|When Therapy Isn't Enough : Sample Chapter|
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Dr. Menaham invites you to enjoy Chapter Four from When Therapy is Not
What You Pray For
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|It is interesting
to note that before the twentieth century, few people doubted the
existence of God. The majority of people assumed that there was some
sort of Deity as first cause. It was only with the popularization of
the theory of evolution, Darwinism, and the general acceptance of science
that people began to doubt the existence of God. Even the
philosopher Nietchze, who initiated the "God is dead" philosophy
in the nineteenth century, thought that there was once a God.
If God were that widely accepted as the ultimate cause of the world and all its creatures, prayer was equally accepted as the means of convincing that God to influence events in one's direction. There must have been little doubt that God could grant any wish. The only question was how to get Him/Her to do it. If one prayed and did not get his desires granted, he/she would probably have concluded that she was unworthy or that she was praying ineffectively.
In the twentieth century there is skepticism about the existence of God by many people. This, of course, led to skepticism about prayer, especially by the scientifically minded. Though we cannot examine the existence of God scientifically, we can investigate prayer. With the advent of the scientific attitude, it was inevitable that there would be controlled scientific experiments on the effectiveness of prayer. This chapter will explore some of these experiments and their implications.
Larry Dossey, M.D., reports that an organization called the Spindthrift Foundation has been created to scientifically explore the relative effectiveness of prayer. In his book, Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search, Dr.Dossey describes many experiments which indicate that prayer is an extremely potent intervention. The first study reported was conducted by cardiologist Randolph Byrd of San Francisco General Hospital. In a study of 393 cardiac patients, over a ten month period, Byrd found statistically significant differences on three variables for the prayed-for group.
The study was well-designed, with a double blind approach. That is, neither the patients, doctors or nurses knew which patients were experimental and which were controls. Byrd recruited pray-ers from both Protestant and Catholic Churches. They were simply instructed to pray for certain people each day. They were given the patient's names and some description of their condition. They were not told how to pray. The prayed-for patients did much better than the controls in that they required less antibiotics, had less pulmonary edema, and were less likely to need ventilatory support for their breathing. Also, fewer prayed-for people died (though it was not statistically significant). These are rather startling results for intercessory prayer, especially considering that it did not seem to matter how far the pray-ers were from the patients or whether there was any previous relationship (there was none in this study). If prayer is so helpful, why doesn't everybody pray for everybody? Good question. Perhaps the answer lies in a combination of lack of belief and lack of motivation.
A friend of mine who is also a clinical psychologist had the typical skeptic's attitude about the study quoted above. "I'd like to see the original study," he declared. If I showed it to him, he would probably say, "I'd like to see it repeated." Motivation usually varies directly with need. If enough people saw the true benefit of prayer and felt some immediate urgency, they would certainly pray. They would pray for themselves and others. The only questions then would be to find the most effective way to pray and to know what or who to pray for. These matters will be discussed a little later after some discussion of other experiments.
The Spindthrift researchers have several fundamental beliefs about the nature of God, humankind and the universe. They believe that all humans have "divine attributes, a qualitative oneness with God." They also believe that human consciousness is not localized. Rather, that it is, like God, infinite in space and time and ultimately one. In order to see if prayer works, several experiments were designed using simple biological systems. In one experiment, germinating rye seeds were used. One group of seeds was prayed for, the other wasn't. The results, after repeated trials, showed that more seeds germinated on the prayed-for side.
In another Spindthrift experiment, the experimental group of rye seeds were stressed by watering them with salt water. This time it was found that prayer worked even better than in the previous experiment. The amount of growth for treated (prayed for) shoots was even greater than the growth of treated plants in the unstressed experiment. The experiment was then repeated with saltier water to produce still more stress on one side. Again the results indicated that more seeds germinated on the stressed and prayed-for side.
Still other experiments showed that the amount of prayer was an important factor in effectiveness, as was some knowledge of what was being prayed for.
