This edited reposting was first published on July 10, 2012.
For the most part, intuitively, we understand how prayer works. When I tell you that a prayer must be a telling of a truth, you nod because that makes perfect sense. When I write that you must be aligned in your prayer, that is, you must want the result of your prayer in your thoughts, in your feelings, and in your actions (after all, praying for a job without going out and actually looking for one proves you to be disinterested, at best), you will respond, “Of course!”
The concept of being committed to your prayer, really committed, committed to your knees, is obvious also.
But there are aspects of prayer that are not so obvious. I haven’t written yet on the benefits of “planting” prayers: using others’ souls to do some of the work for you.
Nor have I written yet on the relationship in prayer between God, you, and time.
The most hidden aspect of prayer is something I call, The Bill.
In life and in God, there is the seen and the unseen. We must never overlook the latter “dimension” in life and the universe. The illness that is seemingly overtaking Earth these days is the obsession to stay within the seen aspect of life at all times. No mystery is allowed anymore. Anything that occurs that cannot be readily explained is just something science is struggling to catch up with. Nothing can exist that exists beyond an explanation graspable to humans.
There are no – there cannot be – miracles. No jumps in time. No winds of grace. No changing from black to white in a blink’s motion.
And so prayer has been reduced in our very rational world to heaps of repeated mumbo-jumbo. Familiar words that, when spoken, reassure us that there may be good in the universe somewhere. At least we hope so.
But in the world there are people like me who know that prayer works. Who experience a direct connection with God. And who understands how gratitude for a response to a prayer in essential to this connection.
If you go through the steps of prayer and take it seriously, give it the respect it’s due, eventually you will receive The Bill for the prayer. With God the Father, you receive the bill before you are given the answer to your prayer.
The Bill, in essence, is God telling you, Yes, I know that you want me to give you something. But what are you willing to give me?
We never think about that expression of the God, do we? That God may want very specific things done here on Earth, and that we are the means to fulfill those wants.
The Bill always, always has the same look to it: it will be in the form of the very last thing on Earth you are willing to do.
And, for God the Father, this very last thing you are willing to do is done for one of the least-of-these.
In spite of it being something you would never choose to do on your own, God expects you to do it.
It may take the form of becoming responsible for your mother-in-law’s transportation to a series of medical appointments. Or assuming care for your alcoholic neighbor’s ever-screeching child. Or having to lend – or worse, give – money to a relative who can never seem to find his own source of income.
Just know that when you hear a knock on your door, and when you peak out and your reaction is to shrink down and hope that you weren’t spotted, that it’s God knocking. There have been times that this has happened to me, and, in the shuffle of feet and the screaming of, NO WAY!, I have to stop myself and ask, Have I been praying for something?
And the answer is invariably, Oh.
And I open the door.
There have been times, though, when I’m on the look-out for the bill, and am thrilled (well, not really) to open the door.
I want to get on with the prayer.
One afternoon I sat in the Washington National Cathedral, back when masses were offered there, and I was listening to the then dean of the cathedral give his sermon. I can’t remember why, exactly, but the dean focused his words on a recent incident.
It seems he had gone to a mall on his own, and while he sat at a table in the food court attempting to enjoy his lunch, a black, elderly, disheveled, homeless-looking man came and joined him.
The dean of the Washington National Cathedral was a black man, too . Just not in any way disheveled. Quite the opposite, really. Natty clothes. Scrubbed fingernails. Proper haircut.
The homeless man was looking for a handout.
What he didn’t realize was that he was asking for food from a man who knew his own importance.
“Just think,” crowed the dean that afternoon in his pulpit. “Me! The Dean of the Washington National Cathedral sitting there with this kind of man at the same table with me!”
This was the dean’s refrain repeated throughout his sermon as he went on to describe his overwhelmingly graciousness of feeding the poor man.
“Just think of it! Me! The Dean of the Washington National Cathedral!”
I was soooooo tempted to stand up and, after clearing my throat and getting his attention, asking him, “Sir, have you been praying for anything in particular lately?”
Because it sure sounded to me like he had just committed an act that would appear at the bottom of his to-do list.
Shortly after giving this sermon, I noticed that the dean had gone on to another job. A job that he had asserted that he very much wanted.
God the Father is not the only expression of The Holy Trinity to submit bills.
Bills from the Holy Spirit will appear after a prayer has been answered. And will address much more mundane matters. Matters of getting God’s work done here on Earth.
There are three general rules about divine bills:
- Just like in reality, divine bills, when unpaid, can have serious consequences. Not having future prayers considered is one example.
- Every prayer has its own bill.
- No bill is ever issued to the church.
I’ve come to think of The Bill as one of God’s technicalities.
Perhaps the only one.
It’s a real part of our lives that no one teaches us about. That fewer and fewer people even want to acknowledge.
But it’s there. And for some of us, it’s a very real part of the path that we follow every day.