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Pray so you can Love More Effectively

What - God Commands You to Love:  In the Two Great Commandments, Jesus tells you to fully love God (with all of your heart, soul, mind) and fully love people (to "love your neighbor as you love yourself").     {this page is written for people with a theistic worldviewespecially a Christian theistic worldview}

How - God Helps You to Love:  The first commandment, to fully love God (and fully trust God), is the solid faith-foundation that — when you are trusting God and living by faith — lets God supply you with the abilities you need when you're doing the second commandment, so you can love other people more effectively.  How?  In John 14-17, Jesus describes relationships within the tri-une God (between Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and of God with His abiding disciples, and (especially in John 17) of us with each other.  He says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. … Abide in me, and I will abide in you [through the Holy Spirit, "whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father"].  Just as the branch cannot produce fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you [produce fruit] unless you abide in me." {John 15:1,4,[26]}     tips for Abiding in Christ


You can use this page by reading any section you want:   Through your praying, God wants to help you...  –  Divine Actions + Human Actions (in Living & Praying)  –  Relationships with God and People  –  The Kingdom of God and Personal Transformation (God's Wonderful Plan  –  The Kingdom of God  –  Allowing Transformation by Abiding in Christ).


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Through your praying, God wants to help you...

• improve Your Relationship with Him:  Through prayer and in other ways, God wants to help you love Him fully, with all of your heart, soul, and mind.  God wants you to understand Him better, and trust Him so you can live by faith.  God wants to be your Best Friend, as in the song "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer."  God also wants you to make Him your Lord by saying (and actualizing in your thoughts-and-actions) "Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be," so you can...

• improve Your Actions when you "ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will, with all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives" so you can "know the will of God [personally customized for your short-term & long-term situations in life, coordinated with His will for other people, to achieve His purposes], what is good and is pleasing to Him" and then obediently do His will.  This knowledge, plus your obedience (when you make Jesus your King by putting Him on the throne of your life), will let you participate more effectively in The Kingdom of God.

• improve Your Understandings of others (with empathy) and self (with self-empathy).  You can think about these relationships when you're trying to understand any situation involving others, by asking “what do they want?” and “what do I want?” and “what does God want for us, for them and for me?” so “what does God want me to think and do?”  When you understand others better, by combining empathy with kindness you can more effectively treat them the way they want to be treated, in a Golden Rule with Empathy.

• improve your Uderstandings of a situation, by --- [ IOU - soon, maybe in mid-November, I will describe thoroughly-and-accurately understanding a total situation (including both people & things), with analogy to the "court vision" of a skillful point guard in basketball. ]

• improve Your Compassion for others:  When you pray for others with intercessory prayer, God will help you develop more compassion for them, making it easier for you to "love them as you love yourself."

• improve Your Performing and/or Learning:  God can help you improve your performing (so you can live-and-love better now, in the present) and your learning (so you can live-and-love better later, in the future, because you have been learning from life).   {Performing and/or Learning and/or Enjoying}

• Learn More from Life:  As a Christian and an educator, I find it useful to view life as educational drama.  Some of your life situations are goal-directed challenges (occurring when you don't understand, or don't know what to do) that are personally customized for you by God, because He wants to help you learn & improve;  these situations are divinely designed opportunities to learn from life so you can live-and-love better in your future.  God wants you to learn more from your life-experiences so He interacts with you in ways that are analogous to interactions with a skillful (human) teacher but are better, although less obvious.  Like a good teacher, God can — if you are spiritually aware while you're living by faith — guide you with reflection requests (calling attention to “what can be learned”), adjusting the level of challenge, and providing formative feedback.   /   You can learn from all experience – from both failures and success – in all areas of life.  Usually you will learn more when you self-observe what happened, asking “what was The Situation, and My Strategy & Strategy-Applying Actions, and The Results?”  Then you can reflect on what happened.  You may think “it went well, felt good, was consistent with God's commands, and produced good results, so I'll want to respond in a similar way in the next similar situation.”  But sometimes you will recognize your mistakes, and will confess (always to God, and sometimes to people) that you could have done better.  Either way, your awareness will help you learn more from the experience so you can do it better the next time.  And in the long term, God wants to help you more fully develop all of the abilities He has given you, to become all He wants you to be.


Prosperity Promises

IOU - Soon, maybe in April 2018, I'll examine justifiably-controversial issues:  with links to my "Why - Purposes of Prayer" sections in both pages (mc-pr, mc-pr2), and more deeply here, and quotes from GNU Growth Book (1983, 1992) by Steve Gregg.


Divine Actions + Human Actions  —  in your Process of LIVING

An essential principle-for-living is illustrated in the dual actions of Exodus 17:11 when Moses was praying, on a hill above the field where Joshua was defending Israel against attack, because "whenever Moses raised his hand [to acknowledge God's divine actions and ask for His blessing on their human actions], the battle went well for Israel;  but whenever he lowered his hand to rest, Amalek began to win."  The combination of faithful prayer (by Moses) and faithful action (by Joshua) brought victory.  God wants us to wisely combine what He does and what we do, to pray as if everything depended on Him, and do responsible actions (consistent with what we learn from the Bible) as if everything depended on us.



Divine Actions + Human Actions —  in your Process of PRAYING

In the intro-page I say "basically, praying is just ‘being with God’ to enjoy, talk, listen."

Your talking can be silent or aloud.  When you listen, don't expect to hear an audible voice;  do expect God to communicate with you spiritually & mentally.  And expect God to cooperate with you — when with Human Actions plus Divine Actions, you each do your part — in making your prayers more effective to achieve a wide variety of purpose-goals, both yours and (more important) His.  The ideas in this section — which is Part 2, expanding on Part 1 — are supplemented, in Part 3, with principles for Abiding in Christ - How and What/Why.  (and are supplemented, in some ways, by ideas throughout the page)

Earlier I say "there are many ways to pray" because the process "depends on the person, and their situation."  You can...