Directed vs. Nondirected Prayer
Another area of investigation by the Spindthrift group was the relative effectiveness of directive and nondirective prayer. Is it better to pray for a specific goal or to simply affirm that God's will be done? Both methods were found to work. Surprisingly though, the nondirective approach was quantitatively much more effective. Experiments were performed using a variety of biological systems including rice mold and mung beans. It was found that while directive prayer did not help the rice mold, nondirective prayer, with no specific goal, did aid its growth. One possible reason for the special effectiveness of nondirective prayer may be that it requires no specific knowledge of what is best for the patient (in this case a biological system). Rather than pushing the person in the direction the practitioner thinks is best, the direction is placed in the hands of God or that portion of the person that is unconscious.
This principle is utilized with great effectiveness by (Milton) Ericksonian psychotherapists like Ernest Rossi, Steve Gilligan, Yvonne Dolan and Jeffrey Zeig. In Ericksonian therapy, the therapist works with the unconscious to stimulate the healing inherent within the person but outside his awareness. Here we see a progression from a therapist centered (he is the expert) approach to a client and God centered (spiritual) approach. In the spiritual approach, the problem, be it physical or psychological, is used as an entry point to psychological and spiritual growth. Neither the therapist nor the client's conscious mind know exactly the right "right" answers to the client's problems. However, the loving energy force of deity ("located" in the unconscious mind), does know what is best for the person. It seems that by stimulating the unconscious to do the right thing for that individual at that time, the "right thing" (one's divine purpose) is more likely to happen. In this way Ericksonian hypnotherapy bear some similarity to nondirective prayer. In both cases, there is a non-specific intervention aimed at helping the person discover the best way to heal himself or herself.
The biggest problem with the nondirective approach lies with the cases where the "right" thing seems obvious. Don't we always want the cancer patient to heal? Don't we know it is always best for the abused wife to get away from her battering husband? It would seem difficult to pray for anything but specific results in these cases. Yet, the research would indicate that if we do pray, we would be most effective by letting the deity, or at least the unconscious, decide.
The Redlands Experiment
An interesting experiment was performed at Redlands University, in California, in 1951-52. Prayer and psychotherapy were compared for effectiveness in helping people overcome psychological problems. The experimental design called for splitting forty-five people into three groups. The first group received individual psychotherapy. The second group addressed their problems through prayers only. There was no psychological therapy and no instruction on how to pray. The third group met together to learn how to pray psychologically. This was known as "prayer therapy." In addition, the results of three psychological tests (Rorschach, Szondi, TAT) were utilized to give the participants guidance in what their problem area was. The guidance was provided by means of a sentence given to them in a sealed envelope at the end of each prayer therapy meeting. They were instructed to pray for healing in their problem area. This methodology will be clarified later in this chapter, as the theory behind the procedure is explained.
The results of this experiment were interesting and revealing. The random prayer group showed no improvement at all. The individual therapy group showed a 65 percent improvement, while the prayer therapy group showed a 72 percent improvement. Improvement was measured by re-administering the same psychological tests. To the trained psychologist, this study was flawed in several ways. First, the subjects were not assigned randomly. Second, the numbers were small. Third, the rating scaled used were all projective techniques which are open to experimenter bias. Fourth, no statistical analysis or comparison was done. Fifth, the design used the individual therapy group as controls, rather than a group that received no help of any kind.
Despite these flaws, the results do show that prayer therapy was the most effective treatment modality (though we do not know if it was statistically significantly more effective than therapy). Also, as one reads the book, it seems as if there was improvement in several people who had had previous psychotherapy and shown no improvement. It is too bad the design flaws do not enable us to verify whether prayer therapy is truly an improvement on therapy as the authors imply. Nevertheless, a more detailed analysis of the results and a discussion are vital to the hypothesis of this book, namely that prayer and therapy, when utilized together, are more powerful than either one used alone.
