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Lenten Hopes & Prayers

Affirmation: I let go of resentment.

 

9781561708758_p0_v1_s260x420-2Wayne Dyer in his Ten Secrets of Happiness tells his readers that one of the secrets is to affirm, “There are no justified resentments.” That means we are called on to forgive every action that has bothered us, intentionally or unintentionally. How are you at doing that? Have you ever thought you were “over” something and then it reared its angry head when you least expected it? For me, I can nurse an injury to death! It can be years after the perceived hurt has occurred and the name of the offender will cause me to sit up straight and grimace and re-live, perhaps even re-tell, the horrible act committed. Boy! That will show that person. I will be justified and they will suffer because of my anger and my indignation. The truth, however, is there is only one person suffering, it is I and I have created it myself.

I was discussing with a friend that several of her dear friends had not reached out to her and her husband after he had undergone surgery. She was angry. I understood. When I was treated for breast cancer, some of the people with whom I was closest never sent a note or picked up the phone. Hundreds (and I am not exaggerating) of people reached out with such caring and generosity. It was healing and affirming but every now and then, I’d wonder about those few people who hadn’t taken the time to even send me an email. When I thought of them, I’d feel resentment. I wondered why I would chose to focus on those that appeared to ignore me and not the amazing people who showed such love and care? Why is that?

lent-purple-2We are presently in the season of Lent. I love Lent. I’ve felt this way for many years. It’s a time of quiet. It’s a time for additional reflection, a time to really focus on what is important to me in my relationship with God and others. It’s a time for me to develop a new good habit or two. It’s a time of hope. It is the dormant time before the rise of the flowers and blossoming of the trees. It’s that time when I wait with joyful anticipation Spring and the resurrection of Christ. It’s a time when my heart feels full with what is to come.

Lent has taken on a very different meaning for me over the years. As a child we would be encouraged to give up some favorite food and also to fill a small paper box with coins for the hungry children of a far off country. I’m sure I tried to honor the requests. I’m sure I didn’t do too well at it either. Then, as a young adult I rebelled. I decided all those rules and regulations were silly. What purpose did it serve to give up anything and how much of a difference did my small contribution make to the poor and destitute of the world? The thing that helped me recognize the wisdom of my church’s traditions was staying connected to my church. This is my home and one of the many gifts has been learning to honor our Lenten tradition.

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I’ve taken two intentions for this 2015 Lent. The first is to dedicate each day to one person. Their name goes on the top of my journal page and I write a small prayer for them. If it seems appropriate, I send it to them. I tell them that on this nth day of Lent I am lifting them up in prayer for the entire day. I tell them how they have blessed my life and how much I treasure their friendship and I end with wishes for a day filled with love, peace and joy and many times, improved health. I sit, first thing in the morning to see who comes to mind and I make that my person for the day. Today, someone “appeared” with whom I’ve had quite a bit of struggle. I didn’t want to offer up my day for that person. I don’t really want to think about that person at all, no less keep her on my thoughts for an entire day. I felt myself retreat from the idea and see for whom else I might pray. Certainly, many other people deserved prayer more than the person I resent.

41Mnaika3aL__SL500_AA300_-2The February 24th reading in Spiritual Insights for Daily Living begins with a quote from the Mayo Clinic; “Three-fourths of our patients are passing on the sickness of their minds and their souls to their bodies.” It goes on to say, Be careful of the beliefs you hold and the thoughts you repeatedly think. In Proverbs (6:27) the writer asks, “Can a man take fire unto his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” More specially, we can ask: can a man (or anyone) take fears, doubts, hated, resentments, worries into his mind, and his body be unaffected?

The Buddhist saying is, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” The teacher appeared in my reading and Jesus told us, “Forgive.” How many times? “Seventy times seven.” Mathew (18:21) At a recent Pink Ribbon Yoga Committee planning meeting, Nancy Hannah, one of our dedicated gifted yoga teachers had us take the pain and suffering of others, surround it with love and then breathe it transformed back out into the universe. I’ve been struggling with the suffering of our world. This year’s news of twenty-one Coptic Christians being beheaded, people being put in cages and burned to death and the stories of the girls and women being kidnaped and abused has left me feeling weary and sad and powerless. What can I do to help the world?