    ask God to show you how you can pray more effectively.
    ask God to show you what He wants you to mentally do (in your praying & afterward) and physically do (with your actions afterward), so you can serve God — with your thinking and actions — in ways that He wants, that are most useful in helping Him achieve His goals.  You can ask God to help you improve the mutually supportive interactions between your mental & physical activities (your thoughts & actions), and between your prayer-living and your afterward-living.
    read the Bible while praying – or pray while reading the Bible – asking God to help you understand, and to apply (in your thinking & actions) what He is helping you learn from the Bible and from life.     { You can read books, chapters, or verses/passages like the prayers of Paul & Romans 12:1-2 & The Lord's Prayer & selected Psalms & biblical promises, and collections of verses made by me — a short list of favorites (begun in 2017) or 8-page long version (made in 1987) — or made by you, or that you find in a devotional booklet or web-page.}
    ask God to help you improve:  your relationship with Him, learning how to worship God, how to love Him more fully as your Friend-and-Lord;*  your understandings of self and others;  your thoughts-and-actions, so you can serve God and do His will;  your performing (so you can live-and-love better now) and your learning (so you can live-and-love better later) by asking “what do You want me to learn? to improve?” by praying for what He has promised in the Bible, in the prayers of Paul & many other places, for fruits of the spirit so you can “do it better” in your living and loving.     {Sometimes, focus on your loving of God with your whole heart/soul/mind, and your feeling/understanding of how much He loves you.}
    in an effort to learn more from your experience and to be honest with yourself & God, confess your sinful thoughts-and-actions to God, and accept His forgiveness gratefully, with love & thanksgiving.
    pray alone (just you and God), or with other people (and God);  pray for other people, either silently or aloud, by yourself or with them.
    make a prayer list, for who (family, friends, colleagues,...) to pray for, and what (re: their life-situations, and yours) to pray about;  occasionally have extra-long praying times, to pray through more of your list.
    schedule long periods of prayer time, maybe in the morning (to preview your day, asking God to provide you with love & wisdom, first in your prayer-time and then throughout your daily activities, so you can “do it better” in your perceiving, processing, deciding, and doing) and throughout your day (for real-time divine help, as you are thinking-and-doing your activities) and in the evening (to review your day, to reflect on your experiences so you can learn more).   {morning prayer typically is useful for self-preparation & actions-planning;  throughout the day, with short-time prayers you can ask God for guidance while you're making decisions and doing actions;  and in the evening, prayers can be useful for reviewing, to help you learn more from your experiences during the day, and help you re-plan for tomorrow}
    pray with your eyes closed or open;  in non-action situations, you can “practice” praying with your eyes open, so you'll become more comfortable with praying (as in a quick “help me” prayer) when you're in the middle of an action-situation and you shouldn't close your eyes.
    pray in the isolated silence of a “quiet time” or in the middle of lively action during a busy part of your day;
    improvise short periods of prayer time during your daily activities;  pray for everything, especially in tough situations before important decisions/actions.
    ask God to help you learn how to pray more effectively.  You may find it useful to view this "learning how" as developing Strategies for Praying, by using some ideas from above, and elsewhere, with regulation (by yourself and by God) of your cognition and metacognition, of your thinking and your "thinking about your thinking" and your thinking about God and people.  An effective Strategy for Praying (it's one kind of Strategy for Thinking) will "make your life better" by improving the quality of your performing + enjoying + learning during prayer & afterward.


Praying Constantly  (can we do this? should we do it?)

This section is an In-Depth Examination that builds on the foundation of a brief introduction and Medium-Deep Overview.



"Multitasking isn't Efficient" and an illusion of multitasking (of thinking in multiple ways to do multiple tasks, all at the same time) "is a myth – your brain is actually rapidly switching focus from one task to another."   "It is impossible to focus on more than one task at a time, therefore multitasking is the process of rapidly shifting attention between tasks. ... [and] because the brain cannot fully focus when multitasking, people take longer to complete tasks and are predisposed to error" so "Multitasking isn't Efficient."

Multitasking with On-and-Off Prayer:  When an Action requires that you think verbally (by using thoughts expressed in words), these Verbal Actions will alternate with your Verbal Praying, so your on-and-off process (VerbalPrayer, VerbalAction, VerbalPrayer, VerbalAction,...)* is multitasking with time-sharing.  There will be “counterproductive interference” between your Verbal Praying and Verbal Actions.

* If you are constantly Abiding, the on-off process is (AbidingVerbalPrayerNonverbalAbiding + VerbalAction AbidingVerbalPrayerNonverbalAbiding + VerbalAction,...), and there will be "interference" between the underlined parts.


but...  What does "pray without ceasing" mean?

Paul tells us to do this, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and most translations from Greek into English (e.g. these 59) agree about the meaning,

    as in the more-literal KJV & NASB & ESV ("pray without ceasing"), RSV (pray constantly) and, where L = Literal, YLT (continually pray ye) & DLNT (be praying unceasingly),* plus the less-literal-overall NIV (pray continually) & CSB (pray constantly), plus even-less-literal GNT (pray at all times), TLB (always keep on praying), MSG (pray all the time);
    other translations seem “less specific” as in ISV (continually be prayerful), TPT (make your life a prayer);
    * also more-literal, AMP (be unceasing and persistent in prayer) has two concepts,
    but with CJB (pray regularly) it seems to be only the "persistence" described here, with italics added:  "The Greek used the word ‘without ceasing’ for a person with a hacking cough and for repeated military attacks.  This is not continuous prayer but prayer that recurs regularly.  The idea is persistence in prayer."
    This possible meaning {persistently recurring prayer} is possible with both Abiding Prayer and Verbal Prayer, but in translations the more common meaning {continual prayer} is possible only with Abiding Prayer, not with Verbal Prayer.  What is the intended meaning?  I'm not certain.


Situations and Prayers

As described above, sometimes your Verbal Praying will decrease the quality of your Actions.  And sometimes it won't.

Whether there is a decrease (or increase) will depend on many factors, especially the kindskey of Action and Praying.  How?

[[ IOU - This section is now very under-developed, although the main ideas are here now.  Later there might be more in the cells, not just "OK" or "maybe" or "probably" with numbers (1,3,5,7,10) to estimate increasing levels of being-OK.  And certainly there will be more analysis-and-discussion before & after the table. ]]

Let's look at three kinds of Action-Situations (with no urgent action needed, semi-demanding urgency, and high-demand urgency with full attention required constantly), and three kinds of Praying (long verbal, short verbal used on-and-off, nonverbal "practice of presence" abiding):

 kind of Action: 
 kind of Praying: 
 urgent actions 
not required

 (all praying ok) 
highly skilled
 but less urgent 
(on-and-off ok) 
highly skilled,
highly urgent
(avoid on-and-off)
 long verbal
do (10)
maybe OK (5)
avoid (1)
 short verbal, on-off 
do (10)
 probably OK (7) 
mostly avoid (3)
 nonverbal abiding
do (10)
do (10)
 do (if do well)(10?) 

