On all of my trips to Hawaiʻi I have noticed there seems to be a cultural awareness of the Divine intertwined throughout ordinary daily life. There are roadside shrines, temples and churches everywhere, the smell of incense being offered mingled with the smells of supper cooking. Before beginning tasks gifts of respect are offered. After tasks gifts of gratefulness are offered. I am really, really, REALLY looking forward to living in Hawaiʻi (June 2019) and becoming immersed in the prayer-life of its people, of growing in that awareness of the Divine in our midst. In my dealings with non-Hawaiians it is not uncommon to discover that people misunderstand prayer as well as to confuse saying rote prayers with praying. Rote prayers can be useful but what is prayer really? What does it “do”? In essence prayer is a relationship with the one to whom we pray. In this sense prayer is like talking with someone, a way of reaching out and connecting. So what needs to be asked is “What is the character of our prayer?”
Too often we treat the Divine like some mega-gumball machine! When we want something we put in our prayer and wait to get the gumball of our current desire. When we don’t get what we want then we blame the Divine for being absent or for not caring when in fact it is we who do not care to have more than a superficial relationship with the Divine. Such an approach to any relationship with anyone easily qualifies as shallow, duplicitous and disrespectful of the person’s dignity. Why do we think it’s any different in our relationship with the Divine? Why should we pray? In some ways we become what we gaze upon and the connection with the Divine fuels our own inner holiness. Less connection, less holiness, less mana. (click images for larger size)
So the question really becomes what kind of relationship do we want to have with the Divine? One in which we use the Divine to our own ends? One in which we only occasionally show up, usually in times of trouble? Or one in which we grow in mana through our relationship with the Divine? We need to put aside our kiddie notions about prayer and about the Divine. We need to grow up and stop blaming the Divine for not giving us gumballs or for an absence in our lives which is actually of our own making!