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The Power of Prayer
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What is Prayer? What is Your Definition of Prayer? Does Prayer Work? Who Hears Our Prayers? 

A few years ago, someone I love was in trouble. His sister was dying of cancer in the US. He was experiencing a spiritual crisis at the time and said he didn't believe he could ask God for help on this one. I had been reading a lot about Elizabeth Targ's medical research into the power of prayer at the California Pacific Medical Center. If she was getting results with terminal patients, was there a god who would listen to me? As an experiment I phoned around asking everyone I thought had influence to pray and help get this man to the US as soon as possible. It was a diverse group comprising family, friends, healing people, colleagues and associates. An eclectic collective of belief systems, really.

That was a Monday morning. The man had meetings to 12h00 and no passport or ID book as these had been stolen weeks earlier. He also had no plane ticket. That night at 18h00 he was on a flight from Johannesburg International to New York with forex, a temporary ID book, a temporary passport and a US visa. If you've had experience with the bureaucracy that is Home Affairs and knew that the US Embassy closed at 11h00 on that day, you'd have been as surprised as I was when I kissed him goodbye before he boarded the plane that night.

In my mind what was manifest was a miracle by prayer. I have always had a great sense of wonder about prayer and miracles since then. I don't go to any church or pray regularly or claim any special connection with a god. I don't follow traditional religion and at best I would call myself a reluctant Buddhist. I was completely naïve in my little experiment but it has tumbled me down a mystical rabbit warren and left me with a deep sense of wonder at the relationship between spirit and matter. 

It has made me so curious about prayer. What it is, how it works and whether there's a place in business for prayer. So I spoke to Clive Simpkins about this. A South African marketing and communications strategist and author of the “Concise Communicator” Clive also wrote 
“Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life,” a book about personal, sustainable change and finding meaning and purpose in one's life. The work draws extensively on the author's twenty-three year experience with his teacher, Swami Shivapadananda.


