On C-Span radio this morning, one gentleman called-in to suggest we try “praying to God” to stop the oil spill. The radio host responded by moving on to the next call. My first reaction to hearing this was “God cannot stop the oil spill as God is not a person, nor is he/she an “oil stopper.” But, then another thought came. What is God? And is there any way prayer could be helpful?
Within a few moments of that thought, BBC radio aired an interview with Luis Eladio Perez, an ex-Senator in Columbia who had been kidnapped and held hostage in the jungle, for 6 years. When AK-47’s were first pointed at his head he went “deep into my essence, which is in all of us, and belongs to God. . .” He went on to share that during a particularly difficult moment “ . . .I felt the temptation to be arrogant and proud. I realized that that would be exactly as if I was doing that to God, questioning God for this ordeal. At that moment, I fell down into the mud, and said very quietly to myself: ‘God almighty, I love you, and I offer you humbly, this predicament.’ A ray of light took me over – there was no more anger, no more pain – I was unbelieveably happy, and full of mud. At that exact moment, the head guerilla sent someone with a light to help me.”
This sounds very religious, yet it is useful to see if we can understand what took place in this moment of revelation. He did not pray to God to take away the situation he was in, as frightening and humiliating as it was. He prayed to heal his anger, so that he could be fully present to the situation, to whatever was being asked of him. This prayer is existentially valid, in the words of Metapsychiatry. It recognizes that God Is, and we are part of It. God is the capacity we all have to live by Divine intelligence, joy and love in any moment.
With that realization, he was no longer here to “survive,” he was here to bring the spiritual resource of his essential nature to whatever was happening. This kind of prayer establishes conscious awareness of his identity as a spiritual being, capable of love, compassion, intelligence and strength beyond anything merely “human.”
There is much more to this story, so go to BBC.com to hear more. For now, let’s apply his insight to the question of: “Can prayer help the oil spill.”
There is a world-wide wave of anger in reaction to the oil spill. Anger is an emotional outburst expressing: “ I don’t want/like what is happening.” The flipside of that thought may not be expressed, but it is there nonetheless: “The situation seems hopeless and I’m helpless against it.” “Helplessness” looks to either blame someone, or look for a savior. Either way, it’s a mental context where ones well-being is dependent on others: oil refiners; oil cleaners, government agencies, etc.
The truth is, we, as individuals, are helpless to stop the oil spill, and at the same time we are dependent on using oil every day of our lives. The complexity of oil refining points to our complete dependence on the intelligence and good will of others – no matter how conservative and frugal we may be with our own use of natural resources. This is an embarrassment to our “independent” egos, so it seems best to just stay angry and blame others, or pray for someone, like God, to come and fix it. (Yes, but how does one stop being angry when one is angry?)
Now we have the example of Senor Perez. What if, in the face of pain, turmoil and chaos, we give our complete attentiveness, including our concerns about this predicament, over to the underlying Intelligent-Love that is the substance of life. This is not wishful thinking, hoping for a miracle – this is spiritual clarity that the source of solutions is not in anger, blame or wanting, but in inspired wisdom accessible to all. Everyone is part of God, whether they know it or not, and, everyone can receive inspired, intelligent solutions – even armed guerillas.