I’m a bit fascinated by the concept of Prayer Wheels. Put somewhat simplistically, a Prayer Wheel is cylindrical collection of Buddhist mantras wrapped around a central core that turns (usually clockwise) so that every time it makes a full revolution, the virtue (“merit”) of those scripted prayers are incurred by the one who turns it. It’s generally recommended that the practitioner use a form of meditation at the same time, but I’ve read that, even in a distracted state of mind, merit is still obtained. The more it is turned, the more benefit is received. This from Lamayeshe.com:
“The prayer wheel here at Land of Medicine Buddha contains 11.8 billion mantras, so turning it one time is the same as having recited that many mantras. In that few seconds, you perform so much powerful purification and accumulate so much merit. Turning the prayer wheel once is the same as having done many years of retreat. This is explained as one of the benefits of prayer wheels.”
I’ve got to give these people credit, because not only have they figured out how to keep those babies turning by wind, fire, and water, modern technology now has prayers recorded on microfilm and hooked up to electricity. Plug it in, let it spin! And I’m not meaning that disrespectfully, because I would certainly be investing in several for my own home, were I Buddhist.
Which I’m not.
However, this faithful practice gives me pause to consider my own prayer life. Sometimes, (dare I say many times?) I wonder if I don’t consider my prayers just that, a recitation of words, heartfelt though they are, but with the barely hidden belief that the more I say them, the more points I get in heaven for…whatever. A loved-one’s walk with God? A healing? A financial resolution? Whatever.
I have tended to look at Jesus’ parable of the widow and the judge almost like the concept of a Prayer Wheel. The more I repeat, the closer I get to whatever I’m asking for. How easy would it be to just record it onto a disc and push play/repeat…
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”
Another look at this gives me a bit more insight:
The widow acknowledged her disenfranchised station in that culture; therefore, she knew her need for a higher authority to obtain justice for her. This takes humility.
She was not intimidated by the judge’s initial reactions or his deprecating opinions, or if she was, she pushed through it heroically, knowing that her cause was worth it. This takes clarity.
She knew her rights, which means she had done her legal homework. This takes due diligence.
She also knew the ability and the responsibility of the judge and wasn’t about to let him off the hook. This takes persistence.
Then Jesus says this:
So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly!
Quickly? I realize that this story is meant to illustrate the difference between a begrudging, procrastinating human judge and our fully just and loving Father, but “quickly” is not the word I would initially choose for some of God’s responses. That is, until I team it up with His very next statement—
“But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
That last statement makes me go, “Huh??” It’s one of those seemingly asides of Jesus that at first appears out of context, as in, “what does that have to do with what you were just saying?”
I realize now that this story isn’t merely about the quantity of prayers, but the quality of prayerful content, including the above four things: humility, clarity of purpose, due diligence, as well as persistence, all of which are elements of effective faith. Relational faith that keeps me in intimate connection with my “Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Friend”.
In other words, there’s nothing magical about the number of times I’m on my knees, but that I consistently return to that spiritual/mental/emotional (sometimes physical!) posture of obeying the command to “not worry about anything, pray about everything.” Regardless of what I see happening around me. Regardless of how I feel. Regardless of what “quickly” means in the heavenly dictionary.
All of this will certainly save wear and tear on my heart (as well as my CD player.)
Luke 18: 1-5, 7-8 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.