CAN you stop Covid-19 with prayer? A large neighbouring country thought it could. A month ago our neighbour expressed strong confidence that the prayers of its religious elite were keeping the vast archipelago nation free of coronavirus. But some days later, it announced the arrival of Covid-19 when two persons tested positive. Within three weeks, 32 deaths had occurred.
Most religious people believe that one function of prayer is to implore God to perform a miracle or supernatural feat. Super-natural means above nature, implying that the Lord can override nature’s processes.
Nature is a web of tightly knit connections, as scientists have found. Nature’s processes hinge on dependent origination: something happens because of previous happenings in the web.
If an external force outside nature were to intervene in its processes, a hole is punched in the web. It will collapse. When you pray for divine intervention to override nature, you are praying for world destruction.
The Covid-19 pandemic has a long chain of dependent origination traceable to the massive destruction of wildlife habitats, extinction of species, and wanton consumption of wildlife meat. These background factors, exacerbated by social crowding, result in the invasion of human bodies.
But surely God can intervene to stop Covid-19 infecting believers who pray devoutly. This is fatal thinking. Most deadly is the idea that God separates believers from unbelievers, saving the believers and damning the others. Humanity is a multitude of genetically interconnected populations. Covid-19 sees no barrier separating one human being from another.
The popular notion is that God, as the emperor of heaven and earth, rules over nature. European hymns, widely sung around the world, speak of God as sitting on His throne wearing a crown. In the Mandarin script, God is represented by a pair of calligraphic characters with the first character meaning “up in heaven” and the second character resembling a human being wearing a broad-rimmed emperor’s hat. Many ancient psalms extol the protective role of God in warding off diseases, but you need to understand the historical context of war and pestilence implied by these hymns.
God does not intervene in nature because nature isn’t a machine created by God, like a flying car that changes direction at the press of a button. Nature is one of God’s dual modes: Nature is the manifestation of God, while God remains unmanifest. They are not two separate realities – creator and machine – but one whole reality.
Ek onkar. These opening words of the Sikh scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, mean total oneness. Everything is one whole. Nature is not outside God; nor is God outside nature. Srimad Bhagavata, a Hindu scripture, describes the universe as “an expression of Your (God’s) thought” and elaborates that its existence “is like that of the contents of a dream or of a reverie, which are entirely based on the dreamer’s mind, and do not exist apart from that mind”.
To intervene is to awake from the dream – the universe disappears. If God does not intervene, does prayer have a function then? Yes. Prayer connects brains to one another through a common affirmation. In all of recorded history, the most effective prayer was the Christmas Eve 1914 hymn sung by soldiers at the frontline of World War 1 in Europe. That night every soldier recited a prayer that began with “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright”.
Soldiers on opposite sides of the trench got what they prayed for in unison, because their minds worked actively to achieve the results they fervently desired. Thousands of separate minds became one mass mind in an instant, through a process known to scientists as quantum entanglement.
But the peace lasted only three days because politicians scuttled it. They called for renewed fighting, and so World War 1 resumed. How did a handful of warmongers overcome the prayer of thousands of peace-seeking frontline soldiers? Easy. They threatened every disobedient soldier with court martial in this life and hellfire in the afterlife.
Connectivity is the switch: frontline soldiers lacked connectivity with these warring politicians and could not influence their minds. Today we need everyone to connect with the efforts of healthcare workers and law enforcers to save humanity. This is our prayer.
The writer champions interfaith harmony. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org