ScreenShot2015-02-24at1.25.59PMIn the USA today on February 23rd of this year they had a marvelous story of a women, Nareen Shammo, who gave up her job as a reporter and has tirelessly worked towards the freedom, the salvation of any woman being held hostage. She’s succeeding one woman at a time. I don’t feel I have that kind of power but perhaps here on this page as I share my concerns, I can encourage and enlist those 30,000 plus people who have opened this site to join me in praying for them, praying for an end to war and hatred and religious intolerance. Use a rote prayer, make up a prayer, breathe prayerful energy into this world but do something!

The second intention I’ve adopted for Lent is, “I let go of resentment.” It means I have to dig deep within and forgive those I have struggled with. It means I must pray for not only those I comfortably hold in my heart but for those I don’t want to embrace. It means I have to pray for my enemies and even the terrorists. Perhaps, through the power of prayer, a heart will soften; maybe many hearts and the torture and abuse of the innocents of our world will decease. It all begins with me. It all begins with you. We must be the, “change I wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.

 

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Choosing Your Words, Creating Your Thoughts

Affirmation:  The words I choose affect every aspect of my
life.  I choose mindfully.

The question I’ve been asking myself while preparing
for the September 9, 2014 Barnes and Noble signing has been, “What makes
you think you’re someone who can inspire or motivate another to live an
intentional life?”
Truth to tell, I am simply another human being
probably a lot like you who is trying to live a rich, giving, compassionate
life.  My mission statement for my life
is, “I live a Christ centered life of love, peace, joy, hope, gratitude
and compassion.”  And, everyday I
have to remind myself of it and of how I want to live.  I’ve written before of my desire to be loving,
forgiving, nonjudgmental, non-grasping and compassionate.  It’s a meditation.  It’s something I have to keep in mind
everyday, sometimes every moment.  Do
I?  Of course I don’t. 
I know I’m not an expert on human behavior.  I have studied it for many years and I’ve
worked with a lot of people in many different capacities.  One of my first loves is a study group.  I facilitated my first study group at Barnes
and Noble in Cary, NC around 20 years ago with another MSW, Jane Cook.  We presented the book The Artist’s Way
by Julia Cameron.  We had around 35
people participate for the twelve-week session. 
I’ve either facilitated or participated in hundreds of groups since
then.  From my observation I would
propose that most people are trying to find a way to live a more fulfilled
life.  What that takes is of course
different for different people so I don’t claim that I can offer everyone that
opportunity but there are some basic skills available to most of us and using
our words to shape our thoughts and therefore our lives, is a very powerful
one.
I recently had a women ask me if I’d read Ten
Percent Happier
.  I have not.  She explained to me that the author’s secret
to a happier life was meditation and he shared that approach in his book.  He felt he became at least 10% happier
because of his practice.  I believe
it.  He therefore, felt a desire to help
others find this same sense of well being. 
I think we can definitely improve the quality of our lives by meditating
but while it’s simple, it’s not easy. 
It’s takes practice.  It takes
discipline.  It’s no different than
exercising the body.  It’s exercising the
mind.  In fact it’s easier to exercise
the body than it is to quiet the mind. 
What I am proposing, however, is something that almost anyone can easily
put into practice.  I don’t mean for it
to be a substitute for meditation, certainly not a substitute for prayer, but
another tool to be utilized in the search for a better existence.

