Does God Really Hate LeBron James? (#983)

About a month ago, we were watching the NBA finals and enjoying the back and forth battle between Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors vs. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite two of Cleveland’s best players being lost due to injury, the series stayed close right up until the Warriors sealed the victory in the final few minutes of the final game.

During the post-game interviews, many of the Warriors made a point of not only thanking God for their victory but pointing to the idea that their praying together as a team was a key factor in the result.

After watching a few of these interviews, one of the people I was with asked some rather pointed questions:

Do you think prayer really was the key to their victory? Were all the injuries to key players on the Cavaliers part of some divine plan? Does God really hate LeBron James that much?

While I can share my quick answers to the questions (maybe, no, and no), explaining what I mean might take a bit more time…

1. Why prayer works (when it works)

I want to be clear at the outset that what follows is simply my understanding and not meant to be definitive or even particularly provocative. Most of us spend most of our time living in a world made up of our own personal thinking. These separate if often overlapping “realities” come with their own sets of rules, limitations, values, and blind spots. The biggest shared blind spot of all is that we don’t notice that we’re the ones making it up. As the physicist David Bohm said, “Thought creates our world and then says ‘I didn’t do it!'”

When people pray, regardless of who or what they are praying to, they tend to let go of their personal thought system and fall into a more meditative or “prayerful” space. In this space, sometimes called the unconditioned or universal mind, all things are possible and a deeper wisdom becomes available to us as a guiding force. When we access that space in a reflective state of mind, we often gain insights into our personal challenges and it seems as though “our prayers have been answered”. When we access that space in performance, we call it “flow” or “the zone” or “the groove”.

By praying together, the Warriors make themselves more susceptible to flow. Their personal thinking becomes a little bit quieter and their wisdom and common sense seem louder and easier to discern. When they play together, the apparent boundaries between them are lessened and they operate more in harmony with the deeper intelligence of life. And when they do experience the inevitable interpersonal conflicts and setbacks, their regular prayer sessions act as a sort of “reset button”, making them more discouragement-proof and allowing them to come to the next game fresh.

So did prayer win the Warriors the title? Not in my opinion. But being prayer-full both individually and as a team may well have been a huge positive factor in their success.

2. How do you know if something is ‘meant to be?’

In my work, I often point to the fact that there are times when things seem to flow “as if by design”. All sorts of coincidences and unforeseen events occur that make what seemed improbable or even impossible happen in an almost effortless, seemingly preordained way. Everyone I know has had this experience at some point in their lives; where we differ is in what we make up about its cause and implications.

To me, my life unfolding in effortless, mysterious, and even miraculous ways is no different to the effortless, mysterious, and even miraculous way things unfold in the natural world. Caterpillars become butterflies, bees carry pollen to help flowers grow and spread, and “Lion King” though it may sound, the circle of life continues relatively unabated across time and around the world. The only reason our lives often don’t feel like that is that we have free will, and we often (and innocently) use it to ignore the flow of life and try and create our own path.

The confusion, as I see it, is that we think the only two choices in life are to be victims or empowered creators. Given that choice, I would choose empowered creator ten times out of ten. But there is a third way – a “soul path” where we live as conduits for the creative force, allowing our lives to unfold from our moment by moment connection with the energy and intelligence of life.

Here’s how I wrote about it in The Inside-Out Revolution:

To highlight the difference between trying to make things happen as a self-empowered individual and opening up to the creative guidance of Mind as a part of the great unfolding, consider the analogy of a sailboat. Trying to ‘make things happen’ in your life is like trying to make the boat move forward by blowing into the sails. It’s not that you can’t get anywhere – it’s that you tend to exhaust yourself in the process and miss out on a lot of what’s going on outside your boat.By way of contrast, allowing the energy of life to guide you is like allowing the wind to fill your sails and propel you forward. If you’ve ever had the feeling of something coming ‘through’ you instead of ‘from’ you, you know what the wind feels like. We experience it as inspiration, or flow, or being in the zone. We make more progress in a few hours of inspired action than we did in months of hard work and struggle.

A friend of mine who spent many years as a priest before turning his hand to a different kind of spiritual teaching shared a similar analogy with me:

‘No matter how hard a surfer works, the ocean is doing most of the heavy lifting.’ 

3. Does God take sides?

One of my favorite stories about Abraham Lincoln was apparently first recounted in the sermon delivered at his funeral. At the height of the Civil War, when things were looking bleak for the Union, one of Lincoln’s generals concluded a battle planning meeting by saying, ‘Let us hope that God is on our side!’

Lincoln apparently responded with great feeling, ‘No, General, let us hope that we are on God’sside.’

In my experience, my sense of what is right doesn’t always triumph over my sense of what is wrong and the team with the best players usually wins, even if it’s not the team I’ve learned to root for. But rather than driving me into a frenzy of empowered creating or dropping me into a navel-gazing apathy of fatalistic despair, I find that knowing there is a deeper intelligence behind life and knowing that I can always do my best to live in harmony with it is comforting. It doesn’t stop me from having dreams and goals and preferences; it just stops me from turning them into a prerequisite for happiness in my life. And to assume my personal preferences are anything to do with some kind of a divine plan seems arrogant beyond measure.

I like that I’m not in charge of the universe. I like that sometimes things work out the way I want and sometimes they don’t. And I love that I get to participate in the daily unfolding of the universe – to be a part of the creation without having to be in charge of it.

So no, I don’t think God hates LeBron James, and I don’t think sporting events turn on the right amount of players saying the right words to the right God. But if you want to have more inner and outer success in your life – more peace of mind and a nicer piece of real estate to lay your head in – then being prayerful may be just what the doctor ordered.

With all my love,
Michael

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