Doctor of Spirituality Mid-Term Essay
Rev. Michael Barth
This course on the miracle of prayer has totally changed my view on prayer. I had always thought that prayer was talking with God but never realized that prayer is also a way we show love to God and how God shows love to us. I did not realize that we have free will to listen to God, but at some point we will all listen to God. The revelation of love was something totally new to me. I thought that this section would explain what love is but could not explain the meaning of love and used the analogy of breathing as why love could not be loved. Learning that love is all-encompassing and that there is no opposite of love really shocked me since I think it terms of opposite like good/evil, wealthy/poor, etc. I learned that we cannot have any fear if we are to show true love. Any self-doubt and/or fear takes away from any true love we try to show.
The way that God is described is a new concept of God to me. I grew up in a non-denominational Christian family and had a pretty traditional of God. To me, God looked like us, was punishing, and to be feared. Like a lot of people, I also thought there was a heaven and hell. Heaven was where the good people went to be with God and the bad people would spend eternity in Hell. The concept of God being all love and all encompassing was a radically different way to look at God. I liked how the love of God is described as pure, perfect, abundant, changeless, limitless, indestructible, joy, and peace. Before taking this course, I never had considered myself a son of God, but now I do. Also, I never considered Gods purpose for me which is to extend love. I have always lived life the way I wanted to and if I didn't spread love, I didn't care. I didn't even care if I had spread hate or other ill-will with other people. Now I know that God's love is all-encompassing and that I need to spread it around this planet.
The blood sacrifices in Lesson 3 got me thinking quite a bit. How and why would God need blood sacrifices to atone for sins? This lesson answered these questions by telling me that blood sacrifice was a human invention. Before this lesson, I thought that God had already condemned this world for all its transgressions that have occurred and God would punish us all. I had never considered the fact that God has already forgiven us. The fact that this course has altered my thinking about is great because now I think that God is a loving and merciful God. I liked how Jesus was used in the course on how perfect innocence cannot be destroyed because perfect innocence is indestructible which gave Jesus the power to overcome death. I liked how Jesus is described as a son of God, like us, and not part of God, unlike some Christian sects who say Jesus is part of the Trinity. Just the fact that Jesus is our brother and will help people bridge the gap between themselves and God is reassuring to me. I too, have prayed in Jesus name and have not understood why we always said "In Jesus name we pray. Amen." Now I know that we are calling on the power of God and remembering and calling on Jesus' promises to us.
In Lesson 4, I learned that I was one of the many people who was using forgiveness to destroy. I would forgive people for harming me because I felt that they were below or inferior to me. Also, I would forgive people if they did something in return such as I will forgive you if you stop stealing from me or give back what you have stolen from me. I have also forgiven people because I felt that they were just like me or were very similar to me and what I had done to others. I also had used the third type of forgiveness described in this lesson as the martyr. I would suffer in silence at the hands of other people and then have people look at what I have to go through. I realize that these types of forgiveness are not true forgiveness because I will be expecting something in return for my forgiveness, will be letting myself still feel guilty about forgiveness, will be self condemning myself, or will be trying to destroy another person. I never knew that true forgiveness involved mercy from God or help from God. Also, I never considered that true forgiveness changes us and not the other person with whom we are forgiving. I also had a real problem with forgiving people who had committed really bad acts or bad behavior. I remember growing up and being in 6th grade when a school shooting took place at an elementary school in our school district in Winnetka, IL.
After the shooting happened, the person that had been killed was a person that I had met the night before at a baseball game because his older brother was on my team. I was unable to forgive the person who did the shooting because of all the harm that it caused the people involved and the community. The family of the young boy that had been killed was very distraught and was in shambles. This shooting scared me and robbed me of my peace but have learned in this lesson that I need God to help me forgive myself and the shooter. Also, I let this shooter rob me of my peace of mind at the time too. I liked how this lesson teaches how there is no sin and that we have to look through Christ's vision instead and respond with love. I loved the 3 steps of forgiveness in this lesson too which I am working on incorporating into my life right now
The Holy Spirit is a concept that I have always had a problem getting. I have always been trying to figure out what the Holy Spirit really means to me. This course has helped a lot because it gives some symbolism of what the Holy Spirit is, such as fire being purification and wind being inspiration. I realize now that the Holy Spirit can be represented by different symbols. I liked the section on how the Holy Spirit functions. I never knew that the Holy Spirit functions as a completion of the redemption of mankind or for healing our mistaken perception. I learned also that the Holy Spirit is a mediator between our illusions and the truth and also helps us with our separation with God. I know that there are a lot of illusions that I see and need help seeing God's truth in what is happening. Also, I know that for myself, I need the Holy Spirit to help me bridge the separation between God and myself since I definitely am not living the Godliest life possible. I know that the Holy Spirit is teaching me more about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, honesty, and much more since I am allowing the Holy Spirit to work within me. As a kid, I was really impatient, angry, hateful, and would flat out lie to people. As I have gotten older and since taking this course, the Holy Spirit has been teaching me patience, peacefulness, love, and honesty. I still have a long ways to go and still have a lot of teaching from the Holy Spirit, but I am making good progress. I definitely need the Holy Spirit in prayer to bridge the separation between myself and God and also for taking up my false thoughts that I have. During prayer now, I try to be one with God instead of telling God how things need to be done and when to be done.
