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Explaining my Prayer

Prayer is my response to experiencing grace. Prayer is my way of expressing gratitude for feeling blessed and for reaffirming my hope and commitments. Response to whom? Sometimes to one or more persons, who have forgiven me, but more often to the forgiving Love that embraces our human experience. For those with open hearts and minds.

The prayer I share here suggests changes in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. My prayer is not intended to replace what Protestants call the Lord’s Prayer and Catholics the Our Father, but to transform our fear due to global warming into choices and actions that are creative and hopeful.

As is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, my prayer is directed to Abba, the God of Jesus. Jesus spoke and taught in Aramaic, and he used the family word in Aramaic for father to refer to God. Jesus prayed to Abba to express his loving relationship with God. 

My life is shaped by the story of Jesus in the Christian Bible and by my growing awareness over eighty years of what living in response to Abba might mean. As I am praying to Abba in our time, not in the time of Jesus, my prayer addresses the earth’s climate crisis that is due to our civilization’s disastrous abuse of the earth’s biosphere.

When Jesus lived, there was no such crisis. Today, however, we live in a time of climate change and global warming. During the last 70 years, humans have greatly increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. We have burned fossil fuels for energy, to heat and cool buildings, in cars and in airplane flights, as well as added massive amounts of methane to the atmosphere from animal confinements producing meat for human consumption.

Excessive use of fertilizer on agraicultural crops to increase yield and profits has caused nitrogen runoff into rivers and the release of nitrous oxide from the soil into the atmosphere. A third of the carbon emissions added each year to the atmosphere comes from wasted food, which should be composted and returned to the soil to increase its fertility. Instead, uneaten food is thrown into trash bins and after being transported to landfills produces methane gas.

Also, cutting down forests to grow soybeans for cattle and hog consumption has added carbon dioxide released from the decaying trees and thus ended their absorption of carbon dioxide from the air. Global warming is causing hotter and more widespread forest fires, releasing all the carbon from these forests into the atmosphere. Global warming is also thawing permafrost in the northern latitudes, releasing vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

These catastrophic consequences are due primarily to human activities that continue to increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Many people do not understand or are unwilling to accept the scientific evidence that our industrial lifestyle is the cause of the global climate crisis. In the United States, many politicians and business leaders argue that the short-term economic costs of reducing carbon emissions outweigh the likely long-term benefits.

Yet, rising temperatures are a fact and are causing species to migrate, if they can. If they can’t migrate successfully to a cooler habitat, they will become extinct as millions of species in the past 70 years already have. Our abuse of the biosphere is inflicting trauma and death upon much of the life that not only shares the biosphere with us but sustains our lives as well.

Were Jesus living today, I am sure he would give voice the plea of Pope Francis to hear the cry of the earth and the cries of the poor. Their suffering is unnecessary and cruel. Therefore, I begin my prayer by affirming we should respond to the agony of other species in the biosphere as well as the poor in our human communities who are suffering the most due to climate change.

Here in English are the opening words of the Lord's prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Here are the opening words of my prayer.

Abba, God of Jesus.

May we heed the cry of the earth

and the cries of the poor.

Abba, God of Jesus . . .

I begin my prayer by embracing the story of Jesus, whose life was dedicated to the God worshiped by his Jewish people. There is no evidence that Jesus was literate, but he would have grown up hearing the scriptures read in the synagogue of Nazareth. His earliest awareness of God was shaped by his family and community. Nonetheless, in the account of his life in the New Testament, Jesus comes to an understanding of God that leads to conflict with members of his family and with the religious leaders of his people.

As I read the Christian Bible in English, Jesus felt that God valued having compassion for others more than adhering to the religious rituals required by the scriptures of his people. Within the Jewish scriptures, however, the prophetic writings seemed more compelling for him than the Torah.

I pray, “Abba, God of Jesus.” In Jewish scripture, the dominant word for God is LORD, which stands in place of the “name” in Hebrew for God. This “name” given to Moses in the Exodus account is described in scripture as too holy to be spoken. The phrase in the Lord’s prayer, “hallowed be thy name,” comes from the Jewish tradition of not saying God’s “name.”

