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?