The first surprising result is that the "random pray-ers" showed no improvement. The authors explanation is that their petitionary prayers were misguided and uninformed; they "prayed amiss." These were all Christians who believed in God and the power of prayer. They assumed they already knew how to pray and needed no guidance or supervision with the process. When questioned about how they had prayed, the reasons for their failure became clear. There was a decided emphasis on their own guilt and unworthiness in having committed sins. Negative thoughts, feelings and behavior were stressed. It was as if they were saying to God, "I am a miserable sinner, unworthy of being forgiven, but forgive me anyway, while I go out and repeat my sins again."
As the authors state, negative prayer produces negative results. The most prominent feature of the God concept for the random prayer group was justice. Sufferings were seen as just punishment for sins committed. There was no attempt at psychological insight, no attempt to understand the "sinful" behavior, merely a resignation and a vain hope for forgiveness. If we recall the plant experiments, it was important to know what was being prayed for. It seems that the random prayers had two problems. First, they didn't know exactly what was the cause of their problems and hence did not know what they were praying for. Second, they considered themselves bad and unworthy of what they were praying for (forgiveness). Both of these problems were corrected in the prayer therapy group as explained below.
Psychological Insight To Guide Prayer
The "prayer therapy" sessions consisted of group discussions on how to pray effectively. At the end of each session, each participant was given a sealed envelope with a few sentences about one aspect of their psychological make-up that they were to work on during their individual prayer practice at home. These problem areas had been determined by the results of interviews and psychological tests. The authors feel that human problems can be broken down to four general areas: fear, hate, guilt and inferiority. Early groups contained discussion of these general tendencies as well as the method of praying to correct them. Later, groups began to discuss how to apply these principles to their own lives. Thus, the groups began with an educational and instructional format and evolved into a form of group therapy. Within the group, members explored how the vicious circle of fear, hate, guilt and inferiority kept them miserable. Prayer then became the modality to heal each problem area. Let us begin with fear
Working With Fear
We are all born with two fears, falling and loud noises. Undoubtedly, these are protective biological mechanisms. If that was the end of our fears, there would be no problem handling fear. However, we soon learn all kinds of other fears. Even some of the other fears are functional. We must learn not to touch hot things, and not to play in traffic. Again, this is not the problem. The problem is that we learn to be afraid of our own thoughts and feelings. As intelligent creatures we learn what is unacceptable to our parents and significant others. We then repress, suppress and deny that we have these thoughts and feelings. If these defensive maneuvers succeed, the problem appears to be solved. Usually, however, the problem has merely gone underground. If a harsh parent, for example, does not let a child express himself, the child may learn to be quiet and fear asserting himself. On the surface, this behavior may please the parent. However, with no way to express herself, the child may secretly feel frustration and despair. These feelings may come out later in any number of ways, ranging from depression and angry outbursts to psychosomatic complaints and phobias. All these symptoms are just distorted forms of the original need to express himself and the fear of doing so.
The prayer therapy group was taught to recognize their fears whether they were overt or disguised as symptoms. The most common overt fears are failure, sex, self-defense, trusting others, trusting one's own thoughts and feelings, speaking, and being alone. Most people are reluctant to admit their fears. Some have pushed them so far out of sight, they honestly do not think they are afraid. Others fear that if they admit fear they will be paralyzed into inaction. Actually, the reverse is true. The first step in overcoming fear is to be aware of what we are afraid of.
Guilt is another learned response to our environment. Some guilt is normal and healthy. It keeps us from acting in ways that are socially unacceptable and injurious to others. Unlike animals, we must be taught to be responsible. This is done by experiencing bad feelings when we violate the rights of others as by harming them. If we fail to learn normal guilt we develop a criminal personality. On the other hand, many of us become bogged down with too much guilt. We are taught to feel bad or wrong in response to things which have nothing to do with violation of natural law. We may be taught that we are bad for doing anything at all. This is called neurotic guilt. It implies taking on too much responsibility. If, for example, we develop the idea that we are responsible for the happiness of those around us, we may feel guilty if someone close to us is unhappy, even if it is not really our problem. We often expend too much energy to solve other people's problems because of the taking on of too much responsibility.
