Dan Millman presents The Peaceful Warrior's Way
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April 2011 – Q & A of the Month

QUESTION:

Hi Dan,
I received the following message, which seems so positive that it touched my heart:

Dear Medicine Family,

We are calling all to send prayer image to the situation in Japan these next crucial days. And we know that when we focus our prayer together we can make a larger impact. When we send a collective prayer in the form of imaging, this can have a strong influence. Due to different time zones, please send this image with thought prayer at 7am and 7pm for the next seven days (7 is a sacred number in Japan):

Imagine the nuclear reactors being folded into a beautiful medicine blanket and inside the blanket, the reactors are covered with ice which is bringing them to the normal temperature. See the medicine blanket transforming and containing the radiation.

Please join us and add your words and send out to all your networks! Together we can really help this situation! Infinite Possibilities, Infinite love, Infinite Grace!

Love,
Earth Sky and Rainbow Eagle

So, Dan — do you believe in the power of prayer, especially in group prayer?

With love,
Faithful

DAN’S REPLY:

Dear Faithful:

Before I respond to your question, I need to ask a few questions of you:
• What does ‘prayer’ mean too you?
• To whom are you directing your prayers?
• How does it work if two competing football teams both pray to win?
• Does prayer involve asking for something we want (for self or others)?
• Or does prayer simply reaffirm one’s faith? (The only prayer I know is “Thy will be done.”)
• Or might the highest form of prayer simply involve giving thanks, asking forgiveness and making amends?

The letter you received, calling for group prayer, reflects kind intentions — all our hearts go out those in Japan suffering from a triple catastrophe of massive earthquake, devastating tsunami, and radiation. We want to reach out to those affected (as well as to people anywhere who are suffering from natural disasters or human folly).

So we send “good thoughts” and “prayers” and “fond wishes” — and wanting to do something, we may join in collective prayer, which we are told (on faith) has a “greater effect.”  But does it have any effect?This is quite a provocative question, fundamental to people’s beliefs and sense of reality.  Some of us are devout believers, and others of us are secular skeptics.  And almost anyone can cite numerous studies supporting their views.

I have read studies “proving” the healing benefits of prayer, even at a distance, and studies claiming “solid evidence” that 1000 meditators were able to “reduce the crime rate” in a major city. Yet I have also read a major, credible study demonstrating that for cardiac patients undergoing surgical procedures, not only did prayer have no effect, but people who knew they were being prayed for had worse post-surgical outcomes.

Whatever our views, we can agree on this:  Sitting quietly, breathing slowly, relaxing into the moment, contemplating the wonder and power and mystery of the universe, and sending images or thoughts of healing and love is likely to benefit the person who is sitting peacefully.

But whether individual or group prayer or meditation affects (or heals) anyone else remains more a question of faith than fact (despite the various “objective” studies).

As for the people of Japan. I have not prayed for them, but I have donated to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts. An Arab sage once said, “If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of your heart.”  We each do what we can according to our beliefs.

May all be helped and healed.  May humanity awaken to practice greater compassion and loving-kindness.
Perhaps such wishes are also a form of prayer. . .

Warm regards,
Dan

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