Three prophets in Jewish scripture, however, refer to God as Father. In the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible in English, Jeremiah 3:19 reports the LORD saying through Jeremiah to his people, “I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from me.” Isaiah 63:16 refers to the LORD as “our father” and Isaiah 64:8 as “our Father.” In Malachi 2:10, the prophet addresses the people of Israel with these questions. “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us?”


English has several words for father, including family names such as papa or dad or daddy. In the Hebrew scriptures the word for father is av, sometimes written as ab. Also in Aramaic, there is only one word for father, abba. English translations of the Hebrew or Aramaic words for father use the word “father” for a human father and Father for God, but also refer to God as Abba three times.

Jesus prayed to God as Abba . . .

In the English New Testament, the first three gospels refer to God as Father 64 times, and the fourth gospel uses the word Father for God 120 times. All four of the gospels in their earliest manuscripts are anonymous, but tradition has identified each with the names now familiar to Christians. Most Bible scholars agree that the gospel attributed to Mark was the earliest of the four gospels and was used by the writers of the gospels attributed to Matthew and Luke.

The gospel of Mark in English describes Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion, using the Aramaic word for father. In the English translation of the original Greek text, Jesus prays, “Abba, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” (Mk. 14:36) The entire New Testament was written in Greek, but the gospel of Mark retains the Aramaic word, Abba, for this prayer by Jesus to God.

Also, in the gospel of Mark, Jesus while hanging on the cross quotes from Psalm 22 in Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” Which is translated into English as “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Describing the same event, the gospel of Matthew has Jesus saying in Hebrew, “My God, my God” but then completing the verse in Aramaic.

The four gospels contain many more Hebrew words than Aramaic words, which are mostly found in the gospel of Mark. The gospels written later and attributed to Matthew and Luke sometimes relate the same story as the gospel of Mark but omit or change words attributed to Jesus by the gospel of Mark.

For instance, Jesus in the gospel of Mark heals a young girl thought to be dead, saying to her in Aramaic, “Talitha cum,” which is translated in English Bibles as “Little girl, get up!” (Mk. 5:41) In the gospel of Matthew account, however, Jesus heals the girl, but the gospel does not report the Aramaic words included in the gospel of Mark. (Mt. 9:25)

Nowhere in the gospels is there evidence that Jesus spoke Greek, or that he read Hebrew. There is evidence, however, that Jesus taught his followers in Aramaic and read Aramaic. The gospel of Luke reports that in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah, which to be understandable by the illiterate Jews of Nazareth would have been from an Aramaic version of Isaiah.

In the gospel of Luke, the resurrected Jesus eats with two followers after walking with them on the road from Emmaus to Jerusalem. Luke 24:27 reports: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” This is evidence that he knew the Jewish scriptures and thus likely read them in Aramaic.

As a young man, I thought Jesus seemed despairing on the cross, when quoting from Psalm 22 as reported in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. Later in life, I learned that Jewish scripture texts were not numbered, and that Jews often invoked an entire psalm by reciting the first line.

Some scholars suggest Psalm 22 is actually the basis for the account of the death of Jesus in the gospel of Mark, which was then edited by the authors of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Whether or not this is so, giving voice to verse 1 of the psalm from the cross should not be interpreted as necessarily despairing. The first verse would remind a Jew who knew the psalm well of its hopeful concluding affirmation. “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.” (Ps. 22:27) 

Greek was the language chosen by the authors of the New Testament, because Greek was spoken and read throughout the Roman empire. Jews able to read their scriptures might have read them in Greek in the translation known as the Septuagint, which was available two centuries before the time of Jesus. Jews who learned to read their scripture in Aramaic were likely present in synagogues in villages such Nazareth. In Jerusalem, Jewish scripture was likely read in Greek, or Hebrew, or Aramaic, depending on the audience in a synagogue.

In the Hebrew version of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Malachi, the word we translate as father would have been the Hebrew word Av. In the Aramaic translation of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Malachi, the word for father would have been Abba. Growing up in the village known as Nazareth, certainly Jesus first heard God identified by “name” among his family and neighbors, as well as in the synagogue, as Abba.

In Greek versions of the gospel of Mark, the word Abba is followed by the Greek word for father, as most second-century readers, like those of us reading the gospel in English, would not have known the meaning of the word, Abba. The author of the gospel of Mark clearly reports, however, that Jesus prayed to Abba in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and crucifixion. This seems to be how Jesus spoke to God, in Aramaic, and also how he spoke to his followers about God.