An additional problem when we have neurotic guilt is the need for punishment. If we feel guilty, we will seek some form of punishment. This punishment may be imposed by oneself or others. Only when the penalty is sufficient will guilt be resolved. Then, punishment is no longer necessary. Once again, the prayer therapy group was educated about recognition of inappropriate guilt and it's resolution through prayer rather than punishment. If the guilt was never necessary then neither was the punishment. The prayer utilizes the higher power to solve the problem where the problem lies, in the unconscious mind.
The idea that we are "not good enough" results from the inevitable disappointments and frustrations of growing up. We want to have the power and potency to satisfy our needs and desires. One of the psychoanalytic pioneers, Alfred Adler, developed an entire psychological theory based on each person's drive for power. He felt that one's physical powers were the key factor to social and psychological growth and development. Adler recognized that those who were unable to establish a good degree of power and control developed inferiority feelings.
However, it is not only the physically weak who develop inferiority feelings. All too often we are hurt, ridiculed and rejected in trying to get what we want. If there is too much of this, we might restrict our activities in order to defend our fragile sense of self. If we become too restricted, we may fail to utilize those potentials which would otherwise make our lives more meaningful and enjoyable. The resulting sense of impotency can lead to a lifetime of depression, meaninglessness and lack of enjoyment. We may spend most of our time avoiding the pain of trying and competing in order to avoid the possibility of failing and reinforcing our sense of inferiority.
Sometimes, a sense of inferiority is covered up by behavior which seems to be the opposite. Arrogant or boastful people are secretly very afraid of something. Often there is an unconscious guilt at dominating others and a resultant fear that someone will do the same thing to them. They deal with this fear by conceit, bragging, boasting or bullying. People who are truly secure accomplish things quietly with a sense of humility. They know what needs to be done and they do it. They let their actions speak for them. As with the other human problems, inferiority feelings must be admitted and looked at during the prayer therapy process.
Hate (Misguided Love)
Most human problems can be traced to hate, in it's various forms. Now, hate is a strong word, usually reserved for murderous dictators or our worst enemies. However, in it's milder forms like intolerance, dislike, cruelty, prejudice and ostracism it is pervasive and prevalent in nearly everyone's life. We are trained early to fear strangers and anyone who is different than us. As we take these teachings into our childhood world, we are soon faced with children judging, teasing and hurting other children. It is easy to react to hurt with anger. This can result in a vicious cycle. We may dislike this one because they are different, that one because they teased us, and so on. Rather than look at our own secret fears, guilts and inferiority feelings, we choose to hate others who are a little different or who remind us of what we don't like in ourselves. This is, of course, the process of projection, which is another way of defending the ego. We don't have a problem, the other person is to blame.
In our society, the word "sensitive" has negative connotations. People are often told, "You are too sensitive, don't let that bother you." Hence, most people try to hide hurt feelings from themselves and others. Instead of admitting they are hurt, they just "decide" (unconsciously) to hate (dislike) the people who "hurt" them. Since the process is usually unconscious, the entire blame is shifted to other people. The motto of a person whose life is dominated by hate is, "my life would be better if the others would change (or leave me alone)." This attitude leaves little room for changing or improving the only person we can change, ourselves. The ability to trace our resentments to our own feelings of inferiority is a big step toward psychological and spiritual growth.
At this juncture, Drs. Parker and St. Johns, who directed the study, made a break from psychodynamic psychology. It was the same break that is being further developed in this book. They reasoned that since we live in a spiritual universe, governed by both spiritual and psychological law, we need techniques integrating psyche (outlined above), and spirit. Now that we have outlined their psychological component, we will examine their spiritual approach.