We are all talking to each other and ourselves all the
time. With just a little effort we can start carefully choosing the worlds we
use.  You know what I’m saying.  In fact, it’s probably easier to shape the
words we use to describe events and others than it is to shape those we use for
ourselves.  We can be our own worst enemies.  I have a long list that I’ve collected of
negative self-talk phrases.  Things I’ve
heard people say to themselves or perhaps I read somewhere.  For example: 
“I am so stupid!”  “I am such a
klutz!”   “I just never seem to get it
right.”  “I just can’t make any
friends.”  “I never have enough money,
time, energy, etc.”  “My right leg, arm, hip,
etc. is my bad one.”  The
list I’ve compiled has about one hundred negative phrases.  Two others that don’t sound negative but have
that effect are, “I am right!” and “I can do that
better.”  Those two statements may
be vey true but I’m here to tell you (and I know I’m right!) most people don’t
want to be around someone who has all the answers and who willingly will tell
them how to do something better, even if they’ve been asked. 
So, I’m not here to give you any answers.  I am here to propose questions and to tell
you what has worked for me with the same hope as the author of Ten Percent
Happier
.  I want to share the
practice and the words that have made my life better, not perfect, but
definitely better.  The positive
affirmations I have created for myself and that I write about here and in my
book, Creating Positive Affirmations, Living An Intentional Life, have improved
the quality of my relationships, my health, my work and perhaps, most
importantly, my faith.  They aren’t
designed to improve your life.  They
simply serve as an example of what has worked for me and in case your
searching, what may work for you.

My dear friend, Joanne Dawe shared her wisdom with me
many years ago when we spoke about using positive affirmations.  “They have to work,” she said,
“I’ve been using negative affirmations for years and they’ve always
worked.”

Developing a Sense of Appreciation

Affirmation: I have an attitude of appreciation for all things.
The yoga class at Rex Wellness here in Cary had just begun when
our teacher, Karin Johnson, invited us to “take an intention.”  She then suggested “appreciation.”
Gratitude had been coming to me lately as the intention for my practice. I am
in a place of delightful bliss these last few weeks.  It feels marvelous.  It’s Spring as I sit and write.  The singing birds and flowering trees, bushes
and plants have filled my ears with music and my vision with the color and
miracle of new birth.  Presently life
holds the promise of a joy filled wedding celebration for that of my youngest
daughter, Ellen and her sweetheart, Adam O’Sullivan.  We have been preparing and planning for the
warm welcome and entertainment of our family, dear friends and new family to be
from all over the world.  We have gifts,
food, hugs and smiles ready and waiting. 
My spiritual director, Sister Judy Hallock, also invited me to
“take an intention.”  This time
it was to be for the upcoming celebrations and to hold it for the events and
for all those who would be involved in the celebrations. 
When I spoke with Sister Judy about the upcoming wedding I told
her I was simply staying calm and allowing it to unfold in its own way.  I am more than happy to be intimately
involved in the support of the celebration but both Sandy and I recognize that
this is Ellen and Adam’s wedding, not ours. 
We feel our role is to help them make their dream come true, not to
force our preferences upon them, even if we could.  Sister Judy, however, changed my focus.  An intention of sitting back and letting the
events simply unfold was not enough.  She
suggested I hold the week and all those who were helping us celebrate “in
Divine Light.”  I was ready for this
guidance.  I know about blessing events
well before they begin.  I’ve prayed for
our Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat, any workshops or classes I present, and all the
communities in which I’m involved.  I
pray for the people individually and as a group.  I pray for blessings and that the time spent
is only to their benefit.  I’ve done this
for many many years.  I seldom enter into
an event in which I’m either responsible for or in which I’m simply a
participant, without having held that event in prayer.  Does it change how the event or the meeting
goes?  It changes it for me and I am sure
I bring an attitude of joyful expectation rather than skepticism or worse, and
that has to make a positive difference. 
Now, I needed to do the same for the wedding of two of my favorite
people.  They’ve been together for over
fifteen years.  My husband and I are
overjoyed that they have decided to make this public commitment to one another
and to their world.
When Karin suggested we take “appreciation” as our
intention, I wondered how that would be different from “gratitude” so
I decided to give it a try.  Later that
day NPR had an interview with a man who had developed a mechanical spoon that
allowed people to eat who had Parkinson’s disease or any other tremor
illness.  It was explained that people
with that type of condition cannot feed themselves.  I had never thought about that
disability.  Immediately I remembered my
intention from my class and appreciated the fact that I wasn’t faced with that
challenge.  Recently I had also heard of
Non-24, a disorder affecting the totally blind. 
It’s a sleep disorder with which they struggle because they can’t tell
the difference between day and night.  I
wondered what other things I take for granted that may be a challenge for
another?  My appreciation of the lack of
struggle my life presently holds instantly surged.  I thought of all the friends and relatives I
know about and for whom I am holding in prayer and was again appreciative.  Really, when I look around the world and see
what so many people have to deal with, I am in awe of the blessings of my
life.  I have no reason to complain or to
be ungrateful about anything.  It seems
appreciation and grateful easily go together and I just needed a boost and
Karin’s suggestion helped heighten my sense of gratitude.  
By holding our upcoming celebrations in Divine Light I have found
I have a heightened sense of appreciation and gratitude for these events and
all the blessings I know will emerge during this time.  I also expect the weather to be perfect.  I expect there to not be any glitches or
bumps in the actual event.  I expect all
the guests will behave appropriately and there will be complete harmony among
everyone in the family.  Just
teasing!  What has already happened
because of my new intention is I have a peaceful, joyful heart.  I am expecting the best and am at peace with
whatever that may look like.  I am
writing this with an anticipation filled with the excitement of the union of
Ellen and Adam and of the blessings that will emerge from the union of our two
families. 
Thank you, Karin.  Thank
you, Sister Judy.  Thank you, Loving God
for the gift of Divine Light.  I fully
appreciate it and already feel its presence pouring forth blessings on the
upcoming weeks. 

