All Your Prayers are Answered : Introduction 

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   Dr. Menahem invites you to read the thought provoking introduction to All Your Prayers are Answered.

All Your Prayers are Answered
Introduction by Dr. Sam Menahem, Ph.D.

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BEYOND THERAPY

Several years ago a patient tried to kill me. Amazingly, this attack was the answer to my prayers. How could an assault be the answer to a prayer?

This patient, a large burly woman, was very unhappy with her life. When her life didn't improve with therapy, she also became frustrated and angry. I tried very hard to help, to no avail. I consulted colleagues and supervisors - the situation didn't improve. I began to feel as bad as she did and it seemed like no one could help me help her. Suddenly, the solution hit me, only God could help. I had to pray. But what should I pray for? I had little experience with prayer. I was brought up Jewish, but more in terms of spirituality than practice in prayer. My father once said he couldn't move his little pinky without God. I agreed with my father's feeling about the power of God. So, maybe God could help me now. I followed my intuition and prayed to be released from the situation. As I prayed, I also listened, and became aware of a repetitive thought, "It will soon end, in an unusual way." I wondered if this was wishful thinking or an answer from a higher source.

One day, the woman was particularly distraught, angry and unhappy. She began to verbally lambaste me. Then, without warning, she pulled a knife out of her coat and lunged at me, knocking me down. I struggled to get a hand free. Suddenly, something came over me and instead of struggling, I called out to her, "calm down, now; calm down." Miraculously, she let go of me and began to sob. Of course, she didn't really mean to hurt me. She had told me many times that I had saved her life...she was just frustrated and didn't know what to do. This all occurred on the eve of Passover, the Jewish holiday of freedom. On the eve of this holiday, my prayers surely were answered in an unusual way. Both my patient and I were freed from the therapeutic impasse. And our lives were changed forever.

Are all prayers answered? For those who are strong believers in God this is a given. However, for many others, though they want to believe that their prayers are answered, "common sense" leads them to doubt this assertion. How could a loving God allow the holocaust or Bosnia's "ethnic cleansing" to take place? What about AIDs and cancer? Many sick people pray and are prayed for, yet they suffer and die young. People who want to believe in the power of prayer frequently pray during times of illness, deprivation and death in the family. Sometimes their prayers seem to be answered, often not. How can we understand this? What are we to believe?

Whether prayers are answered or not, most of us continue to pray. Polls show that 90 % of Americans prayed in 1957 and 90% of Americans pray today. Obviously, most people in this country retain some belief in the efficacy of prayer, but why are the results so confusing? Perhaps we don't understand our relationship to God. When we realize that at some level we are God, we pray differently.

When prayer doesn't seem to work we have varying reactions. Some people begin to doubt that there is a God, while others feel that there must be something wrong with them. Perhaps, they think, there is a God, but they are unworthy of having their prayers answered because of some perceived bad behavior. Perhaps they are praying incorrectly; maybe prayers are answered only selectively. Could it be that prayer doesn't really work at all in the physical world. Or is it that God is too busy to answer the prayers of every little person? In his book, When Bad Things Happen To Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner suggests that perhaps God is powerful but not omnipotent. Omnipotence implies that God can intervene in human affairs at any time and change the course of events. If bad things happen, God is choosing not to get involved. Instead of having the power to change things, Rabbi Kushner suggests that God's power lies in inspiring us to develop compassion and love for ourselves and each other despite the troubles we go through. I agree with the Rabbi but this is only a partial answer.

This book will present a spiritual viewpoint that incorporates inspiration by an omnipotence of God. God has varying reactions to prayer. Sometimes God does inspire us to love more; sometimes we are helped by amazing coincidences; sometimes the answer to our prayers is "no", and sometimes miracles do happen. This book suggests that there are reasons for each of God's responses to prayer. These reasons will lead us to more effective prayer and more fulfilling lives.

