When it comes to praying, I suppose I’m no different from the next person. I thank my god—that incomprehensible power I think of as the architect of everything— for the privilege of being alive, and ask for guidance in proving worthy of that gift.
I say thanks for the good fortune that I and those I love are in reasonably good health and have come to no harm today. And I count my many other blessings: peace where I live, my country’s hard-won freedoms, a loving family, devoted friends, a beautiful home in a caring community, a safe, comfortable bed and plenty of food to eat.
Nearly all that good fortune has befallen me...
by the sheer luck of the draw.
I acknowledge that nearly all that good fortune has befallen me not because of anything I might have done to deserve it. Not because I’m better, smarter, more thoughtful or more conscientious than anyone else, but by the sheer luck of the draw.
I think of all the millions of folks around the world who, no less deserving than I, experience few if any of the blessings I enjoy. I ask my god to let the next hand they’re dealt include at least a few cards of comfort and hope.
LIFTING LOST SOULS
The part of my prayer I find most compelling is one I’ve added just recently, a product, I’m sure, of having read hundreds of books about sailers and explorers fighting for survival. (Besides the obvious escapism, I guess such stories help put my own day-to-day challenges into perspective.)
I ask my god to bless those who are lost, perhaps trapped in a collapsed building or mine, mired deep in a remote jungle, adrift at sea or unjustly imprisoned. Or maybe they’re lost in plain sight, surrounded by people living carefree lives, yet unnoticed, unloved and desperately lonely.
I ask my god to let each of these casualties actually feel my prayer, coming directly from me, right then and there, in real time.
Please, I pray, hold these forlorn souls in the warm embrace of all that is good, loving and beautiful about life. Give them the hope, the strength, the faith to hold on. Let me be perhaps the one person in the world who notices them and accepts the privilege of helping…somehow.
WHERE MYSTICS DARE
And—now here’s the part that makes this prayer feel like no other—I ask my god not just to intercede, but to let each of these casualties actually feel my prayer, coming directly from me, right then and there, in real time.
Think of it. You’re afraid, you’re in pain, you’re exhausted. You wonder if anyone even knows you’re there. Chances are you’ve lost all hope. You struggle to accept the reality of dying. And, worst of all, you are utterly alone.
Then it comes, like the first human touch after years of isolation, the strong sense, the certainty, that someone, a real, live person, knows you’re there. Someone has found you and cares what happens to you. (At that moment it may be more important just to know it’s someone than for it to be one who can physically save you.)
Does anyone else find this notion incredibly moving? What does it all mean to those of us who are wander and wonder?
Never doubt the power of what we human
beings...can do with our minds and our spirits.
SOMEONE IS WAITING
The idea that one might be present for a stranger halfway around the world is not just some new-age pie in the sky. It’s a belief in the incredible power of human beings’ connection with one another (and everything else, for that matter). Like our capacity for love, wonder and happiness, that connection is hard-wired into us from birth.
But the older we get, it seems, the easier it is to misplace this gift of connection. We get distracted into thinking life is more complicated than that. We get so overwhelmed with the challenges of caring about those closest to us that we forget the power we have to affect others, even total strangers. Maybe we just get lazy and self-centered.
I don't have the slightest shred of evidence.
But does that really matter?
Never doubt the power of what we human beings, with our unique abilities to reflect and create, can do with our minds and our spirits. We have the ability, rare among all living things, to care about more than our self-interest. And we have the unique capacity to converse with the great spirit.
With those two gifts alone we can be forces of love, healing and salvation—for our fellow beings, for all living organisms, for the earth. And the range of that beneficence is limited by nothing but our faith.
So can we really connect spiritually with a hopeless stranger on the other side of the earth or across town, one separated from a fearful, solitary death by no more than a wing and a prayer? I don't have the slightest shred of evidence. But does that really matter?
Isn't this one of those ideas that's just too damn good to let a little doubt get in the way? Try it. After all, it takes just two things for it to work: your faith in love, kindness and the oneness of everyone and everything; and the openness of spirit of that one desperate person who, perhaps even subconsciously, is waiting for you.
A good bet, if you ask me.