This job has some light times and fun times involved with it. One of my fun jobs this past month has been researching children’s materials that are Quaker and about Quakers. I found this book called We’re Going to Meeting by Stacey Currie. It is for 6-8 year olds or reading to preschoolers. I’ll read you a few pages.
“When we are all silent, we can think about the things we are thankful for, or things we’re worried about, or anything at all. We can think about fish. We can think about our family and friends. When someone is sick or hurt, we can hold them in the Light. We can think all of our thoughts to God. God listens when we think…and we can listen to God.”
God listens when we think. We can think all our thoughts to God. That is such an assuring thought to a small child still full of wonder and awe-struck in so many moments of the day. But what if it was a truth to us all — that anytime we are thinking, we are also praying? It is a childlike idea, but we can understand that as we think, as we think we do, as we think we feel, and as we think we respond to this world. So our thoughts benefit from us being intentional in our thinking – how we think about others, how we think about this world, how we think about our relationships and the people in our relationships.
Parker Palmer in the book Hidden Wholeness says, “When “true self” is the topic, children are our best resource, because they live so close to their birthright gifts…..we are born with a seed of selfhood that contains our spiritual DNA of our uniqueness— an encoded birthright knowledge of who we are, why we are here, and how we relate to others. We may abandon that knowledge as the years go by, but it never abandons us… Philosophers haggle about what to call this core of our humanity, but I am no stickler for precision. Thomas Merton called it true self. Buddhists call it original nature or big self. Quakers call
it the inner teacher or inner light. Hasidic Jews call it a spark of the divine. Humanists call it identity and integrity. In popular parlance, people often call it soul.” (Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer 32-33).
How does this inner thing, this soul of inner light communicate our concepts to the Mystery, the Divine, the Great Spirit, the Higher Power? In large part, we do it with our thinking and our actions, both what we do and what we do not do. If that is true, then every thought we have is a prayer. So what are you praying for when the guy cuts you off in traffic? When your friend’s mother dies? How compassionate are you being when you see a homeless person or an abused woman or child? How about that irritating person who constantly starts problems? Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount taught that to think something terrible was the same as doing it. If we became terribly angry but didn’t take action we were still responsible for our angry thoughts as if we had carried them out (Matthew 5:21-22).
So what if every thought was a kind of prayer? Think about the verses in Philippians 4. Philippians 4: 4-7
Rejoice [b] in the Lord all the time 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ”
Or better yet, the words from 1 Thessalonians five. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances. The words here are actually be joyous always, you are praying all the time without stopping, be thankful as you respond to circumstances.
Even if the Bible doesn’t carry much weight with you, imagine. What if we were mindful of our thoughts, and tried to keep them as peaceful as possible towards ourselves, others and the world? How about simplicity – are our thoughts simple, genuine, necessary, about living a life worthy of our calling? Do we go about our lives focused on equity for all? Are we focused on having integrity, being caring and being kind to others in the community? What if we focused on living as we truly think — then we would act with integrity, but what else would we do? We would experience being able to be present in the moment without a struggle or a ritual.
We would become much more peaceable in our lives. We can think of God as One in whom we live and move and have our being. We can begin living who we are made to be, and acting like we are thinking, but also thinking in a way that helps us to act in better ways? Progressively better choices of thoughts will happen if you are intentional and pick your thoughts. You will have better habits of kind and compassionate thought because that is what your mind would generate. Congruence. True integrity could be attained. Taking your power back. What kind of life would you manifest?
Think back on the quote Mark read from Thomas Merton. What if our interior contemplation always showed in our external activities? Integrity may well begin with the idea that every thought is a prayer and every action is something we are responsible for. As we become more mindful of both, we can live a more congruent life, getting back to being our true selves as Parker Palmer called it. Wouldn’t we then be praying without ceasing? Wouldn’t we become aware of the things around us so that we are mindful to be grateful and rejoice always? How are your thoughts your prayers?