In my first book, When Therapy Isn't Enough: The Healing Power Of Prayer and Psychotherapy, I set forth a psychological/spiritual model of life. My hypothesis was that prayer could help therapy and therapy could help prayer. This model, based on the work of developmental psychologists and transpersonal theorist Ken Wilber among others, posits that life follows an orderly developmental sequence. The psychologists explain how we grow up from self centered little toddlers, through the identity crises of adolescence and the existential crises of middle adulthood. This is the psychological growth process. It involves maturing by resolving the hurts of our individual psyches. The theory states that we often get stuck at early stages of development due to the traumatic events of our life. This "stuckness", say the developmental theorists, accounts for our psychological problems in later life.

Transpersonal psychologists carry the theory further. They tell us that our "arrested development" leads us to forget that we are spiritual beings, so we place all our faith in a more limited "egoic" or self-centered consciousness. From this point of view, we are primarily physical creatures, directed by a psychological ego. We are separate, fragile beings, dealing with a difficult world. Having been hurt already in childhood, we must defend ourselves against further wounds by others at all costs. Early traumas and hurt feelings have convinced us that we are alone and isolated in a dangerous world. Psychologists urge us to transcend the childhood traumas through psychotherapy. The hope is that as we explore, re-experience and let go of the old hurts, we will develop a stronger so called ego that will then help us cope better with the perceived harsh outside world. It never occurs to mainstream psychologists that peace can only be attained by allying the strengthened ego with the spiritual or Higher Self. Most psychologists don't believe in a Higher Self.

There are therapists and spiritual theorists with other points of view, however, that do recognize the importance of this spiritual alliance in leading a peaceful, happy life. Eastern Religions such as Buddhism and Vedanta Hinduism and transpersonal theories presented by Wilber, Jung, Assagioli and Washburn for example, suggest that we progress through several more stages of growth beyond the psychological, which are essentially spiritual in nature, and can be developed through interaction with spirit via prayer and meditation. As we go through the prayer/meditation, healing process, we become more loving, mature, secure and interested in serving others. It is in this service that we find meaning, transcending selfish goals and doing what we feel guided to do, helping us toward ultimate enlightenment (sometimes called satori or nirvana by Buddhists or Hindus). This is the complete freedom from all emotional, mental or psychic tension. The alliance of ego and Spirit via prayer and meditation moves us in this direction.

As we progress on this path toward peace, life becomes more and more a process wherein the struggles and difficulties are seen as opportunities for further spiritual progress. This doesn't mean that nothing painful ever happens to us. It means that we look at the pain differently, from the perspective of the Higher Self. What once seemed like pure psychological problems now take on a spiritual hue. It begins to occur to many of us that the answers to life's basic psychological problems are spiritual. Fear is healed by faith. Guilt is resolved by forgiveness. Inferiority yields to strength. Hate is cured by love. Prayer is an essential tool to apply these spiritual antidotes to the "normal" problems of living.

We realize gradually, that our problems are actually caused by our stubborn insistence that we are primarily separate, physical creatures in a competitive struggle for survival. We have tried to replace Spirit with ego and it doesn't work. Spirit is our source. All of our religious traditions tell us this spirit, often called God, is a never ending source of love and sustenance. Our ego is a temporary structure, developed over time to help us deal with the world. The separation-individuation process results in our feeling that this conscious ego is in charge. Mainstream psychology agrees and in fact tells us to strengthen the conscious ego in time of stress. Unfortunately, psychologists don't tell us that the strengthened ego often forgets its spiritual source and tries to convince each of us that we are nothing but a body directed by our ego. This results in a never-ending system of defenses which are well documented by Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud and many others.

