A Lesson in Prayer Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Malinda Cramer suffered with poor health for the first two-thirds of her life. She was what people used to call an invalid. She moved from the Midwest to San Francisco hoping the climate change would improve her health, but it didn’t seem to do so. Her experience […]
A Lesson in Prayer
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Malinda Cramer suffered with poor health for the first two-thirds of her life. She was what people used to call an invalid. She moved from the Midwest to San Francisco hoping the climate change would improve her health, but it didn’t seem to do so.
Her experience began to change after a profound moment of reflection and prayer. Her family had been Quaker, so she was familiar with the idea of the divine Light, or Christ Presence being within her, and she was familiar with the idea of accessing divine power by spending time in the Silence. One day in 1885, during a time of prayer and meditation, she asked this question: “Is there any power if the vast universe that can heal me?”
She of course didn’t receive an audible or even an instant cure, but she did seem to experience a shift in consciousness, a change in attitude, an inward knowing that brought peace and a powerful experience of hope that she had not had before. She wrote in her book, Divine Science & Healing, “The answer to my earnest inquiry…was an absorbing realization of a presence…This presence was more than personal; it was omnipresence, and was so illumining that I became It. I realized It to be my Life…”
Malinda immediately started feeling better about herself. Her body didn’t get instantly stronger, but she was less depressed about that, less worried about it, and more optimistic about the future. She honestly felt as if she could and indeed would get well. And gradually, her health did improve and continued to improve and it took the great earthquake of 1906 to take her out of this world! She spent the rest of her life teaching about the power of recognizing God as an omnipresence, a power that is always fully present, and the more we become conscious of that power, the more that power is able to do amazing things for and through us. That message continues to inspire me today.
The invalid that spent decades in frailty went on to start a school, a magazine, write books, and travel all over the United States teaching spirituality.
Malinda Cramer had her aha moment that led to a changed perceptive and a changed life in 1885.
Two years later, in Pueblo, Colorado, another woman was having her own spiritual breakthrough.
Nona Brooks had a condition whereby she couldn’t eat solid foods and had difficulty swallowing. Living on only soft foods and liquids, she was losing weight and feeling weak. She didn’t know what to pray for; being a good Presbyterian she didn’t really want to pray for a miracle, but her hopeless condition seemed to warrant some sort of appeal to a comforting power! So her constant prayer was, “Give me light.”
Who knows what she meant? Light to see the blessings in the midst of the difficulty? Light to see a way out of the problem? Light to see that the problem, as all-consuming as it seemed to be needn’t define her whole existence? Who knows, but she prayed faithfully, “Give me light.”
A friend of Nona’s had experienced difficulty with her health and had gone to Chicago to study with a spiritual teacher named Emma Curtis Hopkins. Emma had been a Christian Science practitioner but wound up with her own school and ministry in Chicago. Nona’s friend, a Mrs Bingham, went to Chicago to study and pray with Emma for three weeks and Mrs Bingham return to Colorado completely reinvigorated!
Mrs Bingham wanted to share the good news that positive spirituality really can contribute to improved experiences in life, so she started teaching classes and she persuaded Nona to take her class. Reluctantly, Nona agreed. And this is what Nona recorded about her studies with Mrs Bingham:
“It was in the fourth class, my whole being was completely flooded with a great light. A light brighter than sunlight, brighter than any other light I had ever seen! It filled me! It surrounded me! I was conscious of nothing but that intense white light! I thought, of course, all in the room had seen the light too, but they had not. I alone had experienced this wonderful light that flooded my entire being; I then discovered I had been healed instantly and completely.”
Nona, like Malinda, started teaching about the joy that comes from learning that God is a presence that is never separate from us.
Nona Brooks and Malinda Cramer learned of each other’s experiences and they both called their work Divine Science and the once chronically ill Nona, like the once perpetually frail Malinda, started a school, wrote books, and began traveling extensively. She even started a church, and she ordained some of the great positive thinking teachers of all time, including Emmet Fox who was highly influential in the early AA movement and Ernest Holmes who founded the church Religious Science. Nona lived from 1861 to 1945.
Malinda prayed an honest question, “Is there any power in the vast universe that can heal me?” and received an instant shift in consciousness that led to a gradual healing. Honest questions can be far more powerful than preconceived answers.
Nona prayed for about a year, “Give me light” and she finally received an instant healing (as well as a profound experience of divine Light!). Sometimes it takes a year or years to become an instant success!
These two women, whose witness I value very much, show us the power of prayer.
In my book, Saved From Salvation, I write, “Of all aspects of religion, prayer may be for me the most important because it is the raw and honest calling out for comfort, the deeply held questions finding voice, the magic of hope that cannot be fettered, the energetic link to every dream and dreamer that has ever lived. The prayer might simply be the feeling of gratitude, an expression of goodwill, a gesture of love, a spark of hope, a daring declaration that things can get better, or the eternal question “why” (for which there is no guaranteed answer), but the vulnerability and the beauty that can be found in a moment of heartfelt prayer can be, I truly believe, life changing, life enhancing, life giving. And so I remain a person of prayer.”
The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, began his missive to the community there by saying, “Grace to you and peace! We always give thanks to God for you…[We] mention you in our prayers…”
Prayer is at the heart of our work as a spiritual community, and it is at the heart of our lives as spiritual seekers.
Nona and Malinda had amazing experiences from prayer and then wanted to share the message of prayer’s power with others. And they learned that prayer seems to work in a way it otherwise might not when our prayers come from an understanding that right where we are, God is, that God will never let us go and that experience of God’s nearness is in itself a healing endeavor. Something improves the minute we know through and through that God’s Life is living Itself in and as our lives!
The truth is, many of us have had profound experiences of prayer. We have prayed through the troubling night, and at last found a deep sense of peace that the situation couldn’t take from us. We have prayed for a loved one in trouble and somehow knew that we had done something real, that we had offered something as tangible as a hug, even if our loved one was hundreds of miles away. We have faced overwhelming circumstances and whispered our heartfelt prayer, and felt instantly as if we were not alone and that somehow, we would get through the situation at hand.
No one has had every wish fulfilled, and everyone knows the sting of disappointment, but prayer remains a great tool to give us hope in troubling times and peace that no circumstance can take away.
Prayer isn’t begging God to do what God otherwise would not be inclined to do, nor is prayer hoping AGAINST hope. Prayer is, instead, learning to cooperate with the infinite possibilities in life. By seeing prayer as an awareness of God’s omnipresence and an acceptance of all the Good that God’s presence offers at all times, blessings seem to flow more abundantly. Even if it doesn’t compare with parting the sea or raising the dead, something good is always at hand.
Prayer helps us see and seize the possibilities that always exist. Prayer is the container we take to the ocean of blessings; we don’t ask the ocean to be the ocean, or to be other than the ocean, we simply take as much of the ocean as we can handle in the moment. Prayer is receiving a portion of the infinite Good that always exists. We can pray as Emma Curtis Hopkins did, “There is good for me and I ought to have it!” Not begging, but receiving; not wishing, but accepting.
Some of you have been facing changes and challenges. Some have experienced loss or heartache. Some are in a time of uncertainty. And I offer you this Pauline blessing: Grace and peace to you! I thank God for you. I name you in my prayers.
And like Nona Brooks and Malinda Cramer, when I remember you before God, I know that God is right where you are, that God’s Life is YOUR life, and that God’s Light is always shining on your path to lead you to richer experiences of peace, joy, and fulfillment. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2014
There is good for me and I ought to have it!
God’s light is guiding me toward more joy.
God’s loving presence holds me always.
And so it is that I am abundantly blessed.