Answered Prayer

Affirmation: 
I believe in answered prayer.
Faith, what does that look like to you?  My husband says it’s “trust on
steroids.”  It has also been said the
opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. 
I am not certain.  I have listened
to others talk about their faith and their relationship with God or for Christians
like myself, with Jesus.  I have heard
the stories of the “born again.”  Many
times I am filled with envy and always I am filled with quite a few questions.  My faith journey has been slow and steady,
climbing up, slipping down, ever hopeful that I don’t slip below my last
starting place.
I have not found it easy to be faith
filled.  I have to work at it every
day.  I appreciate being told, “It’s the
work of a lifetime.”  I hope, too, that
my lifetime is long enough to get me to a place where I can fully trust in
God’s love and care for me and for my loved ones.
I love to read and hear the sermons about
God’s bountiful love and care for us, His or Her children.  There are many preachers who see God as this
entity that only wants what’s best for us. 
And, they lead me to believe that His/Her best is also my best.  There is where the difficulty lies. I keep
wondering where martyrs fit in this picture of divine love and care.  On February 22, 2011 a group of four
Americans were captured and killed off the coast of Somali.  They were
sailing around the world since December 2004, on the yacht of Jean and Scott
Adams.  The Quest was their home, this couple from California.  The
two other Americans on board were Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle,
Washington.  When I first heard about Jean and Scott, they had been
captured by pirates and were being held hostage.  They were then
surrounded by the US navy and other helping vessels but, before they could be
rescued, they were shot dead.
I
was truly inspired by their adventurous spirit when I first heard the story of
their mission.  I know there must be many
people who have the same spirit and I just haven’t heard about all of
them.  But, Jean and Scott were in their 70s and they were sailing to
remote parts of the world to share the word of God.  Yes, I know a lot of
people are missionaries and I am usually in awe of anyone who lives a life so
far out of most people’s comfort zone.  They were not what I consider
young and here they were so far from their support systems.  What would
they have done if they got sick, or injured, or needed a dentist or as a friend
commented to me, “If Jean needed a massage, or a facial?” 
Obviously, their mindset was very different than most people.
But,
if they died doing God’s work, as have so many martyrs, why should I believe
that Jesus will take care of me?  Oh,
yes, I would like to believe that.  We
don’t get everything we ask for, sometimes it seems like someone isn’t’ even
out there.  Thankfully, sometimes we get
something even better than we could have imagined.  I can recall several specific times in my
life when I was praying in general for one thing and something so much better
came along.  It can take my breath
away.  When my oldest daughter, Melissa,
was a single parent we, her father and I, prayed daily for her well-being.  We didn’t know exactly what that would look
like but we knew we didn’t want her and her children to endure undue
hardship.  We were there for them in
every way we could be but we wanted her to be able to care for herself and her
children.  We wanted her to be
independent and self-sufficient in every way possible.  Our prayers were answered beyond our wildest
expectations when she met Larry.  Not
only did she find someone amazing to share her life with but along with him
came two wonderful new grandsons.
One
day I was overcome with worry about my mom. 
I was at a loss about how to help her and she was not capable of helping
herself.  I was so overwhelmed with the
responsibility that I simply turned it over to God.  I prayed, “Lord, I do not know what to
do.  Please send help.”  Then, I waited.  It wasn’t long before the phone rang and
right after that my family arrived, called and accompanied me to my mom’s
home.  A new “on call” physician arrived
and before I knew it, mom was feeling better. 
I hadn’t even had time to stop and thank God for His/Her response.  As I reflected later, I began to see the
blessings that had been sent and then I had to choose.  Was it just the universe stepping into
support us?  Would it have happened even
if I didn’t say a prayer?  Maybe, but I
did pray and it gave me great comfort to believe the help we received was
answered prayer.  I want to believe in
answered prayer.  I know I will never
understand it but I believe with every fiber of my being that prayer makes a
difference.  If I can tap into the belief
that my prayers are always answered, in a way that only benefits me, think of
the peace that can be mine.  It has been
promised, you know, Mathew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you
will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
I believe God never leaves me, if I ask
Him/Her to be with me.  It is I who comes
and goes.  I believe that through my
faith, I will be able to deal with whatever life throws at me.  And, that whatever that is, through faith, it
will be miraculously transformed into something good, maybe something great,
something beyond my wildest imagination. I need to believe.  I have chosen to believe.  I have chosen the theology and doctrine that
I grew up with.  It’s not perfect but it
enables me to live life with less fear and anxiety than I could without
it.  I believe it because I want to
believe.  That’s what most of my affirmations revolve around, what I want
to believe.   Yes, a loving caring God.  I know this question
has been asked and examined many times around topics even more horrendous than
what Jean and Scott endured.  Topics like:  war, famine, child abuse,
cancer and other life threatening or debilitating diseases.  Perhaps, it’s
not what happens to us, no matter how difficult; perhaps it’s how we perceive
what happens to us?  Perhaps if we practice trusting God, we can go to our
death with dignity and grace regardless of the circumstances, knowing that this
life is temporary and because of our faith, because of my faith in Jesus
Christ, I will share in the glory of heaven.  My faith and trust in Him,
will secure me life everlasting, with Him and all the Saints and Angels. 
That’s why I believe and why I am still working on it.   

