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We Get What We Expect, Not What We Pray For


“What is prayer, and does it matter whether I pray?" Occasionally people ask me this question. After all, prayer is a foundational practice for most spiritual traditions. I recall one of my spiritual teachers saying, "As startling as it may sound, it does not make any difference to God whether we pray or not; it does make a lot of difference to us.”


I used to have a challenge with the word God. Then I realized I could replace it with the word "Force," "Principle," "Spirit," or "Presence." Regardless of what we call it, it is unchangeable, and we always have the choice to align ourselves with it.


The New Thought/Ancient Wisdom Teachings remind us that this Presence lies within us, and we don't have to do anything to earn it other than shift our point of view. This teaching is where prayer comes in and why it matters. The statement, "Pray believing that you may receive," gives us a clue as to how to activate the power of prayer.


There is a story of a soldier that demonstrates the power of having such a belief.

The soldier went to battle. As he moved through the battlefield, anytime he saw a piece of paper, he would stop, pick the piece of paper up, look at it, and then let it go. The paper would then flutter away in the wind. The soldier would do the same thing every time his eye caught a piece of paper—he'd stop, pick it up, look at it, let it go, and watch it float away. After a while, the other servicemen said, "This guy is crazy; he's going to get hurt." But the soldier continued to pick up pieces of paper, look at them and let them flutter away in the wind.


The commanders then proclaimed, “He needs psychiatric help.” So they took him to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist and the soldier had several sessions together, but nothing changed. The soldier would go right back in the middle of the battlefield and repeat what he had been doing every time he saw a piece of paper. Finally, those in charge said, “This man is not fit to be in the service. We have to get rid of him.” They called the soldier to the command center and pointed to his discharge paper on the desk. The soldier picked up the paper, looked at it, and excitedly said, "Oh, here it is!


The soldier demonstrated what it means to "pray believing." It reminds us that we don't necessarily get what we pray for; we get what we expect. Prayer is not saying the right words, supplicating to an external deity, or trying to get the universe to shift for us.


Effectual prayer is getting in touch with the awareness that what we are praying for already exists, and we expect to receive it.


When we pray in this way, our prayers are answered.


Peace and Blessings,

James

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