High-Demand Situations:  In this section, I'm trying to imagine the kinds of praying that would help a person be-and-do more effectively in different situations, especially in high-demand situations (labeled "highly skilled, highly urgent") like...

    a basketball point guard, in the last minute of an important playoff game, who must “see the court” (knowing where all players are now, and soon might move to) and wisely make split-second decisions about what to do;  or
    a surgeon in the operating room, surprised by a dangerous development, who must consider all available information (about the patient, medical knowledge,...) and wisely make quick decisions about what to do;  (comments: this is more important than point guard's action, but probably with more time so decisions are "quick" but not "split second" and there is more time to do quick praying-for-wisdom, and because the Action can be on-and-off instead of "full attention required constantly" some on-and-off Verbal Praying is more likely to be useful here than for the point guard) (timing & urgency-of-action, as in "split second" versus "quick", and whether "full attention is required constantly", is an essential factor in determining whether an on-and-off quick Verbal Prayer could be useful);  or
    any important situation that is a difficult challenge for you, so you must perform “at your best” by considering all information and using all of your skills, so you can wisely make quick decisions about what to do.  (usually more similar to situation of surgeon, compared with point guard)


[[ IOU - most of the small-font ideas below will be cut, or used with major condensing ]]

In a wide variety of high-demand situations, it seems that prayer with conscious thinking (expressed in words) should be minimal — done extremely quickly — or absent, during your actions. (before & after, any kind of praying could be useful)  One way to "pray constantly" that is sort of (but not really) consistent with this focus is to use...

On-and-Off Conscious Praying:  You can use brief conscious prayers (like asking God "help me", "guide me", "be with me") mixed with actions in pray-do-pray-do-pray... with most of your time spent in "do" mode.  But this would not be constant praying, due to the "off" periods when instead of praying you are just doing.

Sub-Conscious Praying:  Instead, in high-demand situations I think praying constantly will be helpful only if most of your praying is a maintaining-of-attitude (by "practicing the presence of God", i.e. "being with God" in prayer)* that keeps you constantly "in tune" with God (with Father, Son, Holy Spirit) thru your intimate connection with Holy Spirit, so He can continually guide you, with support that helps you do what He wants you to do, and do it really well.   /   * IOU - Soon I will web-search for a good modern summary of ideas from Brother Lawrence (in his famous book "The Practice of the Presence of God"), a summary describing the kind of praying that could be useful in high-demand situations.

[[ maybe... I will refer to A Process for Evaluating Metacognition when the "extra" thinking is not thinking about your own thinking (this is metacognition) but is (with prayer) being with God and maybe talking with God.  We can pray in a wide variety of ways, and some kinds of prayer will help improve performance in some situations (but not others) when the praying is done in some ways (like with timing it before, during, after the action-event) and..... (to be continued) ]]

summary:  Therefore, I probably will change my statement in the Overview to this:  Therefore, "pray for everything" doesn't mean pray constantly, unless... [and unless... will be a link to this section, where I'll explain why we should not "pray constantly" unless... part of the praying (the part that's done while in a "do" phase of pray-do-pray-do-pray) is non-verbal, is basically maintaining an attitude of "practicing the presence of God" as described above.]

Timings:  Usually it's useful to verbally-pray before & after your actions, and during your actions occasionally but not-always because usually the best way to improve your human actions is to focus on doing your human actions.   [you should regulate what/when/how you do (and don't), before and/or during and/or after your actions]



Human Actions + Divine Actions  and

Living With God or Living Without God

This section is connected with principles from above and below:

Above, “what happens” depending on two kinds of actions (human + divine), on what humans do plus what God does.

Below, we can choose — with a big decision (as in a "born again" conversion) and many small decisions (in everyday living) — to live with God or live without God.


This section begins with what happened:

Examples of “living with God” and then “living without God” come from Inner Tennis: Playing the Game, where its author describes a change in his thinking:
    I had reached a kind of resolution to my problem.  I was then going through a religious phase in my adolescence, and I decided to put the question of winning and losing entirely in God's hands.  Before every match I prayed, "Whatever you want, God, is okay with me. It's up to you." ..... [then when he could win a major match with one more point, Timothy Gallwey thought...]  Thank you very much, God, for your help, I said to myself.  I can take it from here!"  What happened in the match, and later in his life?   {more of the story – and my thoughts about it}

And now it continues with "more of the story – and my thoughts about it."

I.O.U. – Soon, maybe in early November, I'll write more of this section.  Here are some of the ideas that will be in it:

"What happened in the match?"  The author (Timothy Gallwey, TG) says that, "

[[ it's relevant for both, illustrating both, is {more of the story...} that is briefly summarized in my shorter web-page, where I say...

Examples of “living with God” and then “living without God” come from Inner Tennis: Playing the Game, where its author, Timothy Gallwey, tells us how

Tim was trying to connect his "wanting to win" with "playing well," and before the National Junior Championships,

    "I had reached a kind of resolution to my problem.  I was then going through a religious phase in my adolescence, and I decided to put the question of winning and losing entirely in God's hands.  Before every match I prayed, "Whatever you want, God, is okay with me. It's up to you." ..... [then when he had two chances to win his 3rd-round match by winning one more point, he thought...]  Thank you very much, God, for your help, I said to myself.  I can take it from here!"

What happened in the match?  He lost both of his match points due to unforced errors he should have avoided, and then

    "After wasting both opportunities [by missing easy shots], I was back in my mind.  Discouragement at choking became an additional obstacle, and so did the realization that I had taken the match out of God's hands and back into my own.  For the rest of the match I was overcautious and trying extra hard to redeem myself, and eventually fought my way to defeat.  The opponent inside and the one outside proved too much."

He continues, "From this match I learned for the first time that my will to win was stronger if my mind was detached from the consequences.  It was the first fumbling step toward the Inner Game."  What is the Inner Game?  In terms invented by Gallwey, Self 2 is the sub-conscious parts of a person, the parts that are highly skilled at playing tennis, that gather information (e.g. whether the opponent has hit the ball with spin, where the ball is now and how fast it's moving and where it's traveling to, where the opponent is moving to,...) and physically responding (by deciding how to stroke the ball with the racket, and how to do this well by quickly choosing which body-muscles to use and which to relax, and coordinating all muscle-timings in all parts of the body).  By contrast, Self 1 is the conscious mind of a person, clumsily trying to "give instructions to the body" by telling Self 2 (the sub-conscious parts that are highly skilled at playing tennis) what to do, how, and when.  Self 2 has the ability to play well, but Self 1 wants to egotistically take credit for playing well.  There is much more to The Inner Game, but this brief-and-rough summary will help you understand Gallwey's interpretation of what happened during his match.  He says,

    "In retrospect it is easy to see what occurred. First, though I didn't realize it at the time, the prayer was a way of rejecting Self 1 and allowing Self 2 to play the game. Having let go of concern about winning the outer game, my energies were focused on reaching my full potential' I was conentrated, consistent, scrappy, didn't miss easy shots and was, during the first two matchs and for most of the third, out of my [Self 1] mind."

