Why in the world should the simplest and most harmless of things be the center of such extreme controversy? You would think that the national day of prayer was a government request for a national religion or worse yet condoned genocide… an extreme example, yes… but certainly gets to the core of why it is so controversial.
I could easily go into a tirade about how the mind set of the American people has turned us into the laughing stock of the world. We are all so fearful of offending anyone that in the process we ultimately offend everyone. Are people really so frail that hearing anything other than an “atta boy” or a “good job” or an “I wholeheartedly agree” will scar them for life? But this is not the appropriate forum.
Instead of rambling on about the insanity of the objections of the populous to individuals taking one day out of the year to spend in quiet reflection and directed good intent, I will simply describe how THIS individual will spend some time.
I live in the south east corner of Arizona in a little town called Cochise named after the great Apache chief. I have the great fortune of being able to look out my back door into the Cochise Stronghold, a place where Cochise and a handful of his Apache warriors held off the U.S. Cavalry for weeks at a time.
It is a truly breathtaking site where I take my horses to ride from time to time. The rock formations and trails can set one’s mind truly at ease and the energy in the area is amazing. It has to be experienced first hand to be believed.
There is a spot about halfway up the mountain on the west side… a spot I have visited many times… with a twenty foot or so round flat stone platform. I have sat and watched as the shadow of the west mountains cast by setting sun has swept eastward across the valley as hawks hung in lazy circles overhead.
This is the place where I will choose to make my offering. This is where I will sit quietly and direct my intention towards those who could use some peace and comfort in their lives. I will obviously be thinking of friends and family, both those who have passed and those who are still with us. I will think of those whose paths and mine have not yet crossed in this life.
I will ask that humanity can find a way not to let religion get in the way of spirituality. I will ask that, and if my choice of words here offends anyone… please get over yourselves, “the spirit that moves through all things” helps the hostility, the fighting, and the bloodshed that has taken place in the name of god and religion over millenia come to an end. More lives have been lost in this world in the name of god than anything else.
I will ask that those struggling to survive and provide the simplest of necessities for their families will struggle just a little less… that not being able to put food on their tables ceases to be a recurring nightmare for them.
I will ask that those with hatred and fear in their hearts can release it all and find the tranquility they have been denying themselves. I will ask that those who cannot find it within themselves to forgive people who have wronged them will receive forgiveness for their wrongs.
I will ask to help those with great responsibilities in this world find the strength and wisdom to make the right decisions and to live up to those responsibilities. I ask that they will have the strength to not be tempted and take the easy or convenient path which inevitably leads to disaster.
Finally I will be a little selfish… yes selfish. After all, it IS ok to pray for yourself. I will ask for the fortitude to stay on my path, the one laid out for me an me alone. It is not one I ask anyone else to walk with or for me. I will ask to stay hungry and greedy… for love and joy in my life. I will ask for it in such abundance that it overflows and infects those around me. When your heart is filled with love and joy there is simply no room for hatred and sadness.
I will PRAY… yes I am now using the word PRAY… that we can all be a bit more selfless and less guarded in our spiritual beliefs. There are certain universal truths. Most of the worlds religions, at their core, have the very same tenets. The major differences are in the details… are in the POLITICS of the religious organizations.
In the end, we need to accept that despite the best of our intentions or desires things will happen that are beyond our control. We need to give in to the greater wisdom. What may be best for us is not necessarily what is best for everyone else.
I do not care if you are a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Shintoist, Wiccan, Agnostic, or anything else. I do not even care if you are an Atheist. Atheists CAN PRAY. They may not reach out to a “big thing in the sky”, but they can certainly wish people well, and THAT is the very heart of prayer. It is simply DIRECTED GOOD INTENTION… nothing more.
In reading over the list of things I will personally “ask for” it reminds me and may very well remind you of another more formal prayer… “The Lord’s Prayer”… I am laughing as I write this just a little because of that fact. I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. Heck, I even spent my first two years of high school in a prep seminary. I was blessed with at least getting some initial exposure to the worlds religions. Of course I asked ALL of the wrong questions at ALL of the wrong times and found out that THAT particular path was not for me. Although in my more recent years I have gravitated more towards Native American spirituality and philosophies, I still keep an open heart, “soul”, and most importantly… MIND.
That experience taught me a valuable lesson… that although MOST of them got it MOSTLY right, none of them got it right for me. So I began my nondenominational spiritual journey, taking what was useful from each and discarding what was not. PLEASE note that I said USEFUL and not CONVENIENT. I was not looking for an easy path to follow, just one that made sense and rang true to me.
Nobody can ever claim to know your relationship with “the divine” better than you do. Some can offer initial guidance but in the end, spirituality is a journey we need to walk alone. When we find our path… THE PATH… we find everything.
It has been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step… and that first step? Pray… Share your heart with the world, wish for only the best for everyone… even those you could very well do without. It doesn’t cost much, not really, and it most certainly does no harm.
An annual day of prayer? A national day of prayer? A GLOBAL day of prayer? Maybe we need it and maybe we don’t, but I will certainly celebrate. Honor that day or any day in your own personal way but NEVER… EVER… underestimate the power of prayer.