A Psychological Theory Of Prayer
The first step in prayer, according to this system, is to ask, "what is God?" Rather than go into long theological discussions, the authors give a simple answer; God is love. Further, love is the healing factor in most, if not all human distress. This statement might seem obvious and trite. Yet, despite its truth, it has had little impact in alleviating human suffering. The authors assert that this is because people do not really understand, feel or believe it. Why not?
For one thing, most people see God as an external presence which must be pleased or placated if love is to be forthcoming. In other words, God is a judgmental parent. Dealing with such a God has all the problems of dealing with other people plus other complications. We can't use our senses because He is invisible and we can't argue our cases very well because He is all-powerful. No wonder so many people believe that God is loving in theory only. The authors of this study taught their prayer therapy students that God is everywhere, including in them. Thus, if we accept that God is love, we accept that we are lovable. This requires honest acceptance of the principle that God is love. Thus, the second step in their instructions on how to pray is, "make prayer a practice in honesty."
Moving Beyond Self-Delusion
If God is truly loving and resides within each of us, there is an implication that we are alright just the way we are (imperfect). God loves us despite our imperfections. God is also not to blame for our troubles. If our lives are not the way we wish them to be, we should look first to our own hidden hang-ups (guilt, hate, inferiority, fear) as the source of our misfortune. In this system we see that it is our own negative traits which are ruining our lives and our own negativity which must be transformed. However, unlike psychology, which tells us we must change on our own, prayer therapy says we can ask God for help in changing and get it. Further, the nature of this internal God is unconditional love. If shortcomings are recognized as the true source of misery, they need only be acknowledged, specified and worked with to achieve lasting change. God will help, if we do our part as well.
Daily Spiritual Practice
In order to make prayer therapy an integral part of their lives, the people in this experiment were instructed to pray daily. Life is lived daily, thus any skill we would like to develop should be practiced daily, lest we lose our perspective and forget the indwelling, loving presence of God. Also, accurate self observation is rather difficult for most of us. It takes years to become skilled at seeing our own thoughts and feelings creating our daily moods, situations and very lives. It seems easier to complain and blame others, fate or God for our misfortunes. However, daily spiritual practice in honesty slowly reverses the trend. Eventually we will see that it is easier to admit our weaknesses (and ask God's help in changing them) than to deny and hide them. Asking God's help is the author's third step for effective prayer, surrender
Making Prayer An Act Of Surrender
All of the twelve step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous etc.) speak of the importance of letting go and letting God. This step is difficult and confusing for many people. For one thing, it sounds like a "cop out." It seems to be encouraging people to stop trying to take responsibility and control of their lives and just, "let God do it." Psychologically speaking, it sounds a lot like resignation. It is as if the person is saying, "I can't cope, so I'll let God cope for me." In actuality, it is really the opposite of what these two similar protestations allege. In order to properly turn a problem over to the indwelling God, we must realize that the problem is "self" created (this "self" includes the indwelling God) through our "erroneous" (anger based, narcissistic) thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes. These causative factors reside in the unconscious mind. It is in the unconscious mind that god and man meet. Turning the problem over to God is another way of saying that we accept responsibility for the cause of the problem and have faith in God and his spiritual law to help us see the light and make the required corrections in our individual beliefs. We still have to do the work, think new thoughts, do new deeds, develop better attitudes. Surrendering to the indwelling God is really surrendering our old ways of thought and action for newer, better ways. As we develop and manifest these newer better ways, positive belief change will be evident. It is only at this point of surrender, however, that we are ready for step four, making prayer positive. Knowing that we cannot make all the changes ourselves, at the conscious level, we can now turn them over to God (who dwells in the unconscious) and let him do the healing work which occurs at the unconscious level.
Making Prayer Positive
Whereas many New Age Philosophies suggest that people rush right into positive affirmations and visualizations, this system recognizes the need to start with an acknowledgement of the erroneous thoughts and feelings and only then turn to the positive. Affirmative prayer is different than petitionary prayer. Rather than asking God for something, you state positively, in words, images and feelings that what you desire is already accomplished.