[[ later, when this section developed more thoroughly, I think this will be interesting and useful for mental/physical education and for worldview education -- I'll continue sharing some of my thoughts about it, including these:

[[ re: his change of mind to "I've got it", originally in real time during the match Gallwey intended his change as "with God → without God",  but later he re-interpreted it to be "Self 2 in charge → Self 1 in charge".

[[ this moment in a tennis match, and later in his whole life, illustrate decisions to live without God -- first in the match, and later in his broader life-journey;  in both situations, in narrow match & wide life, he decided to move away from God, to live without God. [[ first his "I've got it" was only for the tennis match -- later he expanded it to include his entire life, and he used his atheistic worldview to apply in all areas of life, for all people, not just himself.

[[ in the moment, his thinking was "I, not God, will do this" so it was himself taking over from God -- later, after he became an atheist so God was removed from his thinking, he interpreted his change of mind as Self 1 taking over from Self 2.


[[ i respect TG as a teacher -- and I will link to places in the website (ws, mc, mc-op,...) where I respectfully discuss his ideas about thinking-and-doing -- but... his atheistic (or pantheistic) "eastern religious philosophy" with "new age humanism" is not necessary for using his ideas about Self 1/2 interactions, thinking/doing + learning, because most of his ideas are compatible with a theistic worldview ]]

[[ i think "Self 1 vs Self 2" is valid as a way to interpret the psychology of mind-body interactions -- but this psychology is compatible with either an atheistic-eastern-NewAge worldview (by Tim & other atheists/pantheists) or a theistic worldview (by me & other theists) ]]



Relationships with God and People

Relationships: God + (you + a neighbor)

In this diagram, 3 lines ( / \ ) show important Relationships:  for You, with God and with people (in this case with a Neighbor);  and for your Neighbor, with God and with people (with You);  and for God, with people (with You and Neighbor).   The 4th line () shows a Relational-Situation (plus possible Decision-and-Action) involving Neighbor, and each of you has a WholeLife-Situation symbolized by the ring (O) around You and Neighbor.   /   You may find it useful to think about these relationships as “vertical” (between people & God) and “horizontal” (between people).

When you have a healthy relationship with God, which occurs IF you have a solid spiritual foundation because in the past you have “said yes to God” — so you have the potential for a healthy relationship — and IF in the present you are actualizing this potential by abiding in Christ so you are “saying yes to God” for guiding by Holy Spirit,* THEN He can more effectively supply whatever you need for living an obedient Christian life, for obeying (in your attitudes/thoughts and decisions/actions) His commandments to love God and love your neighbor and to actualize these two loves with your loving actions.

* What can we say, with confidence, about the "IF... and IF... then"?  This page assumes a Bible-based conventional Christian worldview claiming that "saying yes to God" usually is necessary for God to effectively "supply what you need," but...  When we ask “will God also help people who currently seem to be non-Christians?”, we should be humbly cautious in our claims about what God will or won't do, who He will or won't help, how and why.  Therefore I'm humbly cautious when I speculate that probably God also helps non-Christians, in some ways (but not all) that are similar to (but not the same as) the ways He helps Christians.  Maybe.     {more about God and non-Christians}


Pray for Everything:  God wants You to “include Him” for everything in your life, for your interpersonal Relationships and your interpersonal Relational-Situations (and your thinking and action-decisions about what to do or not-do), & , and both WholeLife-Situations, O & O;  and for spiritual relationships between God and people, for You ( / ) and your Neighbor ( \ ).   Your inclusion-of-God can be conscious praying — this can be short or long, depending on the Situation (its complexity & importance, and the time available) and the time You want to invest — for the Relationships ( / \ )* and for the Situationsor your inclusion-of-God can be your continual unconscious “awareness” that God is involved in everything You are thinking-and-doing.

But too often we exclude God from our awareness, and instead focus our total attention on the human level, by thinking about only our own human actions.  To see this exclusion, move your mouse over the diagram's top-left corner.


Pray for Everyone: * One of the best things you can do is to pray for yourself, and for other people.  God wants each of us to pray more, so He can be more effective in helping us be more loving and wise in our thinking-and-actions, so He can supply us with what we need to be God's people and do God's work.  We constantly need love and wisdom, usually for the little everyday things that (when all blended together) form the core of our lives, and occasionally for big decisions and actions.

You can pray for understanding, and for compassion.  God wants to help you improve your understandings (of other people and yourself, with empathy and self-empathy), and help you develop more compassion for other people, so (with compassion) you'll have the desire to "love your neighbor as you love yourself" and (with empathy) you'll have the ability to love them more wisely and effectively.

You can pray for specific Situations (yours & theirs) and for improving the general quality of your life & their lives, including all relationships with God, / and \ .  For example, God's abundant spiritual supplying is requested, for others, in two prayers of Paul:

    "I pray that your love will keep on growing more and more, together with true knowledge and perfect judgment, so that you will be able to choose what is best... [so] your lives will be filled with the truly good qualities ["love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control"] which only Jesus Christ can produce, for the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11, [Galatians 5:22])
    "We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives.  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases Him.  Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:9-10)
Because you know this is what God wants, you can have faith that He will answer these prayer-requests for others (\), and also when you request the benefits for yourself (/).

more – Of course, you also should "include God" when your interactions involve more than one person.


A Tough Spiritual Question (about non-Christians) with Uncertain Answers

What is God's attitude-and-response to prayers by people who are not yet “saved” by Him? (so they're not yet Christians? are not yet His people?)   I don't know, although earlier I cautiously speculate that "probably God also helps non-Christians, in some ways (but not all) that are similar to (but not the same as) the ways He helps Christians.  Maybe."   Throughout the Bible, we see strong evidence that God wants us to “say YES to Him” and love Him, and live by faith in Him.  So I feel confident in claiming that usually God will cause the prayers of faithful believers to be more “effective” than the prayers of non-believers or semi-believers;  but I think their prayers will be “heard” by God in all situations, and in some situations their prayers will be “effective” in some ways.  Obviously I have "uncertain answers" for generalized questions about God's attitude-and-response to prayers from people whose beliefs & practices span a wide range.  With appropriate humility, my only confident answer is "I don't know."