Living a Compassionate Life

Affirmation: I
live a Christ centered life of love, peace, hope, gratitude and compassion.

One of the most
compassionate people I know is my mother-in-law, Yolanda. She’s always been one
of my heroines and an amazing role model. 
I have never heard her criticize anyone. 
And, I’ve known her now for well over 43 years. 

Compassion is
defined as co-suffering but that’s not enough. 
For one to be truly compassionate you must try to do something to
alleviate another’s suffering.

One night we were
watching the TV show The Amazing Race.  I
was visiting Yolanda to help her prepare for her move to Savannah.  (She had lived in the same house for over 56
years and now, at the age of 90 she was moving to an independent living facility
in Georgia.  This was her choice.  She made the decision herself.  I keep hoping that when and if, I’m 90 I’ll
get to choose some adventure on which I want to embark and not have the
adventure chosen for me.)  This episode
of The Amazing Race had a young unmarried couple who were racing from country
to country.  They were doing fairly well
and were leading the race when this episode began.  When the episode ended they were in last
place.  They lost because one of the
challenges was to go down a huge water slide through some sharks and into a
pool.  The young woman of the team was
terrified of heights and sharks.  With
two of her greatest fears combined, she chose not to finish the race.  I was amazed and felt very impatient.  “For heaven’s sake” I thought,
“just get on the slide and get it over with!” Really, it would have
been over in 3 minutes.  And, then there
was Yolanda, “Oh, the poor thing! 
What are they doing?  Why don’t
they just let her walk down?  I can’t
stand to see her suffering so much.” I think if Yolanda had been there,
she would have jumped on that slide and gone down it in place of the young
woman, even though she too is afraid of water. 
Me?  I’m sad to tell you I would
have suggested to her partner to just pick her up, put her on his lap and go
for it.  It really was a wonderful lesson
for me to sit there and share this experience with my mother-in-law.  I don’t think I would have seen it any
differently if I hadn’t been exposed to her point of view.  Then, the final lesson came when the emcee
interviewed them and asked her boyfriend how he felt about the whole
episode.  I thought, “Here it
comes!  He’s going to be so angry!”
instead, he was as compassionate about it as Yolanda had been. 

