I delivered a paper back in ’09, and this story was a part of it. The same story came up this weekend in the workshop I took, so I thought I would share it here. ~J
Now, I’d like to share an edited version of Gregg’s trip into the desert of northern New Mexico with a Native American to a sacred place to “pray rain”. It will help us to understand in a practical way the differences in our prayer. The indigenous peoples have understood this kind of prayer for centuries, and now quantum theory is suggesting that their prayers have a basis in science.
“I reached over my shoulder and pulled a fresh bottle of water from my backpack. It was only eleven o’clock in the morning and already the high desert sun had penetrated the thick nylon, sapping any remaining coolness from the bottle. For weeks now, the warnings had been issued: no campfires, no burning of refuse. Even tossing a cigarette from the window of a moving vehicle could subject a person to a hefty fine. This was the third year of drought in the American desert Southwest. Though it was a time of weather extremes everywhere, it seemed as though the mountains of northern New Mexico were especially affected. Ski areas had not opened that year, and the Rio Grande slowed to a trickle before merging with the Red River near Questa.
Opening the bottle, my grip on the soft, warm plastic forced a small trickle of water to erupt around the cap. I watched, fascinated, as the droplets merged into a pool before rolling into a small depression nearby. Even in that shallow pit, they did not spread and soak into the ground. To my amazement, the entire pool evaporated within seconds.
” ‘The ground is too thirsty to drink,’ David said softly from behind me.
” ‘Have you ever seen it this dry before?’ I asked.
” ‘The old ones say that it has been over one hundred years since the rains have left us for so long,’ David replied. ‘That is why we have come to this place, to call to the rain.’
[They walk on and find a place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.]
” ‘What is this place?’ I asked David. “Why is it here, in the middle of nowhere?’
“ ‘This is the reason we have come,’ he laughed. ‘It is because of what you call ‘nowhere’ that we are here today. There is only you, me, earth, sky, and our creator . . . Today we will touch the unseen forces of this world, speaking to Mother Earth, Father Sky, and the messengers of the in-between. Today, David said, ‘we pray rain.’ . . .
” ‘The stone circle is a medicine wheel,’ David explained. ‘It has been here for as long as my people can remember. The wheel itself has no power. It serves as a place of focus for the one invoking the prayer. You could think of it as a road map.’ . . .
“David anticipated my next thought, and answered before I had finished formulating the question in my mind.
” ‘A map between humans and the forces of this world,’ he replied to the question that I had not yet asked. ‘The map was created here, in this place, because here the skins between the worlds are very thin. From the time I was a young boy, I was taught the language of this map. Today I will travel an ancient path that leads to other worlds. From those worlds, I will speak with the forces of this earth, to do what we came here to do: to invite the rain.’
” I watched as David removed his shoes. Even the way that he untied the laces of his tattered work boots was a prayer–methodical, intentional, and sacred. With his feet bare to the earth, he turned his back and walked away from me toward the circle. Without a sound he navigated his way around the wheel, taking great care to honor the placement of each stone. With reverence for his ancestors, he placed his naked feet onto the parched earth. With each step, his toes came within fractions of an inch of the outer stones. Never once did he touch them. Each stone remained precisely where the hands of another had placed it, from a generation long departed. As he rounded the farthest rim of the circle, David turned, allowing me to see his face. To my amazement, his eyes were closed. They had been closed the entire time. One by one, he was honoring the placement of each round, white stone by feeling the position of his feet! As David returned to the position closet to me, he stopped, straightened his posture, and moved his hands into a praying position in front of his face. His breathing became nearly indiscernible. He appeared oblivious to the heat of the midday sun. After a few brief moments in this position, he took a deep breath, relaxed his posture, and turned to me.
” ‘Let’s go, our work is finished here,’ he said, looking directly at me.
“ ‘Already?’ I asked, a little surprised. It seemed as though we had just arrived. ‘I thought you were going to pray for rain.’
” ‘No, I said that I would ‘pray rain’, he replied. ‘If I had prayed ‘for’ rain, it could never happen.’
“That afternoon the weather changed. The rain began suddenly, with a few splats on the deck facing the mountains to the east. Within moments the droplets greet larger and more frequent, until a full-fledged thunderstorm was under way. Huge black clouds hovered over the valley, obscuring the Colorado Mountains to the north for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. The water accumulated faster than the earth could absorb it, and before long local fears of flooding became a reality.
[Gregg speaks with David on the phone about the amount of rain coming down.] ” ‘What a mess! I exclaimed. ‘Roads are washed out. Homes and fields are flooded everywhere. What has happened? How do you account for all this rain?’ The voice on the other end of the phone was silent for a few seconds.
” ‘That is the problem,’ David said. ‘That is the part of the prayer that I haven’t figured out yet!’
THE EXPLANATION OF HOW THIS ANCIENT TECHNOLOGY WORKS
“David’s story beautifully illustrates the inner workings of the mode of prayer forgotten by our culture nearly two thousand years ago. The explanation of what ‘praying rain’ means is perhaps best shared in David’s own words.
” ‘When I was young,’ he said, ‘our elders passed on to me the secret of prayer. The secret is that when we ask for something, we acknowledge what we do not have. Continuing to ask only gives power to what has never come to pass.’
” ‘The path between man and the forces of this world begins in our hearts. It is here that our feeling world is married to our thinking world. In my prayer, I began with the feeling of gratitude for all that is and all that has come to pass. I gave thanks for the desert wind, the heat, and the drought, for that is the way of it, until now. It is not good. It is not bad. It has been our medicine.’
” ‘Then I chose a new medicine, I began to have the feeling of what rain feels like. I felt the feeling of rain upon my body. Standing the stone circle, I imagined that I was in the plaza of our village, barefoot in the rain. I felt the feeling of wet earth oozing between my naked toes. I smelled the smell of rain on the straw-and-mud walls of our village after the storm. I felt what it feels like to walk through fields of corn growing up to my chest because the rains have been so plentiful. The old ones remind us that this is how we choose our path in this world. We must first have the feelings of what we wish to experience. This is how we plant the seeds of a new way. From that point forward,’ David continued, ‘our prayer becomes a prayer of thanks.’
” ‘Thanks? Do you mean thanks for what we have created?’
” ‘No, not for what we have created,’ David replied. ‘Creation is already complete. Our prayer becomes a prayer of thanks for the opportunity to choose which creation we experience. Through our thanks, we honor all possibilities and bring the ones we choose into the world.’
“In his way, in the words of his people, David had shared with me the secret of communing with the forces of our world and our bodies. Though I had heard with my ears and understood what he had said, his words have even more meaning today.”