IOU – These questions will never be answered in a totally complete-and-satisfactory way by me, or anyone else.  It will remain true that "I don't know" (and they also don't KNOW) because, for these tough questions, only God knows.  For example, you can see a wide range of ideas in this forum-thread — found by web-searching for [prayer by non-christians] — and in other discussions, or just by asking different Christians “what do you think?”  But (re: my IOU) eventually I will try to learn more, think more, and write more about this tough question that actually is a collection of tough questions – one for each different person who prays, and one for each different situation in which that person prays.


Tough Educational Questions about Prayer in Public Schools

IOU — Soon, maybe by the end of April 2018, here I will begin examining — by making comments and providing links — some questions (briefly summarized in the overview) that are justifiably controversial:

Should we allow, or even encourage, prayer in public schools?  (if it's explicitly Christian, or Judeo-Christian, or just monotheistic, or more-generic, or involves a "higher power" as in AA's 12 Steps?)     in my humble currently-tentative opinion: we should probably not do it – or (less likely) if we do it, be very careful, trying to do it well.  —  also, what about participating in multi-religion prayer(s) at public events? (e.g. for doing this, Rick Warren & others have been harshly criticized by some fellow Christians)


Should we allow prayer-like activities, e.g. secular meditation (or guided relaxation, "mindfulness", yoga,...) in public schools?  sometimes these are done in ways that have connections with Eastern religions, New Age beliefs, or spiritualism.  Certainly the traditional "roots" of these activities are in eastern religions, like Buddhism or Hinduism.  (if an activity implies these, or is led by people devoted to these religions, having these worldview-philosophies)

I don't know.  My initial response, based on what I knew from the past, was that "I think Christians should argue against meditation-etc, and work to prevent it, but... in many situations this probably will lead to counter-arguments & counter-actions," and "Maybe my views will change after I learn more, and think/pray more, but probably not."

Well, after a few days of recent research-and-thinking, I'm less confident about my initial response.  If "mindful meditation" techniques (or yoga) are explicitly connected with eastern philosophy/mysticism or with questionable techniques, then I still think NO.  But if a teacher (or school) does it more neutrally — for example, by telling students "if you want to use this as a prayer to God, then do it "? (would this be allowed by courts? or by school districts worried about courts?) — maybe it might be OK. Or maybe not?  I'm still thinking about this, and probably will not have a "definite answer" for awhile, or I may never have a confident answer.  ?

If we do Christian meditation personally, or allow/encourage "religiously neutral" meditation in schools, is there a danger of encouraging unbiblical ecumenism (as opposed to biblical ecumenism) that could become part of a one-world religion? (many people are concerned about this, I think with some justification)

process:  if we start with Bible-based Christian prayer, then add "meditation" techniques?  if we start with secular/eastern "meditation" techniques, then add a recognition of God, and communion with God (to love-and-obey Him more fully) as our goal?   e.g. "Biblically, to meditate means to ponder, consider, chew on, and mull over the word of God.  Biblical meditation is full of content, not void of it;  it is thoughtful, not thoughtless. (Derek J Brown)"


Worldview Neutrality in Public Schools

asymmetry:  In trying to achieve worldview-neutrality, a major problem is the inherent asymmetry between expressions of theistic and nontheistic views.  An event cannot be described theistically unless this is done explicitly, but “not theism” is communicated implicitly yet strongly when the possibility of theistic action is omitted from every description of every historical event.

neutrality: If a curriculum always assumes — in science education and in other areas — that “there is no theistically active God,” is this neutral?  Is an assumption that God has been absent from the history of the universe neutral? ...  Does the absence of a perspective produce a balanced treatment of this perspective?  Or will an absence of God in all discussions of the world encourage students to live as if God is absent from the world?



a reminder:  The ideas in this page are examined more deeply in my longer page about using prayer to live with love and wisdom.


Here is a brief review of What-and-How plus Why:

What - God commands you to love, to love God and love people.

How - God can help you love more effectively.  But why do you need help from God?

Why - In a Christian worldview, you have sinned whenever you could have “done it better” — in loving God or loving people — with your thinking and/or actions.  All of us often can do better, so your sinning (and mine) is frequent throughout everyday life, in all areas of life, especially in relationships.  God wants you to minimize your sinning, when you make mistakes of commission (by doing what you shouldn't) and omission (by not doing what you should).  The main goal of God's salvation is to save you from your slavery to sin by giving you the spiritual power, through the Holy Spirit, that you need for living;  He wants to help you learn more from your experiences in life — including the sinful mistakes of yourself & others — so you can “do it better” in your present and future.



The Kingdom of God and Personal Transformation


God's Wonderful Plan:   A modern summary of the Gospel – the Four Spiritual Laws explains, in Law 1, that "God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life."  You can live this plan if you say YES to God, if you believe and repent by changing the way you think.  The result of true repentance is living by faith, when – as described in Law 4 – with continuing acts of your will you ask God to "Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be"* because instead of a Self-Directed Life when "self is on the throne," you want a Christ-Directed Life when "Christ is in the life and on the throne; self is yielding to Christ; interests are directed by Christ, resulting in harmony with God's plan."     * God loves you as-you-are now, but... He wants to help you become all you can be, so you can achieve what He wants for you, in His Wonderful Plan for Your Life;  and He can help you become-and-achieve when you faithfully keep Him "on the throne of your life."   {relationship: Jesus wants to help you make Him your Friend-and-Lord}

The Kingdom of God:   Jesus told us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" as our central goal in life.  If you have Christ "in the life and on the throne," He is your King.  In daily life, whenever you are obediently doing what your King wants, you are participating in The Kingdom of God as an individual.  When you are being directed by Christ, you also will want to participate in the community of Christ-followers who, along with you, acknowledge that God is their King.  Working together in this way, all of us in His Kingdom-Community are serving Him with our hearts-and-minds, with our feeling-and-thinking actualized in our actions that are helping Him build His Kingdom (partially now and totally later) as in our prayer that "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," when we are doing what He commands by more fully loving God and people.  How?

The What-and-How of Personal Transformation:   Paul describes a Christ-Directed Life:  {what} "Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer." [i.e. "Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering."]  {how} "Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.  Then {what} you will be able to know [and do] the will of God, what is good and is pleasing to him." {Romans 12:1-2, GNT,[MSG]}


But humility is justifiable — in fact, appropriate humility (not too little, not too much) should be one result of your continuing transformation — because...