This is a touchy area for people dedicated to a spiritual life. It seems to open the door to greed, manipulation and all sorts of misuse of spiritual power. Though this potential does exist, it is minimized by utilizing the affirmative prayer to transcend our psychological problems, rather than to get some direct material gain. Material gain may come along with psychological growth but it is not the gain that we are praying for, it is psychological and spiritual growth. For example, if we have inferiority feelings, and we pray affirmatively to assert ourselves in work and social situations, we may very well end up making more money. Our prayers, however, should be aimed at visualizing and affirming doing better in social situations. As we do better, we like ourselves better. As we likes ourselves better we work more effectively and enjoy ourselves more. A side effect may be more money but we didn't focus on the money, we focused on solving our psychological problem, inferiority. We have done this b praying regularly, accepting that we have the problem, releasing the problem to God and praying affirmatively for the healing of the problem. The affirmation implies faith in the whole process and the power of God to heal the problem. It involves visualizing ourselves as if the problem were already solved. This is done by using the conscious mind to direct the healing and letting God do the necessary work (belief change) at the unconscious level. This leads us to the final step in prayer which is being receptive to the desired good.
Making Prayer Receptive
The final step in affirmative, psychological prayer is accepting the good. Due to the habitual nature of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, it is often difficult to believe that the positive prayer is really going to work at changing what seems to be your inevitable (negative) circumstances. Thus, in the final step, it is important to state your openness to the changes necessary to make the prayer work. The simplest and most effective way to do this is to thank God for the changes which are occurring. This thankful attitude, coupled with the honesty, diligence, surrender and positive faith, is a signal to God that you are ready to move on to the next step in your divine path. The key point is that you must be open to the psychological changes that are necessary to move along your divine path. Though each person's divine path is different in form, it is similar in content. Thus, as we solve enough of our relationship problems, for example, we also may find ourselves helping others more and becoming interested in different types of activities. Carl Rogers and many of the other humanistic psychologists have noted this trend toward an interest in spiritual matters among successful therapy clients. They seem to move in the direction of becoming the kind of person idealized in all religious traditions. This appears to be done out of a vague yearning and a sense of the "rightness" of it all, rather than obedience to the external dictates of an outside authority.
The receptive step of prayer therapy implies an openness to and communication with God. God is felt as a positive internal presence, rather than a dictator to be obeyed. Thus, prayer in this system should include a listening period. This is a time of being quiet and stilling the conscious mind so it may accept the healing. Anything may happen during the quiet, contemplative receptive portion of the prayer experience. Some people feel directed by the voice of God. This is very tricky, since hearing the voice of God is a common symptom of mental disturbance. However, hearing the "voice" of God as a prompting to some positive action can do a lot of good and no harm. Many other people do not experience anything like a voice, they may merely feel a deep sense of peace and love. They may just "know" that God is present within them doing the healing work. This is well documented by meditators in various traditions. It is the essence of the final step in an effective prayer. All healing takes place throuh the unconscious. Prayer is one way of stimulating the process.
Calling For Love To Replace Hate
Of all the common human problems outlined by Drs. Parker and St. John, hate, in all it's forms, seems central. It is hatred, of ourselves and others, that causes most if not all of the world's as well as individuals' problems. Hate, as the opposite of what we are at our Godly core, can only be cured by the development of loving feelings. Rather than just sermonize about this, the authors instructed their clients (in the experiment) and readers in prayer techniques to enhance the development of love.
The first technique is to pray to develop a conviction that God loves you personally. This is the truth behind the Christian emphasis on developing a personal relationship with God. The full impact of realizing this personal love is enormous. It implies that we do not have to be great or perfect to live our daily lives in peace. We merely have to become more ourselves. Thus, a prayer in this mode would assert that we are loved by God, even though we have this particular resentment, anger, inferiority feeling, etc. We should then picture ourselves without this particular problem and dwell on the positive outcome of feeling loved by God. We should then thank God for allowing us to feel his love as we go about our daily activities. The more we pray and dwell on our positive feelings of being loved by God, the more the feelings will be expressed in our relationships with people. The authors report several cases where this technique had a positive influence in healing relationships, stuttering and even sthma.
