We made plans to take a few weeks off and spend it in the Grand Tetons, in an 18’ RV.
In the meantime, I wanted to learn to pray. I had never understood what prayer was, exactly, or how to do it. When God seemed distant and not friendly, how could one talk to God directly, and comfortably.
♥ Learning to Pray
A few nights before we left I had trouble sleeping and dug out a book about prayer. It seemed a good time to try to better understand how to pray, not something I do easily or well. My prayers were inarticulate mumblings inside my head or heart, not well-put or neatly begun or neatly ended. My praying has always seemed to me like slipping a note under the closed door of heaven.
This book on prayer quoted I Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.” I recalled an astonishing scene, witnessed years ago in Mexico City at the Shrine of Guadalupe: hundreds of pilgrims crawling to the Shrine for miles on knees worn, lacerated and bleeding, in pitiful supplication and devotion.
How could God require me to beg on bloodied knees for what I want or need? Why should I have to pray without ceasing that I be healed? Does God want me to beg, so that He can then finally, grudgingly, grant me that which I seek? I resisted and resented this notion, refusing to beg God to heal me. My heart sent out little protestations, “No, wait!” My heart wanted to beg. I didn’t let it.
The next morning, still frustrated at my inability and unwillingness to pray for healing, I had an experience that became a watershed for me: the comforting and loving voice voice of my own Higher Self let me know that there was no formula for prayer, and no necessity to beg. I recorded it in my journal:
August 17, 1985
This morning I woke, read the daily lesson in the [Course in Miracles] Workbook, and meditated for awhile. Deep in meditation, no thoughts in particular, a phrase (possibly a Bible verse I’d heard as a child?) popped into my head, as if it were being spoken by a voice from inside me. It was so clear, set apart from the background noise in my mind, spoken with conviction. The words bell-like come to mind. The message was:
”Your prayer was answered before you spake it.”
I was flooded with joy at this message, recognizing immediately that it was true. No bloody knees necessary here. This had to be God speaking to me. It sounded like a Bible verse—I’ll try to find it later.
I’ve always wondered how it sounds when God talks to you, envied people who have experienced it, wondered why he didn’t talk to me, too. Or maybe he had spoken to me and I was busy elsewhere, or didn’t listen, or didn’t understand. For years I had sought to clearly hear an inner voice, which often sounded like only my own thoughts. This time the difference was distinct. If this was my own thought, it came from a very different source than I was accustomed to hearing.
Happy and comforted, I went to find Jack. He was leaning against the kitchen sink, his favorite place to read. “God spoke to me!” I announced.
“He did?” Jack looked up, eyebrows raised. “What did he say?”
“He told me, ‘your prayer was answered before you spake it.’ ”
Jack tried hard not to laugh, but didn’t succeed.
‘What’s so funny?” I asked. “Doesn’t God ever talk to you?”
“Sure he does.”
“Well,” I persisted, “What does he say?”
Jack laughed again. “Usually he says, ‘listen you stupid shit.’ Not once has he ever said ‘spake’.”
So maybe God speaks us each in our own words.
Maybe the message I heard was a Bible verse I remembered subconsciously from childhood. Maybe God is, as the Course maintains, the source of my true Self. My higher mind. My unconscious? Why should God be unconscious? How can I make him my conscious mind?
This journal entry reflects my growing awareness that prayer had a place in my spiritual growth, and that prayer was not necessarily a one-way outpouring of pleas, demands, and confused questions. Nor was prayer even necessarily articulate; it didn’t even need words. And, the answer was given as soon as the need was felt.
A little book, The Song of Prayer: Prayer, Forgiveness, Healing gave me more insight:
“Everyone prays without ceasing. Ask and you have received, for you have established what it is you want.” And, from Ch. 29 of the Text, “Never forget that the Holy Spirit does not depend on your words. He understands the requests of your heart and answers them.”
I believe that every thought is a prayer, even when it is without words, and every prayer is answered.
I found an exhaustive concordance to the Bible, and looked up “prayer,” “spake,” and “answered.” There is no verse similar to the message I heard so clearly, although there is one which seems close:
“It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” ~ Isaiah 65:24
The journal entry on prayer ended with this:
“Your prayer was answered before you spake it,” sounds like I have already seen the end of this movie, but now I have to stay in the theater and sit through all the drama and bloody battles to see how it gets to that perfect ending. The tumor is still there, but I know it’s only the beginning of the movie. And I already know how it will come out.
I had progressed slowly through the Workbook until now, often spending two or three days on a single lesson or getting too busy to even open the book for a few days. I was only up to Lesson 131: No one can fail who asks to reach the truth.
This was reassurance that, indeed, I had already seen the end of the movie.
* * *
I doubled down on my spiritual work. We hired a neighbor girl to feed, ride, and care for our three horses, boarded our two shelties on a friend’s farm, packed the RV, and set out on a beautiful August day. I was reluctant to leave the farm and the sparkling creek, but eager to know what this next intense learning period was to be about. We’d never been to the Tetons, and we both looked forward to a “time out of time” in such a beautiful place.
Our first day on the road, we camped near Mt. Hood. The next morning I read Lesson 136, then walked to the Sandy River and meditated on its message:
Lesson 136: Sickness is a defense against the truth.
The words “let,” “allow,” and “accept” were used in this lesson. And, a simple prayer. “Let my mind be wholly healed today.” No mention of the body. Just the mind.