Transformation isn't Perfection, so Be Humble:   Although your ability to "know the will of God" and then do "what is good" will improve when you are "transformed by the renewing of your mind {NASB}," you will not be able to know-and-do perfectly.  Why?  Because, as Paul and John say, "now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma]" and "if we say that we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. ... He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done."  When we acknowledge our sins, God forgives "the wrong things we have done" in the past.  And in the present, He can help us avoid wrong thinking, so instead of doing "wrong things" we will think-and-do "what is good."  God will do this for you, IF this is what you want.  The "IF" is important, because...

Transformation requires Cooperation:   Becoming the person God wants you to be, so you can think-and-do in the ways wanted by God, requires an attitude of wanting to be personally transformed in the ways wanted by God.  But I've self-observed that in a supplying of love and wisdom from God to me, too often the limiting factor is my lack of cooperation when I don't want to live totally "dedicated to his service" so I'm not totally willing to let God "transform" me.  This also happens with other people because, unfortunately, a lack of cooperation (at least sometimes) is a basic human deficiency.  In fact, it's the basic human sin, beginning with Adam.  Paul describes a problem and solution, by contrasting the disobedience of Adam with the obedience of Jesus: "as through one transgression [by Adam] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [by Jesus Christ] there resulted justification of life to all men." {Romans 5:18, NASB} 

Transformation is hindered by Deficiencies:   Each of us has general deficiencies – shared by all humans – that make us vulnerable to the sinning we do whenever we "could have done it better" in our thinking & actions.  And each of us has specific personal deficiencies* – due to our individualized nature (genes) and nurture (experiences) – that make us even more vulnerable to sinning, by further hindering our abilities (in skill & will) to fully love God and people.     {* and each of us has personal abilities that are beneficial}     {put this page into left-side frame` because its links open in right-side frame}

Transformation can help you Solve Problems:   A problem is "an opportunity to make things better."  Many times during everyday life, your thoughts-and-actions could be better, and should be better.  Each of these times is a sin that is a problem you can solve, when you make it better for yourself and for others.  God wants to help you do this by transforming the ways you think, so you can become a better person.  How? 

The Process of Problem-Solving Transformation:   IOU - This paragraph will be written later, and it will (after much development & revision) include these ideas, and more:  a context for this page (about "Praying so you can Love More Effectively") is my intro-page about Using Prayer for Problem Solving;  my website – including this page – is about the general process of solving problems, not the specific content of problems.  For example, I won't offer any advice about how to cope with the personal deficiencies (or their effects) that often can be improved with the help of people who do psychological counseling, either formally or informally.  But my website does have some general principles, like those in this page, plus learning from experiences & empathy in relationships & self-image + growth mindset & thinking strategies for productive creative-and-critical thinking & building productive communities.  My approach is picking “low-hanging fruit” by describing general principles but not the messy details of specific personal applications.  My website is for educators & education;  it's less useful for counselors & counseling, for helping people solve specific personal problems to “make it better” in their personal lives.   /   [ IOU-update: To do what it should, this paragraph will require LOTS of ideas.  Therefore, eventually I'll outline a few ideas here, and put the rest into a longer section, in an appendix;  and for readers who want “more” I'll link to pages written by other authors, by those who know it better than me, and have written it better than I can.]   /   re: my definition of sin as the times when "your thoughts-and-actions could be better," I'll make this more compassionately empathetic by describing how "hurt people hurt people," and to escape from this cycle requires forgiving and apologizing ... and so on. (much could be said about this, of course)   /   an observation:  sometimes God will immediately transform some people in some ways;  but usually, for most people in most ways, change takes time.   /   controversies:  questions about our process of transformation (how much, how quickly, how to allow it & do it,...) are related to tough questions about what the Bible teaches – re: how “faith + works” are related, what God expects (or requires) for salvation – that are debated among believers who have differing views about the relative importance of faith & works, grace & accountability, lordship salvation vs easy-believism & "once saved, always saved", about their interactive relationships & causal connections, for basic salvation and for the sanctification of becoming disciples, etc)   This controversy(s) is one reason for offering levels for discussion:  the shorter intro-page and this longer page, plus an appendix for deeper explorations.

The paragraph above (that will be an outline of essential ideas, with links to an appendix for MORE) will end with a transition:  ... The basic process of living as a person who is being "transformed by the renewing of your mind" is to be always — whether or not you are consciously praying — continually cooperating with God so you can experience...


Transformation by Abiding in Christ

How:  Jesus Christ gives you the wonderful assurance that He will help you love God and love people.  How?  God can supply what you need to live-and-love more effectively because (as promised by Jesus in John 15:4) if you “abide in Christ, He will abide in you” and He can transform you.  In his classic book Abide in Christ,* Andrew Murray explains how the Holy Spirit helps us abide:  "The Holy Spirit... comes to us from the heart of Christ, the bearer of Christ's life, the revealer and communicator of Christ Himself within us. ... He is the bond of fellowship between Christ and believers;  He is the life-sap through which Vine and branch grow into real and living oneness. ... We have the Holy Spirit to make the living Christ, in all His saving power, and in the completeness of His victory over sin, ever present within us."     *{excerpts from Abide in Christ}   /   abiding in God, in Father/Son/HolySpirit:  Our approach to living should be like that of Jesus who — 2000 years ago while He was on earth, living as a human — was able to live without sinning by "remaining in perfect communion with the Father and in subjection to him, so the Father [through the Holy Spirit] could guide him continuously" (quoting Peter Rüst) so, as Jesus said, "The words that I say to you [to His disciples] I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. (John 14:10b)"

What and Why:  Jesus promises that "If you live in me – abide vitally united to Me – and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, [you can] ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7)"  Yes, this is a “prosperity promise” but not in a greed-motivated “prosperity gospel” message, as in the satirical commentary (Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz) sung by Janis Joplin.  A disciple of Jesus Christ should not want to use God.  Instead we should want to be used by God.  Our motive should be wanting to live for God's Kingdom, as explained by Andrew Murray:  "Abiding in Christ, and having His words abiding in us, teach us to pray in accordance with the will of God," and the result is that "all our working and willing become transformed into harmony with His," so "our desires, as the breathings of the divine life, are in conformity with the divine will, and are fulfilled."  God first motivates you to ask what He wants for you, and then He gives it to you.  During your daily living, when your thinking-and-doing is Christ-directed with knowledge & obedience you can ask for what you want, with God-given authority, in the name of Jesus.