The second technique is to pray for the ability to love God, without any reservations. Here, the focus is off the self except as in relation to God. The prayer is similar to the Jewish prayer to be able to pray wholeheartedly. Here, you give up any judgement on how God is running the world or affecting your life. Your only wish is to be able to love him. The process is the same as outlined above. Admitting your problem, ceasing to blame others or God and asking or affirming that you have the power to love God unashamedly and thanking God for giving you the power to express this love. The authors report that only one subject used this technique with success. Nevertheless, if it helped one person, it could help others and is listed as a technique.
The third approach involves praying to feel, act and express more love toward others. Again, either the affirmative or petitionary method can be used following the outline for all psychological prayer. The authors report that this concrete approach helped many of their subjects. Once the subjects honestly realized that they were being too critical, judgmental and harsh in their personal relationships, they prayed to be more loving and nonjudgemental. They also pictured themselves already expressing more love toward others and thanked God for the ability to do so. The psychological work involved giving up their righteous indignation and blaming others for their problems. When they took the responsibility for keeping relationship problems going and prayed for the power to act differently, they did act differently and their lives were transformed.
The fourth technique involves recognizing and accepting the love of others for us. The prayer is to increase the ability to recognize and feel the expression of caring and love from other people. For some, there may be a dramatic incident that makes them have this realization. For others there may be a gradual awakening that others really do care and will show more caring when given the chance. By releasing our judgments of others and surrendering to the higher power, our perceptions are changed. Even behavior which seemed annoying can be seen in the light of being loved. Once this occurs the process of positive belief change is moving in the right direction. Further prayer produces attitudinal and behavioral change. Again, case studies are reported.
Though this study was "scientifically" flawed, the anecdotal and theoretical implications are great. This was an early attempt to integrate psychological and spiritual growth. Thirty years before Scott Peck concluded that psyche and spirit were identical, these pioneers drew the same conclusion and tested it out. In the forty years since the publication of their results, many psychospiritual therapies have been developed. The therapies like psychosynthesis, the "Seth" material, the "Course in Miracles", and various transpersonal approaches all combine a psychospiritual philosophy with a variety of therapeutic, meditative and prayer techniques in an effort to stimulate the healing of psyche, spirit, and ultimately our entire planet. The chapters that follow will synthesize the contributions of these approaches toward the development of a spiritual psychology.
Creating Your Own Prayer Experiment
As interesting as the above studies are, they have less impact on any of us than our own personal experience. Thus, I invite each reader to set up his or her own prayer experiment. the design should be simple. Just create a prayer to manifest some internal quality, e.g. courage, compassion, peace. Then work with the prayer for several weeks. Then, evaluate the results. You should evaluate the results using a combination of your own feelings and the observations of others. This takes into account internal changes (the most important) and external manifestations of these internal changes (less important, but still indicators of internal change). Notice that I consider internal changes more important than external ones. That reverses the usual approach. Not understanding that the external (e.g. money, health, romance) flows from the internal, most people use petitionary prayer backwards. Instead, work on whatever needs changing internally; whatever flows from that will be for the best.
I recall once working with the following prayer; "nothing can stand in the way of the resistless flow of the infinite presence." After a few weeks, I noticed several changes. First of all, I felt more peaceful. Secondly, I felt better physically. Finally, my phone began to ring off the hook with new clients. I had not expected this, but I welcomed it. I am sure it was related to the prayer. Yet, I refrain from repeating it simply to get clients. That would be like praying to win the lottery. Prayer is potent. It is important to use it well. There is nothing like a personal experiment to get started in prayer. So, set up your experiment, be a good observer and take note of all changes. You may be surprised at the results.