For the first time, I studied the lesson as the Workbook often recommended: remembering the lesson every hour on the hour. I took my pocket alarm, and set it to beep every hour. It actually did make a difference in how well I absorbed the message.
I did daily Miracles lessons and meditated, hiked, and searched for solace and answers in the beauty of the Tetons. We started a long meander for home at the end of August, 1985, when the Park closed for the season, arriving September 10, 1985.
The day we arrived home, my surgeon was on the phone. “I want to see you, right away. We have no time to waste.”
“Give me another day,” I pleaded. I felt I was on the verge of a healing breakthrough.
♥ (From my 1985 journal) At times I feel a tug, a wanting to just give in, to give up, to go along with the program. Go to the doctor, have the tests, have the biopsy, accept their beliefs in place of my own, have more surgery, have the last-chance chemotherapy that would make me sick, leave me bald, and damage my heart. Accept their prognoses, and die. Make them happy. Confirm their beliefs. Satisfy their need to be right about me.
Why would I have such insane inclinations? Jack says it’s sheer perversity, and he read to me a story from a magazine:
“When I was 12, my best friend and I broke a window playing baseball. We looked around to see if anyone had seen us. No one was in sight except my younger brother. We went over and offered him a piece of candy not to tell. He refused it.
‘I’ll give you my baseball,’ I said.
‘Then what about my baseball and my new glove?’ my friend added.
‘Well, what do you want?’
‘I wanna tell.’”
Why should this perverse wish sometimes surface, in spite of the gifts of peace and healing being offered to me by the Holy Spirit, my Higher Self now? Would it give my ego some twisted pleasure to climb on the carousel and go through the usual, the predicted, the expected, and to die on schedule? That is so upside down that I can’t believe it is still in my mind but apparently on rare occasions it is. The good news is, it happens now only in flashes and is overpowered by the growing understanding of how true healing really takes place.
* * *
The healing breakthrough came that evening, in a long walk on one of the logging roads that branched out from our farm.
I sensed a benevolent Presence walking with me. We talked. I listened, and yelled, and cursed God. Who apparently took no offense. In the end, I was told that I had not yet Surrendered my own will, and was asked the defining question: “Would you surrender to a Higher Will if it meant that you would die?”
“Of course not!” was my immediate answer. “That’s what this whole fight has been about!” I had depended on my strong will to heal me. It had failed. But, so had medical treatment.
After another half hour, I understood. My own stubborn will had not accomplished the healing I had wanted and fought for. Perhaps I would be safer in the hands of a Higher Will. I had done my part, I had done all that could be done on the physical level. And now I needed to let go to a Higher Will.
I sighed a deep breath in and out. What did I have to lose? It appeared that I would die young in any case, so what difference did it make? I surrendered. I would accept God’s will for me, even if it meant I would die.
Something large and heavy shifted inside me, lightened and took wings. I didn’t have to announce this decision. It seemed to be known and accepted by this Presence. The emotions overwhelming me were unexpected and indescribable—not resignation, but freedom. Not anguish but joy. Not anxiety but peace. I was surrounded by love.
Finally, I had quit fighting. It was the final stage Kubler-Ross identifies in her Five Stages of Death and Dying—Acceptance. But with a new twist. This was not “giving up” and accepting death, it was surrender to Something that I sensed held only my best interests. I was completely, and finally, at peace.
When I walked in the door, I told Jack, “I finally understand what it is to be healed.”
He was stirring a pot of chili for dinner. “Tell me.”
“Healing was never about the body. It was about healing my mind. And my mind is healed.”
Jack was not happy with this pronouncement. He wanted my body to be healed.
That night in bed, I didn’t feel for the familiar lump.
We drove to the clinic the next morning in silence. Jack seemed to have lost his depression, however, and had regained his quiet confidence.
♥ Dr. Douglas’ examination was efficient but careful and thorough. He had been briefed by the surgeon and the radiologist that the kidney bean was indeed ominous, and he expected to find it larger after this month of inattention. He asked me to sit up, then to lie down. Finally he stepped back from the table and his usually impassive face registered puzzlement.
“There’s nothing there,” he said.
And there was nothing there.
Dr. Douglas shook my hand, ignoring the tears in my eyes, and sent me on my way.
I danced out into the waiting room trying not to be too unseemly in my delight, and found Jack asleep in his chair. I shook him awake. My eyes shining, I asked him how he could sleep at a time like this!
“It’s easy,” Jack responded. “I knew how it would come out.”
* * *
I had finally recognized the need for complete surrender. After all the taking charge, being in control, and managing my own recovery, it was necessary finally to give up control and to surrender to healing. Allow, let, accept the healing that I had struggled so hard to have.
“Whoever clings to this life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life shall save it.” ~ Luke 17:33
* * *
“What could have happened to it?” I asked my radiologist a month later. He had just confirmed that there was no longer a lump in my breast.
“Well,” he pondered, “it could have been a cyst.”
“Hard and immovable?” 1 prodded him with his own words. Hard and immovable usually meant cancer, he had reminded me when he wanted me to begin treatment immediately.
“Well, then it might have been scar tissue,” he responded.
“Does scar tissue go away? Overnight?” I asked.
“Well, no. Of course not.” He was getting testy.
“What could it have been, then?” I asked.
“I don’t know what it was. I just don’t know. I just don’t know,” he said. He clearly wanted to drop the subject, so I let him off the hook.