Appropriate Humility about Controversial Questions:  We should have appropriate humility so we should avoid being "arrogantly overconfident... by declaring that ‘I prayed about this, so I have The Correct Answer, given to me by God’ ... for a question that is justifiably controversial."  Eventually this section will have examples to illustrate situations where some Christians are arrogantly overconfident, which encourages them to disrespect fellow Christians who propose a different answer for a question that is justifiably controversial because different answers are proposed by devout Bible-believing Christians who have diligently studied the question and what the Bible says about it, and have prayed about it.

Controversial theological questions are debated among intelligent Bible-believing Christians, with issues ranging from minor (e.g. infant baptism, with most church denominations adopting a doctrine that seems unbiblical) to major, as in claims about the sovereignty of God and “who does what” during a process of salvation, with mainstream churches proposing two very different theologies, in Calvinism & Arminian non-Calvinism;  also, lordship salvation (that, taken to extremes, can become unbiblical legalism) versus free grace (that, taken to extremes, can become unbiblical “easy believism”) with some Christians on each side saying nasty things about the other side,and prosperity promises,  and “what will happen to unaved people after they die” and a wide variety of origins questions about age (of the earth & universe), and intelligent design & divine uses of miraculous-appearing divine action during origins history.     {you can find many "nasty things" being said if you web-search for [lordship salvation heresy] or [easy believism false] or [once saved always saved wrong false] or [eternal security biblical] or similar word-strings, or while web-searching for controversy about other topics} {Christian Diversity in youtube}   We also find a diversity of views that are justifiable (for Bible-believing Christians) about a wide range of social & political issues.

Therefore, an arrogant claim that “I prayed about this, so I have The Correct Answer, given to me by God” should be avoided.  Instead we should have an appropriate humility (not too little, not too much) that is justifiable, biblically and logically.



Following the Leading of God

I.O.U. - This section will continue being developed in early-November 2018.  Later it will include analogies (with similarities & differences) between leading-and-following in ballroom dancing and in daily living when the Holy Spirit “leads us” so we can live more effectively as followers of Christ.  And it will be revised so it's a better description of these ideas:


My introductory overview about prayer says "when you ask God for help with your thinking..., He can provide insights to help you think more productively," with a link to here, where you can learn more about the “what, how, and why” of asking God for helpful insights, of hearing from Him and following His leading.


Deciding YES or NO:  Many times during each day we can try to understand what God wants us to do, and decide whether to respond with YES or NO, to obey or disobey in our thinking-and-doing, to follow the leading of God or do things our own way.

Uncertainties in Following:  But... although sometimes the leading of God is clear, often it's difficult to KNOW for certain “what God wants us to do,” so a reasonable goal is TRYING OUR BEST to understand His will, and to obey.  We should try to “remain in perfect communion” with God and "in subjection to Him" by abiding in Him, as described above.     { We should do this “trying” with humility, not with a prideful attitude that would, for example, occur if we view ourselves as being in competition with other people to win a “most obedient follower” award. }


To follow well, we must WANT to follow well.  Then, if we are motivated by our love for God and people, so we are sincerely trying to follow the leading of God, we have a solid foundation for asking “how?” with more details, to supplement our foundation of loving-and-trying.


How can you (shifting from "we" to "you") know what God wants you to do, so you can follow His leading?  Some principles, useful for all situations in life, for everything you do, are described earlier in this page.  If you're a disciple, a follower of Jesus, can have your thinking-and-actions guided:

    • study the Bible, to learn general principles for living, with God leading you (thru His written word) into the ways-of-living He wants for you;
    • ask God (as in prayers of Paul) to spiritually supply you with love & wisdom, both generally (to help you live according to biblical principles) and specifically (with spiritual insights you can use in your specific life-situations);  pray regularly and learn how to listen for the voice (that typically is a “still small voice”) of the Holy Spirit;
    • want to be led, be willing to follow, to pursue a Christ-Directed Life (with Christ on your thinking-and-doing throne) in your own personal kingdom of God, and try to minimize any temporarily returns to a Self-Directed Life;  want to be transformed by God as in the what-and-how of Romans 12:2, so you are cooperatively following God's plan-of-transformation for you.
    And on the level of human thinking,
    ask other people for advice;  ask people — among your family & friends & colleagues, and in your community of fellow believers — that you trust because they know you & your situation, and they are wise with good judgment;
    use a creative-and-critical process of thinking (by understanding the situation, then creatively generating ideas & logically evaluating ideas) when you are trying to solve problems so you can help make things better.


I.O.U. - Later, here I will say more here, especially about practical principles for trying to understand the will of God in specific situations, and obediently following (to the best of our knowledge) the leading of God.  I will revise the ideas above, and will develop these ideas:


HUMILITY is justifiable due to our uncertainty in knowing the will of God (for specific situations), but...
we can obey biblical commandments & principles, we can have good intentions (wanting to follow obediently), with attitude of wanting, heart & mind, decisions & actions - feeling & thinking, behaving - feelings thoughts behaviors actions


There are different kinds of leading & following,

in situations with God and one human, when God leads and a disciple-person follows,

in situations with two humans, when one leads and others follow:

    ballroom dancing with leader & follower,

    husband & wife -- (this must be carefully defined to clarify what it does & doesn't mean, and is beneficial only when it's done well) -- leader/husband should lead in wise-and-loving ways (and "wise" means listening to his wife and often [maybe 50% of the time?] doing what she wants when there is disagreement, so he is worthy of being followed, and follower/wife must trust him,

    pastor & congregation;  supervisor & workers,  coach & players,  teacher & students.


RESOURCES:  my web-searching has led to many pages, including an excellent BIG page by Mark Roberts, describing the many ways God can lead us;  soon I will find other pages worth linking to, especially shorter summaries.   /   Ideas you may find useful are in Part 2 (45:10) and Part 3 (47:58) of a 3-week sermon series by Mike Safford, who also teaches about Growth in Prayer and other useful ways to live.



IOU  -  Eventually this page will be developed more fully.  It will begin with a short overview-summary.  And eventually my longer page will be more consistent in being a deeper examination of ideas in this page;  but compared with this page, currently my "longer page" is deeper in some sections, and less deep in others.   And important ideas that now are missing (e.g. how to combine, in a Bible-based worldview and in praying based on it, saving grace with discipleship-works, by distinguishing between salvation-by-grace and sanctification-in-discipleship) will be described better in both pages.

IOU  –  This GRAY BOX contains ideas that might be used in this page eventually, maybe sometime in late 2018.

SALVATION is saving you from slavery to sin (= when you could have "done it better" in fully loving God and/or people) with a transformation that improves your ability to "know the will of God and then do what is good" so it's a solution for sin, to help you reduce your sinful thoughts and sinful actions.

