During a lively dinner table conversation I once participated in, the subject of prayer was broached. A young woman described an experiment involving garden vegetables. One group of plants was given “directed prayer”—in other words, experimenters prayed specifically for a large yield from each plant. Another was offered “nondirected prayer,”—the whole group was generally enfolded and blessed. A third group was given no prayer at all. Other factors—sunlight, water, soil conditions—were the same for each group. Results: the biggest plants and the largest and most plentiful vegetables were in the group given nondirected prayer.
The woman and others at the table agreed that this throws into question the conventional religious approach to prayer, where God is entreated to confer specific benefits upon individuals and groups, and vindicates meditation and spiritual radiation groups where the primary concern is simply to bless the earth and its inhabitants. Whatever one’s religious or non-religious persuasion, the experiment confirms the power of human consciousness to influence events. It should be noted that the plants offered directed prayer outperformed those given no prayer at all.
But the experiment also suggests that prayer, in its finest and most natural sense, has little to do with directing God to process a human wish list and everything to do with opening individual and group consciousness to the healing and renewing current of life. Life, God, whatever you want to call the spiritual energy running this whole show, certainly has no need for the human mind to direct it.
In genuine prayer and focused meditation, my notions of what would be good for the world, the nation, my city, my family and me are set aside in favor of simply clearing a space for the transformative energy of life to flow into and through me. In true prayer I, in effect, declare, “I hereby take full responsibility for the state of my world and open myself as a channel for the blessing of life to pour into it.” In this sense my prayer is the way I conduct my life.
Regarding the wars that are currently raging in the Middle East, I’m sure combatants on different sides are praying to their version of God to lead them to victory and American families who have sons or daughters in the combat zone are praying for their safety. Also churchgoers, mosque attendees, antiwar demonstrators and almost everyone is praying for peace. Even if God has the least interest in any of these requests, there is no way they can be answered to the satisfaction of everyone. Life simply doesn’t respond in this way to human petitions, no matter how noble and humanitarian they may be.
I wonder how many who pray for peace allow their prayers to be answered in the only way such prayers can be answered—by being peace in their living. World peace springs from inner peace. Maintaining calm in myself and the world of activity I center is the only way to calm the planet. And peace is not antiwar or nonviolence. Peace never opposes anything. It is a positive state of alignment with the larger celestial order.
Politics has long been and continues to be an exercise in directed prayer. For example, chaplains to the U.S. House and Senate direct God to uphold and strengthen the nation by assisting its leaders to solve the great problems of the day, and the leaders themselves direct their personal prayers and energies to this task. I suspect that God is frequently asked—sometimes in public, more often in private—to help get a specific bill out of committee or passed by the full chamber on final reading.
This whole direction process—directing solutions to problems and marshaling the life force necessary to implement these solutions—contradicts natural law and the working of life’s creative process. Because it represents an attempt to manipulate rather than cooperate with life, the long-term results are invariably destructive. Yet human beings have become so habituated to this politics of manipulation that they no longer can even conceive of anything else.
There is another way. Instead of activating the mind to brainstorm solutions the emphasis in nondirected prayer is on quieting the mind and clearing it of clutter. This makes space available in consciousness so that the course of action most in keeping with the natural rhythms and pulsations of life can reveal itself. In directed prayer and function everything is geared toward the achievement of a specific result, a result satisfying the mind’s notion of what is good. But in nondirected prayer and action, results are incidental. All that really matters is opening mind and heart as fully as possible to the flow of life in the moment so that its recreative power may have maximum effect on Earth.
This flow is the prayer and whatever changes it produces are celebrated, not judged. Those who consistently let themselves be this living prayer in service to the larger celestial order acquire wisdom and the capacity to accommodate an ever greater range of the creative process. They can be trusted to competently interpret and administer the creative process in relation to any circumstance that comes to them in life. Here is genuine leadership and the basis for spiritual government on Earth.
As the current campaign for President of the United States graphically demonstrates, few things are so ugly and debasing as men and women grasping for office in an election campaign. But if the approach I’ve outlined here was fully implemented, it would abolish them! Instead of a candidate seeking political office, directing multitudinous energies and prayers to this end, the office would, in effect, seek out the candidate! There would be no need for a vicious dehumanizing struggle.
The very notion of seeking office is contrary to life. Quite often it tends to spring from the arrogance of attempting to impose the will of the conditioned human mind on the creative process. The appalling mess now on Earth is the product of centuries of attempts to govern on this basis.
Long before they heard of voting and the need to assert their “political rights,” Native Americans let their leaders emerge in a sacred rite of natural selection. Tribal elders took counsel together and in the stillness of meditation a chief was raised up by the Great Spirit. What a blessedly simple event compared to the clamor, mudslinging, exhaustive schedules and financial corruption typical of a modern campaign.
The true political process is one of nondirected prayer as I have described it. In fact this is the natural process of leadership selection in any area of human activity. Nothing is demanded, nothing is sought. In an atmosphere of stillness and letting go to the wisdom of spirit an unconditional blessing of life is released, and the result, though not sought after, is as healthy and abundant as a thriving garden full of vegetables given nondirected prayer.