Saturday, August 15, 2015

Talking or Listening – Praying or Meditating

Step Eleven of the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous states: “[We] Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Michael Z, who publishes a weekly message entitled “Wisdom of the Rooms” [], discussed Step 11. "For a long time I wondered what the difference between prayer and meditation was, and then I heard this quote. [Prayer is talking to God; Meditation is listening for His answer.] While it immediately made sense, there were important distinctions I soon had to learn. In the beginning my prayers were all about what I wanted to see happen for me and other people. I was busy telling God what to do. "Please let me get that job"; "Help my friend get better"; "Don't let me lose it/her/that." It took me many years to realize that God's will for my life and others far exceeded my limited vision and best intentions.
‘After years of developing faith through experience, I finally saw the wisdom in the second part of step 11: "… praying only for the knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out." That knowledge is the answer I listen for in meditation, and my faith today comes from the understanding that God's will is always the best for myself and others. And what a load off my shoulders that is.
“Today I sincerely pray for the knowledge of God's will, and I listen for the best ways to carry that out.”
Even with all my seminary training, I, too, had much the same difficulty when dealing with the eleventh step. My prayers were also about wanting God to do what I wanted – “Please let me …; Help my friend …; Don't let me lose …. Oh! and by the way, I’ll abide with whatever You decide.”
There was a fellow in the Program who used to proudly announce that God had answered every one of his prayers – every one! “Of course,” he went on, “99.9% of His answers were ‘No.’” We all would laugh, but how absolutely correct he was!
I’ve heard fundamentalists decry the use of meditation because it violates some spiritual rule that would offend God. It’s evil, satanic, or the devil in sheep’s clothing they would say. I’ve heard them say the same thing about Yoga. Fear. That’s all it is. A fundamental faith based on fear, yet fear is the opposite of Faith.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) deals with this issue by making it very clear that what we need to do is very, very little. It is basically just to be willing to see things differently – to see with the Holy Spirit’s vision rather than with our physical egoic eyes. The physical eyes are designed only to “see” the 3-D world of our own perception. They cannot “see” the True Spiritual Reality of the Love of God, which is all there is!
To see with the Holy Spirit’s eyes is not to “see” at all. It is to have vision. We just have to have the willingness to want that. That’s all, folks – as Porky Pig used to say at the end of one of his cartoons.
That’s also all that is needed to learn to meditate in order to hear the voice of God for you. Many people desire to meditate and end up doing a form of contemplation. They read a verse of scripture or some other inspiring thought and then focus on that for a bit. That is contemplation. It has its place and can be very helpful. But it’s not meditation.
Others believe that meditation is totally emptying your mind of all thoughts. Perhaps experienced Hindu gurus can accomplish this. I can’t and never have been able to. When I try, all I am focusing on is how busy my mind really is. I end up fighting with myself trying to not think of the many voices I hear. I used to try to say to myself as I meditated, “Thank you for sharing” every time a stray thought came to my attention. At the end of the 30-minutes, I realized all I was doing was repeating “Thank you for sharing,” “Thank you for sharing,” “Thank you for sharing,” “Thank you for sharing.” Needless to say, I did not feel rejuvenated or rested or calm or peaceful after a meditation like this.
Willingness. Willingness to see things differently. Willingness to see with God’s vision. Willingness to hear what God has to say. For that to happened I need to simply be quiet and listen for His whispers. As I’ve said before in these messages, it is like learning to distinguish my children’s cries – understanding a cry of pain from a cry of anger from a cry of boredom/frustration or from a cry of illness. I don’t know how I did it but I did. I can listen to a special song I like, even though I’m in a crowded room with many voices. I can sort of hear the people (at least enough to be polite) while I’m really tuned in to the music I want to hear – the 2nd movement of Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto, for example – that’s playing in the background.
We are all very mentally lazy and we need to train our minds more. We need to be able to listen for the still, small whispers of God. If it’s a “loud” voice I hear, I know it’s of my ego. It’s Felix. And Felix can speak with many voices all at once. They are all loud. Spirit’s voice never is.
AA old-timers define the difference between prayer and meditation: Prayer is talking to God; Meditation is listening for His answer.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#3 Aug 2015
Copyright 2015

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