Saying that prayer is better than mindfulness might sound like I'm picking a fight. But I'm not. They're just really very different.
I see a lot of articles about mindfulness and meditation, even in the fundraising blogs I read. They have headlines like, "De-stress your annual campaign with these helpful mindfulness practices," or "Why meditation will make you a better fundraiser."
I don't necessarily have anything against mindfulness and meditation. As I understand and practice it, mindfulness is about self-awareness. Not a bad thing. "Know thyself" is good advice. I've read a number of excellent books on mindfulness and meditation. Many mindfulness practices are a part of my daily life. But I can't stop there.
Prayer is about God-awareness. When we pray, we lift our minds from earthly things and focus them on heavenly things.
Why is this important to fundraisers? Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given unto you." Prayer is the primary place where we come to ask the Creator of all things for everything that we need to accomplish what He has set before us.
Searching For Something…
I don't know if any secular fundraisers are reading my blog today, but I know that what I'm talking about may sound like gibberish to you. I know this because I was once an atheist myself. Without faith that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him, the whole idea of prayer just sounds like lunacy. Some of the nastier new atheists describe prayer as talking to your sky fairy.
For the secular fundraiser, mindfulness is about as good as it gets. Since you have nothing external to turn to for inspiration, you just have to look within yourself. That's great, until your "self" is full of distraction, irritation, depression, fear, mania, and a whole other list of interior experiences that make being "mindful" terrifying, discouraging, or worse.
Prayer changes the whole ballgame. Your interior life, what you experience in the silence of your heart doesn't have to be a searching for emptiness. Human beings were created for the infinite, for encounters with the divine. The order and beauty that is visible in the universe has an Author, and we were created by Him, for Him. When we pray, we encounter this Other and discover that He has a Name, and that He knows us by name. We are filled to the fullness with His infinite Being.
A step in darkness.
I cannot prove to you that God exists. Well, I suppose I could if I were well enough versed in Thomistic theology. But that's not the point. The point is that God can prove that He exists. If you ask Him to. If you sincerely ask God to prove that He exists beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt, He will.
I know this is true. It happened to me. Ten years ago, a miserable atheist, I asked God to teach me if He was real. My life has never been the same. Since then, I've joined a Christian community, married a former nun, and raised more than $4 million to feed the hungry. And prayer has made all the difference.
How to pray (the fundraiser's version)
Jesus's disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. His response was to teach them the Our Father. If you have never heard the Our Father, it goes like this.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For a fundraiser, this is a great place to start. Buildings full of books have been written about that prayer. I won't try to add to what much wiser and holier people have written.
Your prayer might be simpler. "Jesus, reveal yourself to me. Teach me how to raise the money I need to do the good You want me to do."
The Christmas Spirit
All of this is what Christmas is really about. God, infinite in power and majesty, saw the wretchedness of mankind and was moved with compassion. Casting off His majesty and glory, He took on our humanity in the form of an impoverished Jewish infant 2,000 years ago. He did this to reveal Himself. To give Himself to us. He is Himself the greatest gift that He could give to us.
Prayer is our way of unwrapping the gift. Through prayer, we enter into a conversation with our divine Creator. It is a gift that each of us most dearly needs, and supplies to each of us the fullness of joy.
This Christmas, I pray that you are able to receive the greatest of all gifts. A faith that can lift you out of your contemplation of yourself and into a conversation with the Creator of all things. And may the Lord bless you with a new year full of fundraising successes and the interior transformation that can only be wrought by the One who gave Himself up for you.
This week's blog post takes a break from the second volume of the Almoner letters. I pray that you and your families have a blessed Christmas Season. The Almoner will return on January 9th with new letters on how to run your capital campaign.Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, via Public Domain, no rights reserved.
Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com.