The danger of being a religious professional is that prayer can quickly become another part of the job description.
Joys and concerns, identified during Sunday worship and throughout the week, go “on the list.” And, like other things that populate the ever-expanding roll, they can fall victim to the need to get them “done.”
The practice of prayer in Caleb’s life and the power of the Native American Church’s (NAC) ceremonies prompt me to wonder about my orientation towards the practice of prayer.
Closely linked to an understanding of prayer is the image of the God to whom one prays.
I reject the vending machine image of the Divine, where the required number of prayers are inserted, with the correct currency of intensity and focus, and out pops the desired outcome.
I continue to protest against the stingy, white-haired, accountant image of God who has to be nagged, cajoled or reminded of the need to act.
My image of God continues to grow as the affirmations of the God of the Bible engage with wonder-inducing discoveries in quantum physics and astrophysics.
So I cannot offer a complete and definitive image of God that ultimately satisfies my limited understanding both of the Bible and modern science; nevertheless, I can affirm some basics.
Stripped to the studs, my understanding of God is of an intentional force/energy/Being that exists beyond the range of our ordinary senses, i.e., something else is going on beyond normal sensory perception. Some of the character of that Presence we glimpse in and through the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. At the very least, our view through the knothole reveals a Presence that is and desires to be engaged with life as we know and experience it.
While we are immersed in this multi-dimensional Presence that encompasses but goes beyond our dimensions we have fantastic autonomy. This freedom impacts both the manifestation and engagement of the Other, i.e. we affect what God does and does not do.
Our intentionality then serves as an invitation and focus for the unfathomed power of the Other. Although I hesitate to use the word, our prayers and posture of prayer can help to channel the “energy” of the Other. The mark and desire of the Divine Presence is wholeness of life and relationships.
So, when Caleb talks about the power of the prayer ceremonies within the tipi, I do not think of a group of people ganging up on the Creator but of people/multiple channels or vessels seeking to focus their hearts and spirits, their connections to the divine. And through these channels, the Powerful Presence will engage.
Caleb testifies to being able to feel the force and movement of that Power that leads him toward a life marked by forgiveness, hope, and a different life. For this I am grateful.