Paul uses Abba in his letters . . .

The apostle Paul never met Jesus the teacher and healer, but Paul’s letters nonetheless refer to God twice as Abba. In Galatians 4:4-7 we read in an English translation of Paul’s Greek letter: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying,' Abba! Father!' So, you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God."

Paul’s teaching seems to reflect his own experience of being called to be an apostle, which he refers to at the beginning of Galatians. “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive if from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (vs. 11-12)

This account suggests that the risen Jesus, in his revelation to Paul, used the name Abba for God. Paul’s experience would explain why he believed it was important to refer to Abba in his letter to the Galatians. For Abba was the God of Jesus.

Early his ministry as an apostle, Paul traveled to Jerusalem and spoke to leaders among the followers of Jesus. Surely, he likely spoke with them in Aramaic, as this was their primary language, and so they must have spoken of Abba.

The second use of Abba by Paul is in Romans 8:14-15. Paul is explaining that the fatherhood of God extends to all who follow Jesus and manifest his Spirit. In English we read, "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." In the teaching of Paul, all those who put their trust in Abba, the God of Jesus, are children of Abba, as was Jesus.

As Paul’s letters were written before any of the gospels, his use of Abba in two of his letters included in the New Testament is the earliest evidence that Jesus understood his relationship to God as learning from and responding to a loving father he knew as Abba.

Acts of the Apostles, a sequel written by the author of the gospel attributed to Luke, contains three references to the conversion of Saul, who was persecuting the followers of Jesus before his extraordinary experience led him to become Paul the apostle. (9:1-19, 22:6-21, and 26:12-18). In the second account, Paul speaks in both Hebrew and Aramaic, which is evidence that he was fluent in both languages.

In these three accounts from Acts the word “Lord” is used by Paul but also by followers of Jesus to identify the risen Jesus. In verse 26:14 Paul is reported by the author of Acts as saying, “I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” The Oxford Annotated Bible explains in a note that in this instance “Hebrew” is referring to the Aramaic language, as this was the spoken language of Galileans and would have been the language used by Jesus among his Jewish disciples and followers in Galilee.

The New Testament gospels attributed to Matthew and Luke each report that Jesus taught his disciples a prayer, which following the words in the gospel of Matthew has been prayed over two millennia in different languages by billions of Christians. As Jesus taught this prayer in Aramaic to his Galilean disciples, we should recognize that the disciples were taught to pray to the God of Jesus using the word, Abba.

Why in my prayer I omit "our Father," "hallowed be thy name," and "kingdom of God" . . .

For many followers of Jesus today, referring to God as “Father” calls to mind a loving parent. Yet, over the centuries and now as well, the idea of God as father has been used to maintain male authority over women. The gospels, however, record that Jesus welcomed women among his followers and report that women were present at his crucifixion and his resurrection. Moreover, the letters of Paul identify women leading groups of followers of Jesus.

Therefore, I omit the word “father” from my prayer, and instead pray to Abba, as I believe Jesus did. I urge that we express gratitude for divine love using words that resist the gender bias, which continues to dominate the Abrahamic faith traditions (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) as well as other religious and spiritual traditions.

The prayer Jesus taught begins, in the English translations of the gospels attributed to Matthew and Luke,  “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” I suggest that this reference to the name of God is expressing the Jewish tradition reflected in English translations of the Old Testament of referring to God as LORD. For followers of Jesus, however, the word “Lord” became the central way of referring to the risen Jesus. When spoken, the words LORD and Lord have exactly the same sound. In reading scripture aloud, therefore, the two words are easily confused.

In Hebrew Jesus was known by his Jewish followers as the Messiah, meaning the anointed one. This Hebrew word was translated into Greek as Christos, which in English is Christ. In the New Testament we find references to the risen Lord, the risen Jesus, as well as to Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus, or simply to Jesus or to Christ.

In Christian speech, there is no use of the Hebrew word for God that among Jews was never spoken. In English, Christians pray to God or to “our Father.” Therefore, I suggest that there is no reason in our prayer to the God of Jesus, to pray “hallowed be your name,” which I interpret as a reminder to avoid using God’s Hebrew “name.”

