Such was the heartfelt response to last week’s blog and the extensive need it obviously tapped into, I thought it would be helpful if I followed with an expansion on the core idea that prayer is the most practical thing we can do to deal with fear in these difficult times. This blog assumes you have read the previous blog Love in a Time of Plague.
People’s reaction to last week’s blog can be divided into four distinct groups.
The first includes those who enquired after my health. I did have a virus that lasted eight days from first wooziness to recovery, and it did affect my breathing. But whether I had the virus I just don’t know, as testing in England is scarce. I only referred to my illness in the blog to show that I had “skin in the game”, that I wasn’t writing from some academic standpoint. Rather, I was and am in the midst of the fear and uncertainty that most are experiencing.
The second group of responses to last week’s blog include those who appreciated the reminder. As Course students they had already understood that help is available, waiting only for the asking. But we all need reminding. Indeed, finding a way to lovingly remind each other is a great service and an expression of a miracle. In other words, having the trust to talk or otherwise display to others about where you receive comfort, is testifying. Reminding others is the expression that “shines through the darkness and brings in the light” (T-1.16.2:7). It is “a way of loving your neighbour as yourself” (T-1.18.1:3). Of course, how you express that hope and faith depends in how the listener will receive it and not on your preferred way of saying it. Jesus said he needs “the children of light now” (T-1.16.2:2), he needs you now.
The third group were that small number who wrote me to say that I was just reinforcing the illusion by referring to the pandemic at all. They maintained that COVID-19 is just our invention, a hoax, it is not real, and we should ignore it as we are already co-creators with God. While each element of this matches ideas in the Course, the message certainly does not.
It is because we believe in bodies, guilt and sickness that we need help. Asserting that the sick should just stop being sick is to miss the whole point the Course makes. The sick are incapable of healing themselves. It is by doing things on our own that made us sick in the first place. The Course does say that we made ourselves sick. But having done so, we are not capable of changing our minds on our own. To believe so is just yet another choice to side with the ego against God. No. The Course says that it is precisely because we believe in what we made that we need help from That which understands our error. And that help is available when we no longer block it.
So, how do we block God’s healing help? By believing that the cause of our fear or illness is external, that it is because others have misbehaved, or that external forces, like viruses, are responsible for how we feel. So how do we unblock God’s healing help? By doing the three-part prayer we discussed last week. It is by somehow recognising that, in ways we can never fully understand, we are responsible for how we feel, that we ask for help, and that we are at least willing to consider the worth of others and ourselves to receive that help. That’s it. God, through His Holy Spirit, with Jesus’ help, does the rest. We are blessed, we express love as directed, others are healed, and thus we discover we are healed.
I want to make it clear that I am not condemning those that assert the pandemic is an illusion and we don’t need to do anything. How can I condemn those who use a coping strategy that I use repeatedly? For many of us acknowledging the fear is just too much, and we cope by skipping this part of our healing. We attempt to accept the solution without acknowledging the problem. The Course treats this strategy as a double denial, where we deny the truth and then deny that is what we are doing. The first denial is when we believe ourselves separate from God and unlike how He created us. In other words, we believe that we are vulnerable, capable of being sick, and mortal. The second denial is when we assert that we don’t believe that and that we are still are as God created us: invulnerable, whole and eternal. While the second denial is a true statement, it is faithless if we do not acknowledge our first denial. It is the first denial that blocks God’s help, and while we hold onto the second we remove our hope for our rescue.
Therefore, the Course urges us to recognise that currently we do believe ourselves separate from God and each other, that the problem is somehow in our own thinking, and that we are afraid. This then makes way for us to ask for help.
The fourth group of responses, and the one I want to spend some time on, are those who expressed just how afraid they are. People wrote of their anxiety attacks, of wailing in despair, of seeing their whole life as a series of failures, and of terror in the night.
I want to explain why I see this group as the great hope for humanity. It is this group that, despite them feeling far from saving anyone, is closer to their redemption and being our saviours. And so I want to dedicate my next blog to just that.
In the meantime, take it on trust that invoking and repeating the three-part prayer is the most practical thing you can do in these worrying times. Repetition, each time you feel fear, creates a strong structure that builds to protect you even on those occasions when you forget to pray.