It seems there has been much talk on prayer lately, and I thought it would be helpful for us to discuss the psychological nuts and bolts, without getting into the realm of religious belief. Regardless of whether the source of change is human or divine mind, I think we can agree that the mind is a powerful thing, capable of affecting real change.
My guess is most of us don't pray for money or material things, but those of us who do basically ask for two things: direction and strength, or you might say knowledge and power. I recall that as JWs, we were taught to be specific in our prayers. It occurs to me that we assume we know or can know what it is that we want, (perhaps we do, but it may not be what we actually need) and we are essentially asking for a higher power to do our bidding. Naturally, those of us who are leaving the organization are likely to be hurt, but I'd like to point out that like physical pain, it indicates something is wrong. If we did not have pain at all we would never notice more serious problems, it is simply a signal that points to the real problem. I think it is important to recognize the complexity of the issues involved rather than get caught up in our feelings. It may seem overwhelming at first, but surely those who still believe in God don't think that we should be sheltered from all harm without ever having to understand any of it.
The following quotes are from the book Be Careful What You Pray For ... You Just Might Get It by Larry Dossey, MD. Dossey served as co-chairman of the original Panel on Mind/Body Interventions, Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health and is the executive editor of Alternative Therapies, a peer-reviewed journal. My intention for sharing these quotes is not to cause any alarm, but to encourage us to think about the possible implications that our prayers might have.
One of the most helpful frameworks for thinking about how prayer backfires has been developed by sociologist Charles Perrow. Unintended consequences occur, he states, when we intervene in complex technological systems whose components are so intimately connected that changes in one part of the system results in unforseen changes in others. In such a system, Perrow states, "operator error" is inevitable.
The issue is not that we pray, but how we pray. When something goes wrong in our life, we tend to invoke prayers involving highly specific, designated outcomes. We're certain we have the knowledge to set things right, and we waste no time telling the Absolute what to do. We do not realize we are interfering in a highly complex, tightly coupled system that, when tweaked, often responds in unpredictable ways. Giving orders with prayer invites disaster. It is rather like hitting a card table from below, hoping that the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on top will fall into greater order than before. This may happen, but usually the result is more disorganization.
Our lives are exquisitely linked with the members of our family, community, nation, and world. Our tight coupling with others and our world sets the stage for a negative outcome when we employ specific interventions ... When the results are worse than before, prayer is often blamed for "not working." But the real problem may not be prayer, but an operator error--how prayer is used and what is asked for."
Of course, this begs the question: How are we supposed to pray? I think this is where acceptance comes in. To affect change, we have to first understand where we're coming from, so we have to see where things are at the present moment, rather than just wanting the suffering to be over.
We may also find ourselves praying for strength to cope, rather than having a specific agenda. This is fine, but I think we need to be wise in how we invest our energy, just as Stephen has pointed out through Caroline Myss' work. This idea of coping and "hanging in there" seems to imply not doing anything, just allowing things to continue as they are, which inevitably leads to a feeling of stagnation. While I think we should clearly assess the situation, it is also within our power to do something about it. It may be small at first and it may be slow, but the important thing is to begin, and that starts with our intention.
Please, share your thoughts on this topic. It seems to me it is very important to many who are breaking away and if we make some sense of it, it would no doubt be helpful.