I also recommend omitting the phrase, “kingdom of God,” which translates a phrase in the Greek New Testament that might more clearly be described as “a state of being reflecting the will of God.”

In the ancient world ruled by kings, God was worshiped as the King of kings, ruling over a kingdom greater than all earthly kingdoms. Jesus proclaimed, however, that the God he knew as Abba offered a way of following the will of Abba amidst the temptations of this world as well as after our physical death.

Jesus called on his followers to reflect God's will by loving not only their neighbors but also their enemies. He urged his Jewish family and Jews within the Roman empire to love the Roman governors instead of hating them. For Jesus, what we have called the “kingdom of God” may more clearly be described as “a way of being faithful to the call of Abba.”

Why in my prayer I omit the word "heaven" and refer to "grace" . . .

The word “heaven” has also become misleading, as many Christians think of heaven as a place in space, beyond or outside the material world. In the gospel of Matthew, however, Jesus refers to what in the gospel of Mark was called the "kingdom of God" as the "kingdom of heaven.” The slightly different phrases used by the two gospel authors affirm the same “state of being” that Jesus proclaimed as a choice available on earth now—in the words of Paul, for instance, as experiencing "grace and peace"—but also as a reality to be experienced with Abba after our physical death.

The recent testimonies of many near-death survivors also suggest that heaven is best thought of as a state of timeless consciousness, which continues after physical death but also can be experienced in our physical life. Scientific research suggests that when our cognitive mental activity diminishes and our mind becomes quiet, we may have a sense of what the Lord’s prayer in English calls the kingdom of God and Paul calls our experience of "grace and peace." If our hearts and minds are open to the Love that Jesus experienced by embracing his call to follow Abba, we too may experience a loving and timeless relationship with Abba.

Grace is the English word for charis in Greek, and peace is the English word for shalom in Hebrew. The meaning of grace is “receiving unmerited divine assistance.” Paul’s use of the Greek word for grace and the Hebrew word for peace joined the experience of early followers of Jesus, who in the Roman empire were often using both Greek and Hebrew in their gatherings and prayers. Paul more than any other early follower of Jesus who has left written records, called people together to follow the Abba of Jesus by embracing the way of "grace and peace" in diverse groups of Jews and Gentiles.

Praying and caring for nature . . .

The God of Jesus calls us to live with hope and love without fear of death. In our time of climate crisis, however, due to human abuse of the natural ecosystems of the earth, we are causing the death and extinction of many other species as well as threatening earth’s capacity to sustain human civilization.

Therefore, Instead of praying for “our daily bread,” which most of us buy in a store, I suggest we pray for the health of the planet we share with other people and countless other species. For it is the fertility and health of the earth’s ecosystems that enable farming to sustain us and other species as well.

To mitigate climate change and global warming caused by excessive carbon emissions released into the atmosphere, we must alter our way of living. We must greatly limit burning fossil fuels for energy, and instead use renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines to generate the electricity we need.

We also must invest in regenerative agriculture that replaces soil fertility and uses cover crops to hold the soil so it doesn’t blow away or wash away in rainstorms. In addition, we need to eat less meat and eat more plant-based foods, to reduce the livestock populations that now are adding to our atmosphere immense quantities of the greenhouse gas methane.


Known to us as natural gas, which we use for heating buildings and in cooking, methane holds much more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide although for a shorter time span. Where we are now growing corn and soybeans to feed hogs and cattle, such as in my home state of Iowa, we need to grow vegetables, fruits, and grains to provide food to be purchased and eaten by those living in nearby communities.

Overcoming temptation and evil . . .


The Lord’s prayer asks our Father not to lead us into temptation. Surely, this means we should see clearly that choices harming others and nature for self-serving purposes and profit are not the choices that Abba would have us make.

Two millennia ago, nature was merely a backdrop for activities that were thought to be divine and human. What we now identify as ecosystems and the earth’s biosphere were unknown, and thus their role in maintaining human life and all other life as well could not be recognized in ethical reasoning and prayer.

This is why I suggest expanding the language in the Lord’s prayer that only addresses personal relations by affirming compassionate actions that will prevent species extinctions as well as sustain soil fertility.

