Grace. Blessings. Prayer
Have you ever driven a manual transmission? Do you remember how the gears were meant to mesh, just slide easily one from the other when you shift from second gear to third or third into fourth? There is no revving of too much gas, an ease with the clutch, just a very natural movement into a higher speed. That is just how grace works: it just slips into the situation at hand and suddenly there is a better outcome. Without grace there would have been maybe a normal outcome, the gears failed to mesh or we weren’t somehow in tune with the Spirit within and around us.
When grace appears—unbidden—it surprises and calms and enhances whatever is going on. It is the sure sign that the Spirit of God is present in what is happening.
And what about blessings? Blessings are also a sure sign of the Spirit of God. First of all, we are blessed by the gift of life itself on this beautiful planet. We are blessed by the friends, our children and family who accompany us through our lives. We are blessed by the talents and gifts we are given, by work that is fulfilling or that fills our stomach and other needs. Life itself, on earth is our greatest blessing.
And secondly, we are blessed by our connection to God and all the help God offers us all the time—hints and suggestions as to what to say or do, support, love and forgiveness, blessings and grace. The more we depend on and consult God about how we are to be and what we are to do and the more we rest in the Divine, the more awareness we have of the blessings flowing to us. We are blessed when we are present to another or to God. We are blessed when we see a sunset, stopped by the beauty of a perfect rose, hold a newborn baby in our arms—anything awesome.
A blessing is something that helps me or another person connect to the Holy Spirit and go deep within ourselves and to connect to other people. A blessing is just what is needed for the person I am talking to or who is with me. A blessing is the right attunement to the mind of Christ in this moment and if I do as I am prompted, it turns out to be just what the person needed to hear. It might be a suggestion of what to read or a movie to see or just a phrase for them to hang onto, a kind word.
Thirdly, we are blessed by our own struggles and the challenges of life here on Earth, because they provide the biggest learnings in our lives. We learn how to be flexible, how to go along with what is happening rather than hang on to our preferences. They will teach us, if we are open to the lesson, how to love no matter what is happening in our lives.
As you may know, for the first six months or so of posting my blog on Facebook, I answered every comment, sometimes at some length, but I was definitely seeking to connect with everyone. When it began to take me three hours a day to answer them, I had to find a new way of connecting with my readers beyond what I was writing for that day, a way that did not consume a large part of my day. So a month or two ago, I began to post a blessing for us all each day that relates to what I am writing about. I have found a deep satisfaction in offering the daily blessing and have begun to offer blessings in other circumstances. And I love to do it. I feel it binds us together in ways that my personal response to each comment could not.
So I am recommending that we all find ways to bless each others’ lives, particularly calling on the fruit of the Spirit as the blessing to offer. By blessing someone’s journey with peace and joy and love and the other fruit of the Spirit we are actually suggesting and hoping that they will explore the relationship with God to the depths that will bring forth that fruit. And what more could we wish for someone else and for ourselves?
So now that I’ve talked about grace and blessings, God’s side of the equation, I want to tackle prayer. Here’s how I experience Christ and any prayers I have offered up to him: he answers every single one. Not only does he answer every one of my prayers and yours, he is constantly sending us ways of being a blessing to others and grace abundant for ourselves. How many times a day do you think he is sending something to us? A word? A suggestion of what to do? The next step for our journey? An answer to prayer? His presence? I think maybe it’s five hundred times a day. Or maybe it’s every minute of a day which would make it 1400 times a day! It doesn’t matter if it is a waking or sleeping time–it is a constant flow of information, presence and support for us. The only question for us is this: how aware are we of all that he is sending us?
Now we, on the other hand, have to have our minds attuned to Christ to get all these messages. It takes a lot of practice in stilling our minds to hear and see all that he sends, but I think it is an important measure of the depth of our relationship to him. How aware are we of all that he gives? How attuned are we to receiving what is sent? And how much are we in communion with him? For it is in the stillness within, the definite lowering of the influence of our interior voices and their power over us, that we can hear God’s voice at all. And it’s in the surrender of our expectations and assumptions that we can rest at all in Christ’s mind.
I am not sure that we need to voice any prayers to tell God what we need, because he already knows what we need and is trying to bless us by filling our needs. [Matthew 6:25-34] But it is important for us to pray for ourselves and others, to participate in the healing needed, to focus our own minds and hearts. Often we ask for what we want for ourselves or others, but we may be asking for things that won’t serve us or them at all. And it seems that the more off-base our prayers are, to have this thing happen in just this way, the less likely we are to feel that our prayers are answered. But they are always answered by Christ to meet our needs, not necessarily our wants.
When we hear someone complain that God didn’t answer their prayers, we can assume that God did, but the request and the answer don’t jibe. The person didn’t recognize that the answer was in fact just what they needed, although the answer was not what was requested. I think we are pretty arrogant to figure that we know what the right answer for a situation is, and so we pray for that outcome, only to have something else happen.
The sad thing is that the praying person might figure that God didn’t care enough about him or her to give what they wanted. This is not true! Ever! But we may need to look at how and what we ask for. Are we trying to manipulate the outcome? Are we determined to get our way? Are we praying for specific outcomes or are we praying for God to bless the situation and everyone involved? Are we praying for the best and highest solution for everyone?
Communion with God, resting in his mind and arms, is the highest form of prayer. No words are needed there; we are simple present to the presence of God. The silence and his love speaks volumes in us. This state of communion requires quite a lot of practice in going beneath our conscious minds to the stillness that is there. We must learn to tune out those repetitive thoughts, to give them no power over us. We need to expand our capacity for silence so that we can deeply enter the presence of God without distraction.
Grace, blessings and prayer. God’s gifts and our responses. With all the grace and blessings that God sends our way, with all the care and support he offers, with the love and forgiveness and mercy he pours out on us, our prayer, that is stillness, reverence, gratitude, focus on him and love are the natural response to all that is given. Amen.
Questions to ponder over the week: How aware am I of God’s gifts—blessings and grace—throughout my days? What is the quality of my prayer life? Do I just pray for things to happen the way I want them to be? Do I share all that I am with Christ? Do I rest in God’s presence, able to be silent and just commune?
Blessing for the week: May we become aware of all the help, support, suggestions, next steps, love, grace and blessings that God is continually sending us. May be feel blessed and loved and cared for. May we rest in God’s arms. in faith and love, Pat