MdW:   What is prayer? What is your definition of prayer?
CS:   Prayer is a conversation with yourself or God – whatever your concept of Her, Him or It might be.
MdW:   Why do people pray?
CS:   Humans innately seek something beyond their mundane selves. So we pray to make ‘contact’ with whatever our concept of that is. We pray particularly when we’re in trouble, want guidance, want to say ‘thank you.’
MdW:   Can one expect an outcome from prayer? Does prayer work – if so why?
CS:   One can certainly expect an outcome from prayer. But it may not be the outcome you expect or want. Like a good parent, the universe or God (whatever your concept of Her or Him or It may be) will, I believe, give you what you need (which may be suffering for growth) and not what you want – which is usually the absence of suffering, hardship, trials and the like.
MdW:   How does intent relate to prayer?
CS   Jesus said “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” So it’s got to be a prayer that’s very specific in its intention or desired outcome (effective). It needs to have intensity and yearning (fervent). Your motive needs to be pure, unselfish or ‘good’ (righteous). Then it has the concentration power to make it produce results. If it’s unfocused, vague and not serious in intent, it won’t generate the energy required for a result.
MdW:   Is there a place for prayer in business?
CS:   Emphatically! Business is part of our lives or a ‘compartment’ of our lives. What works after-hours works during working hours as well! Touching base with God or the Universe or the Higher Self a few times during the day makes us much nicer colleagues. It means we’re not forgetting what’s really important in life.
MdW:   Do you say prayers for business reasons?
CS:   Why ever not? If you pray for your child’s exam success (provided the blighter has done the studying) there’s no problem with an intention for a successful business.
MdW:   What is the junction of spirit and business?
CS:   There shouldn’t be a junction! If they’re seamless, they work best. There shouldn’t be a separation between spirituality, prayer and any of the aspects of our lives. We should live in an integrated, congruent manner.
MdW:   Are businesses becoming more spiritual or more conscious – if so why?
CS:   Businesses are not ‘things.’ They’re made up of people. People are without doubt becoming more conscious of the need for their spiritual component to permeate the workplace as well. This is not suppositional or anecdotal. I see it in the work I do all the time. People ask questions they would never have asked five years ago. And hey, a guy in a Sasolburg conference asked me to comment on reincarnation. You could have knocked me over with a feather!
MdW:   Would you advise people to use prayer in business – if so why?
CS:   Yes. When we’re in a truly prayerful state, we’re in an Alpha mind state. Generating hemispheric synchronization at between 8 and 12 cycles or Hertz per second. It’s a state of optimal creativity and resourcefulness. It’s also scientifically proven to be restful, healing and therapeutic. So when we learn to get into a prayer state at will, it can only benefit whatever we’re doing in business.
MdW:   Have you had any interesting experiences regarding the power of prayer?
CS:   Numerous. Perhaps the most powerful was when my best friend, aged 31, was dying from lymphatic cancer. The night before her passing, she was in great physical pain. I was exhausted from all the emotional support I’d been giving her. I took her one hand in mine and with the other (in my mind) held my spiritual preceptor’s hand, thinking, “Please do something to help her.” At that exact instant, she said, “Hmm. It feels just like Swamiji’s holding my hand.”
MdW:   Who (in your spiritual beliefs) hears our prayers?
CS:   The universal consciousness – which is ‘alive,’ vibrant and never sleeps. At a higher level of understanding, it is we who pray and we who answer the prayer.
MdW:   Why – traditionally – have corporations sought to exclude spirituality or prayer from business?
CS:   Because they’ve had difficulty – as have many individuals and organizations – in separating ‘religion’ from the concept of spirituality. With religion, you can ‘live’ in a church, temple, mosque, shul or shrine – and still be a demon. With spirituality (respect for all levels of consciousness) you may never have been in any of them and yet be a saint.
MdW:   Why – traditionally – is business almost exclusively concerned with the business of making money?
CS:   Because that’s the role of business - to make money. Good and insightful businesses also invest in people and communities. But that’s not their prime role.
MdW:   What role does religious and spiritual diversity bring to bear regarding the above?
CS:   Organizations that are respectful of diversity will be spiritual organizations. If they understand the healing role of spirituality in their people, they’ll actively encourage it.
MdW:   Is prayer connected to religion – if so how?
CS:   Prayer is the universal language of spirituality. Whether spoken, as thought, as meditation, solo or in groups. It may be a communing with nature or animals. It may be a sense of connectedness. It doesn’t have to be linguistic and it doesn’t have to be religious.
MdW:   What other things would you like to tell me about prayer in business?
CS:   People who pray have a sense of higher purpose in their lives, lower stress levels, better immune system function, lower levels of anger, higher levels of self-esteem, heal quicker, suffer less depression and if they do, recover from it quicker than those who don’t pray. All of this has been the subject of some well-validated medical and psychological research projects and is well documented.
MdW:   Any other thoughts?
CS:   Yes. If we don’t get out of bed in the morning with a sense of why we’re on this planet and what we’re going to be doing and how we’re going to do it, we’ll at some point – guaranteed – slide into a clinical depression. The single most important dimension of the human being has to be the spiritual component. If we resist the spiritual development process, nature and circumstances will force us, kicking and screaming, into the learning experience. If you want to know if you’re living a spiritual life, two thoughts:

“If you can get to the end of a day and say, ‘Today I have grown a little more in love and compassion,’ you are living a spiritual life. If you get to the end of a day and you can’t say, ‘Today I have grown a little more in love and compassion,’ you are not living a spiritual life.” – The Dalai Lama of Tibet.

“God will not forgive you if you are bluffing. He is the One who hears the heartbeat of the ant. Do you mean to say He does not know what you are saying and doing?” – My Spiritual Preceptor and best friend, Swami Shivapadananda.

 Mandy de Waal (mandyd@soulcircle.co.za) is an award-winning communications consultant, writer and public speaker who exited the world of branding and reputation management to found SoulCircle (Pty) Ltd (www.soulcircle.co.za). A pioneering company, SoulCircle improves human and business performance through knowledge and experience. A catalyst for mindshift, SoulCircle engages business and society on archetypal issues through transformative events hosted by some of the world’s top thinkers and wisdom keepers. For more on Clive Simpkins go to www.imbizo.com



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Last Updated: 01-02-2007