Despite knowing now that the web of life sustains the earth’s biosphere, too many of us seem to believe that the earth’s abundance is simply ours for the taking. We tend to act as though nature’s resources are to be used for human pleasure and also to waste, no matter how destructive our choices may be. Might we now recognize that climate change is nature’s resistance to our unsustainable way of life on planet earth?

Scientists report that four earths would be required to sustain human life, if everyone consumed natural resources as the average American does. To sustain human life on earth, we must live more responsibly within the natural balance of the earth’s ecosystems.

After the deadly and hateful horrors of World War II, Albert Einstein urged that we all “widen our compassion” for others who are different from us, by natural origin, culture, or religious beliefs, or simply by choices that matter to them. He was not thinking of nonhuman life, but I urge that we now widen our compassion and act to preserve the lives of all sorts of plants, fungi, and nonhuman animals, as well as all human beings now alive and future generations.

If we trust that our God, Abba is the source of all sustaining love in the universe, we need not pray for God’s forgiveness. Abba’s grace is the source of all forgiveness, for which we should be grateful. I also suggest we not use the word “debts” (or “trespasses” used in an alternative English version of the prayer Jesus taught), as the word debt now describes owing money and the word trespass to illegally being on private property. Neither word reminds us, as we pray, of the harm we have done not only to other persons but also to other species that share the biosphere with us and contribute to its sustainability and therefore also our very lives.

As Jesus taught his followers that Abba was forgiving, there is no need now to pray to be forgiven. Instead, I suggest we need to pray for the strength to repent of our abuse of the earth and its other species. We need to become worthy of forgiveness by doing all we can to mitigate the suffering, dying, and extinctions that already cast a dark shadow over our era.

Mourning and repenting . . .

We begin by mourning our devastation of the biosphere and our blindness in failing to see other earth creatures as loved by Abba, our God, and therefore deserving our respect as well as our compassion. Then may we be guided by the prayer of Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, as we pray to the cosmic Creator of Light and Love.

“You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.

Pour out upon us the power of your love,

that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live 

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.


“O God of the poor,

help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,

so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives, 

that we may protect the world and not prey on it,

that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.


“Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

to be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognize that we are profoundly united

with every creature

as we journey towards your infinite light.


“We thank you for being with us each day.

Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle

for justice, love, and peace.”


The Lord’s prayer in the gospel of Matthew ends . . .

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

My prayer ends by affirming a new relationship with the earth.

May we live humbly so the soil will revive,

more species survive, and nature thrive.

May we overcome temptation and evil

by widening our compassion for life on earth.

May we mourn our abuse of the biosphere

and repent of the harm we have done.

Protestants add an ending to the prayer in Matthew's gospel . . .

The prayer in the gospel attributed to Mathew ends at 6:13 with a statement about delivering us from evil. The prayer in the gospel attributed to Luke ends at 11:4, “And lead us not into temptation” or some other English variation of this meaning. Christian Churches have used the gospel of Matthew’s prayer as the Lord's Prayer.


For centuries, however, Christians in both Catholic and Orthodox churches have added an ending to the prayer taught by Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, which may be translated into English as, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.” 

Contemporary Catholic and Protestant English Bible translations now agree that Matthew 6:13 should end as the Earliest Greek texts do.

In the Catholic Church the prayer Jesus taught, known as the as the “Our Father,” does end with Matthew 6:13. During mass, after the congregation has prayed the Our Father, the priest adds a prayer such as: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Then the congregation prays what the Catholic liturgy identifies as the conclusion of the prayer. In American Catholic Churches, this conclusion now affirms, “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever.”


Looking online for the Lord's prayer in the King James Version of the Bible, will yield at least one entry that ends Matthew 6:13 with the phrase, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen."

Protestant churches, perhaps to distinguish themselves from the Catholic Church, have added this concluding statement to the Lord's prayer as reported in the gospel of Matthew.

For the prayer I am proposing, I suggest an entirely different conclusion. I explain my reasoning in the section that follows.

Gratitude for exploding stars, near-death experiences, and spirituals . . .

The Lord’s prayer reflects a worldview prior to the discoveries of scientists in the past two centuries. We now know, however, that our bodies are home to as many single-cell microorganisms as we each have cells containing our own DNA. Our bodies provide nourishment for these microbes, and they not only digest our food and clean our skin but also assist our immune system in defending our bodies against invasive molecules. Without these microbes we would not live long.

