“When you believe in things that you don’t understand, you suffer.”

I received an email a few days ago–the third or fourth time I’ve received it in the past year. It was the transcript of Rick Warren’s interview with Jim Dailey of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Decision magazine. This time, I printed it because I thought it might stimulate a thought-provoking discussion during my Drama Queen Workshops.

Of particular interest was this part of his interview, in which he addressed his wife’s experience with cancer–and prayer:

“We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her.”

My first thought was: What impact does a testimonial such as this have on millions who believe in the power of prayer–particularly the power of “two or more gathered in His name?” If a renowned man of faith has declared that God did not respond affirmatively when hundreds of thousands prayed together, what hope do they have when they pray alone?

When I asked this question this weekend at a phenomenal retreat for women, someone passionately responded, “[Rick Warren] doesn’t understand the awesome healing power of God!”

I was somewhat prepared for that because last spring, I wrote a post about a Chicago Tribune story featuring a Mexican immigrant who fervently prayed for her safety before leaving for work every day. For added protection, Artemia Torres, a devout Catholic, carried rosary beads and pictures of two saints with her. One day, she was wounded by a potential robber who shot her at close range.

When I asked spirituality authors on a social networking site what this said about the power of prayer, one replied, “Her heart belonged to God but not her walk. Now she’s placed in a position to rest, to be still. She can now hear God’s plan for her life. In that quiet still place we can hear God clearly.”

Fascinating stuff. In both cases, the respondents believed that the person petitioning to God was at fault when things didn’t go as they hoped. The assumption, of course, is that if we do certain things, say certain words in a certain way, we can convince God to do our will. That’s what prayer is supposed to do.

What if that’s not what prayer is all about? What if the purpose of prayer is to receive direction from God rather than give it? My dear friend Melvin, a man I’ve never seen but whom I’ve grown to love dearly, can teach us a thing or two about this.

Melvin’s journal, posted on the Beliefnet community website, caught my eye in December 2007, just as I was wrapping up the final chapters of Crossing an Unseen Bridge. A native Californian, Melvin and his adoring wife, Gabriele, live in Germany. He decided to remain after being stationed there in the military. 

Melvin is an author, father and grandfather who is experiencing a tremendous challenge with the fearlessness and unshakable faith of one who truly understands what God is and what God and prayer does (and doesn’t do). 

I’ve read numerous accounts of those who had near death experiences, of children who had stunned their parents by vividly recalling past life experiences–even guiding them to their previous homes and introducing their current parents to previous (read: freaked out) relatives who corroborated their stories. I’ve read about souls who had out-of-body experiences. But I’d read nothing like Melvin’s journal post recounting a memory of a dream he’d had years ago while in the military.

In that dream, Melvin left his body and felt himself traveling into the starry sky (His book is entitled A Trip to the Stars). Through his prose, I shared his surprise when he looked down and saw that he had no legs, feet, hands or body; he was a ball of pure Light! I also shared Melvin’s disappointment when another intelligent being of Light insisted that he return to the uniformed body on the beach. Go back? Now? There was so much more he (and I) wanted to learn about life outside of a body!

Decades later, Melvin’s body is now slowly shutting down, and he is fearlessly–in fact, joyfully–chronicling his journey back to pure Light. I am honored to be among the close friends with whom he shares his updates. Through his experience, he wants others to understand themselves as souls, not bodies, so I am sure he will not mind me sharing an excerpt from one of his messages:

“I can accept this as God’s will or [I can focus on] the biological facts and natural way of we mortals. Whatever, I am happy that my mind is clear and it is not painful. Eventually, if the present course continues, all muscle control will cease; only the automatic muscle activity will remain, such as breathing, heartbeat and swallowing. Then these will be slowed down. I am happy and enjoying each day in ways for which I have studied and prepared a life long.”

I have not read one case of a person who has experienced “life after death,” who does not look forward to leaving the body again–for good, eager to return to the living loving Light, ready to BE the Light once again. Melvin is no exception.

What does that tell the rest of us? As I told the young lady at the workshop this weekend, each of us had a plan and a purpose when we squeezed ourselves into these human bodies. We will fulfill our purposes if we don’t get distracted by things that focus our attention on our humanness or our bank accounts, instead of our divinity and our karmic accounts. It would be a shame to have a prosperous body and a bankrupt soul that has come here and achieved no spiritual growth.