In this course, I have also learned what true prayer is. I grew up thinking that prayer was when I asked something from God and always thought that prayer began with me. Growing up, I would ask God for many things just like asking Santa Claus to bring me many gifts for Christmas. I never thought that prayer began with God and is a way of communicating with God and being in communion with God. Also, I thought that my prayers were often not answered or heard by God because I never received what I had prayed for. Now I know that prayer is to fix me and my issues and will be done in God's time. Also, my prayers are heard by God and are also answered by God in his way and most likely the answer isn't what I wanted like a fancy car showing up in my driveway or a lot of money appearing in my bank account. Substitution is something I also learned too. I thought that having money or material things would bring me happiness and would often pray for money and material things but realize that I am just substituting things here for real happiness which already exists within me.
I also learned a lot about the different levels of prayers that we use. I never had thought about the different types of prayers as being higher or lower than another type of prayer. I am used to using the prayer of need followed by the prayer of freedom. I cannot recall using prayer of joining or prayers of humility when communicating with God. With the prayer of need, I am usually asking God for help with something like helping me deal with my depression or helping someone I know that is dealing with serious illness. I also was given a thought provoking statement about prayers for our enemies. I never thought before that considering someone as an enemy was also reinforcing my own guilt and rejecting God since I would be rejecting one of God's children. Prayer of freedom is a type of prayer that I have used to help me release guilt that I have over something or to release myself from a self-imposed imprisonment of some kind. I think I might have used some prayer of joining but not in a positive way. I have always prayed for God to do this or that to someone who has harmed me in some way. I now realize that this isn't something that God is going to do to one of his children. I don't think I have used the prayer of humility because of the fear of letting things go. For some reason, I have also felt a need to control things or a certain amount of things in my life but I know now that I have to let go and let God do his work with me so I can go do things that will be in love.
The lesson on the power of prayer was very interesting to me. I have read in the newspaper and have watched the news where scientific studies have shown to heal people and also increase the life expectancy of people who had strong faith and prayer. This lesson explained to me why these studies have shown these results. I had never considered before that each thought that I have produces a chemical reaction in the brain and that the brain does not determine between good and bad thoughts in which to produce these chemical reactions. I also never thought about taking responsibility for my thoughts and try to change the way I think. The sections on unanswered prayers struck home with me since I often believed that my prayers were going unanswered but now realize that my prayers are answered but not the way I wanted them to be answered. I realize that I just maybe afraid to see God's answer or just not be accepting of God's answer that he has provided to me.
I liked the section on magic versus miracles since it explained the difference. I did not realize that magic is an attempt where a person or thing would apparently use super natural powers that were exempted or overruled the laws of the universe whereas miracles appeared within the laws of the universe and are thought to be of divine origin. I never thought that miracles were all the same. I thought that one miracle would be greater than another but the lesson taught me the one miracle is no more difficult or harder than another miracle. I also like how miracles can shift perception. I could use a shift in perception from my ego's thinking to the Holy Spirits thinking. This lesson also pointed out the miracles point out the truth and that no illusion can threaten the truth. This lesson also pointed out that I need to be more miracle ready than I am presently ready for. Unfortunately, I am still thinking a lot from my ego and would not recognize a miracle right now if one were to happen.
This course so far has really jolted the way I have thought about prayer and miracles. I have been inspired by this course to actually start reading the book A Course in Miracles. So far, I have found this course and the book to be of great help to me and I have found it fascinating on how the book came to be. This course is a lot easier for me to understand than the book is due to the way it is written. I have gone to the A Course in Miracles website and now get the newsletter from the Foundation of Inner Peace. This course has really got me thinking on how I think and pray and have located a study group that deals with A Course in Miracles. This course is teaching me a lot and I am glad that I am taking it currently and have been incorporating things in the course into my everyday life which has been very helpful with dealing with issues such as depression, relationships, and guilt that I have. I definitely think this course is well worth the time and effort.
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