In Al-Anon, one
of the suggestions given is to learn to take care of yourself.  It’s not an easy concept, especially for
someone who has been caring for a loved one with an addiction.  A lot of the time, many people who attend
Al-Anon are enablers.  One of their chief
skills is taking care of others, sometimes with total disregard for
themselves.  In the book, The Courage
to Change, One Day at a Time,
one of the readings tells a story about a
woman who had recently become an Al-Anon member.  Every night when she went to bed, she found
her drunken husband fallen out of bed and lying on the floor.  She’d help him back in bed, cover him up and
then finally get to go to bed too.  After
her Al-Anon session, she decided she’d just step over him and go straight to
bed. When she shared her new approach at a meeting, they gently told her she
had gone to the other extreme. So, the next night she used a different
approach.  She gently placed a blanket on
him, stepped over him and went to bed. 
She managed to find a place where she could both be compassionate and
take care of herself.

My friend works
out with a trainer.  I knew this personal
trainer when he was having terrible back pain and when I saw him again I asked
him how his back was doing.  He said it was
fine.  Then he told me he was pleased
he’d had the bad back experience because it made him a better trainer.  It made him more compassionate.

I know many
people take tragic experiences and use them to better the lives of others.  There is story after story of people who
chose to use their tragedy as a stepping stone not only for their own recovery
but for anyone else who is looking for help with the same type of
situation.  I am sure it wouldn’t take
much for you to recall some of the more well known examples.  How about the Amber Alert program?  I regularly see the signs for missing
children on the freeways.

Twenty five years
ago Rachel and Saul Schanberg lost their young daughter Linda to cancer.  Before Linda died she asked her mom to make a
difference in the Duke Cancer Center.  She
asked her to help people feel cared for and not just cared about.  Rachel began the Duke Cancer Patient Support
Program with herself and four volunteers in an office the size of a
closet.  Today her efforts have created a
program world renown for their care of cancer patients and their loved
ones.  It’s all free.  Most hospitals wouldn’t consider supporting a
program that doesn’t bring in any revenue but because of Rachel’s passion and
compassion, we have over 300 volunteers and the most amazing services you can
imagine.  The impact the program has made
on the new Duke Cancer Center can be seen in the center’s warm, inviting
atmosphere.

Our challenging
life experiences offer us two choices. 
We can become more caring, gentle and compassionate or we can become
bitter, hard and reclusive.  My intention
to be a more compassionate person, to be more Yolanda like, is a quality I
always want to be developing.  Recently,
I read a book to help me better understand and care for an aging parent.  The main lesson in the book encourages the
reader, the caretaker, to try to see life as their parent may see it.  When they rephrased some of the concerns of
the parent using language based on the author’s years of experienced, it
brought me a greater understanding of that which my parent is concerned.  And, with understanding I felt a deeper sense
of compassion. 

I am an ardent
believer in the power of prayer.  I don’t
know how it works but I believe it does. 
I keep a list in the front of my journal of all the people for whom I am
currently praying.  I always add “And,
especially for those who most need Your mercy.” 
Since practicing compassion requires one to “do” something along with
experiencing feelings of empathy, I can pray. 
If there is no other way for me to bring help and solace to those I am
concerned about, it gives me great comfort to know I can offer them up in
prayer and to believe that God is blessing them in ways beyond my
comprehension.  Truly, that’s how I want
to see myself; that’s the person I want to be. 
If when I die my obituary refers to me as compassionate, I will rest
with the satisfaction of a life well lived.