At best, the strong ego is a well defended fortress with intense underlying fears. At worst, the weak ego, overwhelmed by fear and guilt, flounders around looking for help in what seems to be a battle with a hostile world. If we have a weak ego (sometimes called low self esteem), we may turn to drugs, more powerful people, therapists or religion. Even if we pray, what we are often looking for is help from a powerful outside God to bail us out. This kind of prayer, practiced from the ego's point of view, is a mistake, as it reinforces the idea that we are separate and weak. It is one of the factors which makes us sometimes doubt the efficacy of prayer. But at least we are going in a direction which may eventually help us. It will help the most when we learn to pray from the point of view of the Higher Self.

Prayer is a dynamic interaction with the unseen spiritual world, which is deeper and wider than the personal, Freudian unconscious. Psychological growth theory sees the personal unconscious as a hotbed of repressed traumas, sexual and aggressive drives. The ego is seen as a mediator between these strong drives. Strengthening this ego is seen as the only way to referee in the battle between the unconscious "id" (sex, aggression) and the "superego" (conscience). Strengthening the ego, however, is helpful only in a very limited sense. A structured, stronger sense of Self can develop the humility to later ally with the Higher Self and truly heal the soul.

Spiritual psychological theory recognizes the existence in the unconscious of the conflicts, traumas, drives and distorted thinking. But spiritual psychology sees much more in the unconscious; it includes a spiritual source of being. Thus, there is more to healing than just strengthening the mediating ego because the unconscious is personal and transpersonal. This means that, in addition to the personal unconscious self, with all its conflicts, there is also a Higher Spiritual Self, which is connected to God, however he/she is understood, and has no conflict. Transpersonal theory suggests that this wider conception of the unconscious opens the possibility of true healing and happiness, because it leads us beyond fear, guilt, hate and inferiority. Psychological ego strengthening is a temporary measure, which can lead to a healing alliance with the Spiritual Self. The ego can never really be secure, but with a lessening of conflict it may become flexible enough to try another approach to gnawing problems. By mid-life, spiritual hunger often grows. This is the Higher Self calling for a return to Spirit, with its emphasis on love, forgiveness, faith, and strength which are the natural outgrowths of knowledge of the unity of all things.

Prayer is the missing link between psychology and spirituality, between mere ego strengthening and soul healing. Prayer helps us to see that the ego needs to join with the Higher Self for healing to take place. This is the healing alliance. Prayer can help us see that inner peace can only come when life is seen from the spiritual framework of beliefs. The spiritual belief system tells us to cooperate with the life process. It teaches us something we need to know in order to lead peaceful lives, spiritual consciousness underlies physical reality. Our mistaken belief that we are merely separate bodies driven by ego consciousness leads us to lives defending ourselves against fear and guilt.

In this book, I will explore the ways in which prayer and meditation work, how to pray effectively and how to recognize the answers to our prayers. I will explore the evidence for the importance of a shift from the egoic to the spiritual point of view, and the probable outcomes of this spiritual cognitive shift in our way of thinking. This is a mighty task, but my own spiritual guidance says it is time to begin the synthesis which will provide the tools for true healing.

This book is a synthesis of developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, self psychology, transpersonal psychology, metaphysics, mysticism, kabbalistic Judaism, esoteric Christianity, New Thought philosophy, Buddhism, Vedantic Hinduism and more. I will be explaining, in plain language, why all prayers are answered and what to do to get your life to be more of a meaningful growth process and less of a pointless suffering process. Life is a struggle. It is supposed to be that way, until we wake up to basic spiritual truth, all minds are joined in God and the nature of God is love. This insight will change our lives.

This book is written from the point of view that the key to life is to use our lives, as well as we can, to love as many people as we can (including ourselves), as often as we can. Prayer when practiced diligently from the heart, can be an invaluable part of the growth process. Life is already a prayer, but it is a misdirected prayer. We are praying from the narrow, limited view of the ego. We are praying to be protected from our fear and guilt. As soon as we wake up and realize how to pray from the point of view of the Higher Self, our lives will be transformed into expressions of love for all sentient beings. I hope this book will be an aid in your awakening process. Let us begin.

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