As souls, not only did we know what we wanted to accomplish when we arrived, we gave ourselves a time limit and an exit strategy. Sometimes our exit strategies provide us a final opportunity to hold fast to our truth or to accomplish a spiritual goal.

What if, as souls, we wanted to learn to say, “Thy will be done”–and mean it? What if we wanted to remember that we are not bodies, and created dis-ease in our bodies to make sure that the lesson was really learned? What if we wanted to remember that there is only one thing in the universe–God–and created the illusion of loneliness and adversity for our classroom? 

How can we learn to honor another soul’s timetable for leaving a body if no one ever leaves? How can we learn to trust God unless we understand what God is? How can we overcome adversity like Stevie and Melvin?

It’s only when we believe in things that we don’t understand that we suffer.

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3 Responses to Homage to Stevie Wonder and the Wondrous Melvin

  1. Bobby says:

    There are more than Rick Warren who misunderstand healing. Healing does not mean that you remain on this side of the ” veil”

  2. Michele A. Cabusao says:

    Pattt!!! Now you know this caught my eye. For the past few years, I’ve been one of those who’ve often wondered why some prayers are answered and others aren’t, much to the disbelief of those around me who adamantly insist that prayer answers EVERYTHING!

    If I am interpreting your article correctly, are you suggesting that disease and death is the soul’s way of acknowledging submission to God? So for example, when my father “died,” my failed prayer for his healing was instead meant as a lesson for me to learn?

    Let me know if I’m tracking properly…you know I catch on slowly 🙂 !!!

  3. loudmouthinthebalcony says:

    When people insist that prayer answers everything, what do they mean: you get what your body wants–or you get what your soul wants? They’re not always in agreement, and it’s your soul’s life, not your body’s.

    No one gets what they ask in prayer 100% of the time. Why? Because we don’t understand what prayer is. It’s like putting a hammer on the stove and expecting to cook dinner on it. That’s not its function: to give us what we want.

    Prayer isn’t a hammer for us to impose our will on God: “I really, really want this, God; I want You to make it happen just the way I said.”

    It’s difficult to get anything to work for you if you don’t know understand its function. You can try to cook dinner in that hammer, too. If it doesn’t work, will you feel punished, abandoned or treated unfairly? Such is the problem with prayer.

    Do we get what we want every time? Of course not. Why? Whatever we asked for wasn’t the direction that our souls wanted to go at that time.

    Our bodies think they’re running the show. Not true. They’re merely the costume our souls are wearing because human bodies are required in Earth’s atmosphere. They don’t work in the heavens, as evidenced by all the gear astronauts have to wear when they leave the world of gravity.

    We are immortal souls who are animating mortal bodies. There are certain experiences that we as souls want to have. Often those desires are in conflict with the experiences that our bodies want to have.

    Humans, for example, would love to stay on this planet forever. It’s the only home we know. Does the body want to wear the same outfit forever? Nuh uh. The soul, this massive ball of light energy that is uncomfortably squeezed to a human body, feels the same way. It decided how long it wanted to stay–and as evidenced by history, no soul has ever stayed here forever.

    Each soul designs exit strategies to set itself free from its skin and bones costume. Disease and death are nothing more than exit strategies.

    You ask if I am suggesting that disease and death are the soul’s way of acknowledging submission to God. As far as I know, dictators demand submission, but Love does not. I believe that God is Love.

    We’re ultimately going to evolve to the point that we tell our bodies to sit down and order our egos to shut up because we trust God to handle all of the details in our lives. At that point, we only have one prayer: “May everything resolve itself for the highest good of all concerned.”

    Then we trust that whatever the situation is, it will unfold perfectly because it will. “Perfect” doesn’t mean that the body gets what it desires.

    If there is a lesson to be learned, Michele, it is to trust God with all your heart and soul. Whatever experience shows up is the perfect experience for your soul at that time. Embrace it. Love it. Your soul created it to serve, not to hurt or destroy. It’s all good because it’s all God.

    Thanks for asking.

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