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Of Faith and prayer There came a time when they returned to the temple, and when they did they found that there was only one jar of holy oil. One jar being a one day supply. The story goes on to describe the miracle that the one jar lasted for eight days. One of my cousins reminded me of this as I was trying to figure out how to deal with some shortfalls within our family’s needs. Certainly it was an appropriate reminder to let my faith be my support, just as it was for the Maccabees. Her comment served as a reminder for me that none of us are ever alone and that wondrous things do happen and in fact they happen every day. I certainly have to acknowledge that my faith has supported me. That support has come in the form of peace of mind and comfort. The outreach to the spirit and answers there have been the force and the action that manifested the solutions. Faith allowed me to believe that there is a way and the connection is what presented the opportunities to solve the problems. But within all of that is where I have issues. To me there is an appropriate time to pray and communicate with the forces we are all connected to. But it needs to have a certain level of legitimacy associated with it. It should not be reduced to frivolity or degraded to a meaningless ritual. I will not pray for your child’s sports team to be victorious. I will however pray for your child’s well being and that the coaches be empowered to have the skills to make the game a positive experience for the children on both teams. What is important to remember in the story of the oil is why it lasted eight days. That was the length of time necessary to press more oil and get it to the temple. They had faith that the oil would last long enough while they followed through on the opportunity to make more oil. And that to me show what is a crucial component of the deal we make when we pray. Whatever you call those outside forces in the Universe, be it God, the Holy Spirit or the sainted unicorn what they are not is your fairy godmother. That’s just not how it works. When you are asking for guidance, comfort, or solutions you have to be prepared to act upon the opportunity as presented to you. You have to look at the opportunity and have faith that it was sent to you as the answer you were seeking. When you pray you have to be honest and open, you have to know what to ask for and what you need. I want a million dollars is not quite the same as I need a path that will allow me to sustain myself and my family. It is far too easy to fall into the temptation of a selfish prayer. A prayer where you ask for some outside power to do it all for you rather than show you how to do it yourself. I would add that the solution to your problems will not be found by sending your money to someone who will do the praying for you. Last I heard, neither Jesus or salvation were for sale. But where did all of this come from, how did it become ok to expect to be able to push our problems off on to our God while we simply sit back and wait? Is the beginning of this within The Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread”? Isn’t it enough that we have been given the day? Should we change the sentence to give us this day our daily breath? Having been given the day and the breath have we not been given the opportunity? Curiously in another part of the prayer dealing with forgiveness is this like entering into a contract or is it a bargaining point? For me my prayer time is in the morning accompanied by first cup of coffee for which I am grateful. And the lord is grateful for that coffee because not even he wants to put up with me until I have had it. But that prayer time for me is solemn and even sacred. It becomes a discussion period where I look at the day and what the day brings and what is needed. It becomes a confessional where I look at yesterday and what I did or didn’t do. But always it includes gratitude for the day given and an adaption of the prayer my pastor taught me “Lord, it is I, your servant”. And tomorrow I will be grateful for the extra oil.