond and have a sense of gratitude and peace fill us up. Or when it feels like guidance and direction is what I need to ask for. Or to just be still. It’s the place where I remember that it doesn’t matter how you pray but that you pray and then listen. ACIM is new to me but yet feels so familiar to me at the same time. I am sure it’s not really new to me and that I have Practiced forgiveness lessons in the past. It seems like the only course of action to me. Thanks for your posts.

    • Sean Reagan September 10, 2013, 2:37 pm

      Thanks for reading, Margie. Dogs are wonderful companions for the spiritual journey (though my daughter would say you can’t do it without a horse). I appreciate that emphasis on “listening” after – that seems very important, making prayer part of a dialogue, a two way street.

      I had the same response to ACIM when I first encountered it – it brought a lot of strands of thought together that had been rattling around inside me for a while. I’m still grateful for it.

      Thanks again –

      Sean

  • Pamela September 10, 2013, 1:08 pm

    “…But other times I fall to my knees and ask for help. Or say thank you and ask to be forgiven for not trusting that help would be given. I talk to Jesus the way I would talk to you.”

    I do the same and sometimes the results are amazing. A few days ago, I was listening to a series of talks given by this non-denominational, born-gain, believer in the bible form of the curriculum, minister. The series is titled “God-in-Me Consciousness.” I was enjoying the teaching but I was hungry and it was going to be days before I made the ‘big order’ of groceries from the store in order and, thereby, get all the goodies I was hungry for (e.g., the root beer, the vanilla ice cream, the pastrami, the pickles, etc.).

    As I watched, my stomach grumbling and growling, the minister asked, “If God is inside you, what can’t you do?” in order to express the notion that we house all power within us through this connection with God. I believed it, of course, but I kind of smirked and said to Jesus, “Well God-Inside-Me or not, it’s not going to bring me any groceries today!” Clearly, I heard him say, “You will have your groceries TODAY. I said to myself, “Ok, that’s not Jesus because that is not going to happen.”

    About five minutes later, my youngest daughter walks out of her room and says, “Mom, last night I ordered groceries from Vons. They are delivering them today.” As she said this I seem to hear a little chuckle come from deep inside me accompanied by Jesus saying “Now that is what I meant when I said ‘oh ye of little faith,’ WOW. Now that was prayer. It wasn’t about anything momentous or metaphysical or spiritual but it was “talking with” and that is what prayer is for me.

    • Sean Reagan September 10, 2013, 2:38 pm

      Thanks for sharing that Pamela. I agree – the results of those prayer can be incredible. We are heard.

      ~ Sean

  • Michael September 10, 2013, 4:46 pm

    Talking about being natural… Many years ago when I met my ‘present’ girlfriend, I remember saying to her on our second or third date that I normally use very colourful language and would she mind if I continued to be my usual self rather than being false….. we’ve been very f@uking happy ever since.
    I made a similar decision with Jesus & Co. – I’m going to talk the way I talk (perhaps a tinchy winchy bit controlled

    • Sean Reagan September 10, 2013, 4:49 pm

      Yeah, I think Jesus & co can roll with colorful language. Good thing, too . . .

      • Michael September 11, 2013, 6:28 am

        My full comments were not fully downloaded. Hopefully you have the full comment here.

        Talking about being natural… Many years ago when I met my ‘present’ girlfriend, I remember saying to her on our second or third date that I normally use very colourful language and would she mind if I continued to be my usual self rather than being false….. we’ve been very f@uking happy ever since.
        I made a similar decision with Jesus & Co. – I’m going to talk the way I talk (perhaps a tinchy winchy bit controlled

  • mary September 12, 2013, 10:05 am

    hi Sean:

    I love reading Thomas Merton

    peace and prayer are verbs

    • Sean Reagan September 12, 2013, 2:17 pm

      right on!

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