We also know that large stars, which collapse after burning all their hydrogen and then explode, create the heavier elements that are necessary for life on earth, including carbon, iron, nitrogen, oxygen, potassium, and phosphorus. We know that life on earth is sustained by ecosystems in which millions of plants and animals are coevolving, or becoming extinct, as we accelerate the global warming of our planet by releasing more and more greenhouse gases into the earth’s biosphere.

Finally, we know that near-death experiences, reported by scientists as their own experience or as part of their research with others who have had these experiences, have transformed lives and may provide a glimpse into what comes after our physical death. Physicians and other scientists as well as many other survivors of a near-death experience, report seeing a brilliant light and feeling unconditionally loved. I suggest these often life-transforming events are evidence of a cosmic spiritual reality that gives meaning and purpose to our lives, if we open our hearts and minds.

Why are we unable to experience this spiritual reality in everyday life? Perhaps because our brains have evolved to screen out most of reality, so we can make survival choices quickly. Also, our survival has not required evolving vision and hearing that would enable us to see and hear most of the frequencies of light and sound, which as waves of energy surround us and pass through our bodies all the time.

We perceive only a tiny fraction of this energetic reality, yet it is no less real. In a group of people, we are also surrounded by the thoughts and feelings of those around us, but most of us are unable to comprehend these meanings unless they express themselves in speech or actions. Again, much of our reality is usually beyond our direct experience.

Might we exist within a spiritual reality made up of “frequencies of conscious experience” screened out by our everyday brains and minds, but which sometimes touch our hearts and minds? What we identify as intuitions and insights have transformed the lives of some individuals in extraordinary ways. Such as the life of Jesus, and the life of Paul, and many others as well.

Unseen and unheard, dreams or moments of wonder, may move us to be more caring about other people and the diversity of life all around us. Paul called this experiencing “grace and peace.” Perhaps what we’ve called heaven, instead of a place, is Love’s extraordinary embrace.

Historian and Catholic priest, Thomas Berry, suggests that exploding supernova stars are “bestowers of grace.” We who have done nothing to merit life are, nonetheless, the beneficiaries of their explosions. We are alive because supernovas have died. I choose to refer to the universe as the cosmos, as this word suggests a meaning and order to the universe. A creative unfolding of an eternal reality.

Radiation oncologist Jeffrey Long has created an international research project into near-death experiences. The results are available online at In his book entitled God and the Afterlife, he includes many personal testimonies of experiencing God as Light and Love and of being “home” during near-death experiences. Here are three examples.

Anna: “The one word I’d use to describe the experience or journey would be reality. It was the most real thing that’s ever happened to me. I was a light being—light in every sense. I was made of the same light as the light that shone from the clear pool in front of me. The light sensed and felt everything, thought and understood everything; it knew I was finally back home! The light was God.”

Andy: “The Light knows me, knows my name! Surrounding this Light form are millions of other lights welcoming me back home. I know them all and they know me; we are all pieces of the same Light. I tell them, It’s good to be back home. I know we’re all home together again.

Sandy: “The Light was a sparkling glowing cloud. I heard a voice in my head and knew it was God. We never talked about God at my house, and I never went to church, but I knew it was God. And I knew that this place, with this beautiful light that was God, was my real home.”

African-American spirituals use the word “home” to identify the afterlife for those following the God of Jesus. The phrase “Swing low sweet chariot,” which tells of the prophet Elijah being taken away to be with God, is followed by the words, “coming for to carry me home.” The chorus of “Steal Away” is, “Steal away home, I ain’t got long to stay here.” Each verse of the spiritual, “Precious Lord,” so loved by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., concludes with the words, “and lead me home.”

John Newton, a former slave trader who after his conversion served an Anglican church in England, wrote the words to the popular hymn Amazing Grace that affirms, “‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

Might we see these extraordinary experiences as gifts of grace, created by stars and the divine cosmos "in which we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) Gifts, which we are called to celebrate in prayer and song, and in transformed lives until our time has come.

I conclude my prayer with this affirmation of faith . . .


Abba, Spirit of the cosmos, Light and Love,

may your grace lead us home.

                                                                                        Robert Traer, January 10, 2024

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