The Power of Prayer

Affirmation:  I pray unceasingly.
Do you believe that prayer makes a difference?  Do you have a theory about why it does or doesn’t work?  Have you ever “tested” your theory?  
The older I become, the more I pray; the more I value prayer.  One of the popular comedians said that’s very normal because as we age we realize we’re getting closer to death and we’re “hedging our bets.”  That could be true.  I also have more time to pray.  I don’t have to rush out every morning or get the children off to school.

I get to begin my day before I even rise with a prayer of thanksgiving and with the invitation to God to join me throughout my day & to bring blessings and favors on all those for whom I have promised to pray.  I pray for my spouse, my children and grand-children by name and then go on and list my siblings and their families.  Next, I include all my “dear, dear friends” and especially those who most need God’s mercy.”  I try to recall each of those special people by name who I know need extra prayers.  I can usually remember them.  If not, I do keep a prayer list.  After my friends I include all “the special intentions of those in my Small Christian Community.”  I then go on to add “all the support people in my life, seen and unseen and their loved ones.”  I so value all those people who make my life so much easier and richer because of their hard work.  I include our “fighting men and women and their families” and finally I pray for “wisdom for our world leaders and peace for this world.”  Then, it is time to rise.

Am I making a difference?  I’m making a difference in how I value those in my life and how I perceive them and the world.  I sometimes think this aspect is the most powerful effect of prayer; the change that takes place in me when I take the time and spend my energy to pray for others.  But, I believe prayer makes a difference in ways we cannot even fathom.  It is one of the most powerful tools available to us to tap into the Divine.  If we are spiritual beings having a human experience, why not connect with spirit and let that power work the miracles we are asking for in our lives?
According to Norman Vincent Peale in The Power of Positive Thinking, the whole world is made up of vibrations and prayer is one way to activate and send out positive vibrations to create change in the world.  Energy and how it can by directed and controlled has been written about to name just a few, by Eckhart Tolle and Gary Zukav.  That’s what prayer is.  It’s a form of energy.  Several years ago Duke Health did a study on prayer.  They had two groups prayed for by a variety of people from all different religious theologies.  The results of their study did not show any difference in the recovery of the patients.  But, I wonder what did change for those who were receiving the prayers?  Do you think it might have been something that wasn’t measurable like grace, peace, hope and other non-tangibles; things we all value and look for but for which there is no measurement?

Prayer changes lives.  The greatest challenge is believing in its power; believing that it really can have an effect on the situation.  The second challenge is believing that it will be a positive effect, even if it’s not the apparent answer for which we prayed.  Prayer and the belief in it and the ability to tap into the Divine do not remove our difficulties but it can make our difficulties, our challenges, easier to bear.  It can bring us a sense of peace and hope believing that there is a kind and loving Supreme Being who wants what’s best for us, especially if we’re willing to ask and then to listen. 

When we first moved to North Carolina I said a prayer that God would lead us to the best house and neighborhood for us.  And, then I asked for a “sign.”  I asked for some sort of burning bush.  Yes, I was testing.  Well, we drove everywhere and I never saw that bush.  We finally settled on a lovely house in a new neighborhood and I let go of my search for the perfect place for us.  I actually loved our new home and our new neighbors, so all was good.  Several years later, we were taking my in-laws around showing them the area and we saw a beautiful house that was for sale.  We were able to tour it on the spot and I loved it!  Soon, we had sold our other house and moved into the new one.  One day, I was walking with someone who knew a lot about shrubs and he was telling me about the different bushes around the house.  I stopped dead when he pointed to the bushes at the bottom of the driveway and told me they were called Burning Bushes (Euonymus).  There were six of them!  Was that answered prayer?  As far as I was concerned it was. 

I don’t go around testing God any longer.  I simply expect my prayers to be answered.  I know they are answered and I know they make a difference, a difference in my life and a difference in the world but I must remind myself that God’s plan may not be my plan and that God’s timing is something I will never be able to fathom.