PERFECTION -- you will not be able to know-and-do perfectly.   /  sins = should be better, when viewed from God's perspective, and probably from your perspective.

COOPERATION -- God can help you "do it better" when you "say yes" to His Wonderful Plan for Your Life, when you believe and you repent by changing the way you think, by asking God "make me the kind of person You want me to be." / when we don't fully repent, don't totally "hunger and thirst after righteousness" as our highest priority, don't want to fully cooperate


previous end to WHAT-and-HOW in my selected Bible passages -- by doing WHAT He wants, as described in the WHATs above & below, and elsewhere throughout the Bible, and in the other ways He does real-time communicating with us.}



with mutual interactions between Prayer and Actions: 

possible titles -- Pray as God Guides You  /  God will Guide You in Prayer

this is a "Divine Actions + Human Actions" for cooperation between you and God, re: your Strategies for Praying, applied to your habits of praying, spiritual disciplines, etc;

I'll briefly summarize here, and will link to my asa3.org...prayer.htm for more

Golden Rule with Empathy.


you can focus your prayers on Bible verses, passages, chapters, books (as in prayers of Paul above)

pray in quiet (e.g. quiet times with Bible reading, prayer, etc) (leader of UW InterVarsity group in Seattle, once each week, would go through a big list of who/what to pray for, in addition to his daily times) or in middle of daily activities, or short interlude during activities [connect this with "Pray for Everything" above];  maybe long in morning for preview, or evening for review, or both;  brief prayers ("Holy Spirit 30" = "HS30" pray for 30 seconds, by Ken/Brian Slezak);  improvised praying, with duet (you + God) cooperating to make it better during prayer and afterward;  or with groups, God + you + one or more other people;  connect this with page-ending section on Abiding with Christ through Holy Spirit.  /  God will guide you in how to pray – who to pray for, what activities (by self or others) to pray for, what to ask for, whether to ask/think/talk or simply listen, for how long and in what ways, and so on. / pray for compassion, wisdom, courage, strength, patience,... [use Gal 5:22 list, fruits of Spirit]


pray for other people, either silently (so they don't know they're being prayed for) or (with their permission, in their presence) aloud.


the bigger prayer-page where topics are examined more deeply, and I'll find links to useful pages written by other authors;



Nov 5 -- communion (1, love God), potluck (2, love people, deeper than just shake hands)

Lord's Supper [thankful for the most wonderful thing Jesus did for us, and is doing for us -- God (3 in 1, F S HS) made a plan, decided to send Son to earth as a human to live with us, and eventually to die for us, to be our substitute and accept the penalty of death we have earned by our sins, so ], Our Potluck Lunch --



Relevant Empathy:  You can never fully understand another person.  Usually your main goal is relevant empathy, by trying to understand what is most important for a particular situation.  If you're designing a product, for example, you'll want to understand the thinking & feeling, the needing and wanting, of people who would use (or might buy) the product, in the context of their using (or buying) the product.  Or, for a relationship-situation, usually you focus on understanding what is most relevant in the context of this situation.


Empathy for Solution-Producers:  You want to develop empathy for solution-users (those you are serving), as described above.  And when you're co-designing as part of a group, you'll want collaborative empathy for the other solution-producers in your team of designers, to make your process of cooperative problem-solving more enjoyable and productive.

Empathy for Teamwork:  Encouraging empathy in a group can help develop a cooperative community for creative collaboration in many contexts, including schools where better educational teamwork (by everyone involved in education) will increase positives (in learning, performing, enjoying) and decrease negatives (like jealous attitudes & bullying behaviors).   {building empathy-ecology in a classroom}


Empathy is useful whenever you want to solve a problem by “making it better” with a traditional design project (above) or a relational design project (below).  Empathy will help you produce a better solution (for your solution-users) and a better process (if you're working in a team of solution-producers).  At the beginning of a problem-solving project, when you Define a Problem (by Defining Your Objective & Defining Your Goals), usually you want to ask “What do they want?” (using empathy to understand others) and (using self-empathy to understand yourself) “What do I want?” and (to define your goal as a win-win result) “What do we want?”



Empathy in Relationships

External and Internal:  You can improve your relationships in all areas of life by improving your external and internal understandings.  You'll want to combine better externally-oriented empathetic thinking (to develop empathy based on external observations, trying to understand what others are thinking & feeling) with better internally-oriented metacognitive thinking (to develop self-empathy based on internal observations, trying to understand what you are thinking & feeling).


Empathy plus Kindness:  Thinking with empathy is especially valuable when it's combined with kindness-and-caring in thinking & actions, when an attitude of caring for others (in thinking) leads to caring for others (in actions).  When actions are motivated by kindness, by genuinely caring for others, this helps minimize uses of empathetic thinking as a tool for manipulating others in harmful ways, which can occur when empathy (a useful skill) is not accompanied by kindness (an essential aspect of good character).

Kindness in Action:  All of us would have better lives...   if all of us were motivated by a goal of wanting to “make life better” for other people;  if our empathic concerns were frequently actualized with kindness in our thinking-and-actions;  if we always wanted to affect others in ways that are beneficial for them, to help "make it better" for them.

Beneficial Effects:  An imaginatively creative illustration of helping others is my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  I like it partly for its artistry (in plot, dialogue, acting, photography) but mainly for the message:  each of us affects other people – as dramatized in the end-of-movie comparison of lives with & without George Bailey – and our own life is better when we affect others in ways that make their lives better, that help them achieve worthy goals in life.  We can help others enjoy what they do, and (when they “pass it on”) do more actions that benefit others, and more fully develop their whole-person potentials.

Helping Others achieve Their Goals:  For understanding how we can be more beneficial by helping others "more fully develop their whole-person potentials," a useful perspective is the Michelangelo Phenomenon, a concept developed by social psychologists, with my sister, Caryl Rusbult as one of its pioneers and main developers.  As described in a review article by Rusbult, Finkel, & Kumashiro: "close partners sculpt one another's selves, shaping one another's skills and traits and promoting versus inhibiting one another's goal pursuits... of attaining his or her ideal-self goals."  When feedback helps another person improve, it's formative feedback that helps them “form themselves” into a better person.   Of course, a beneficial shaping-influence can come from a "close partner" and also others, including friends and family, fellow students & team members & co-workers, and teachers & coaches & supervisors.


I strongly recommend that you click the links with green backgrounds.  This links takes you to...

• the end of a section about Empathy for Design Projects — when your goal is to solve a problem by "making it better" in some area of life, for you and/or for others — in paragraphs about Empathy for Solution-Users (to help you "make it better" for them) and (with Empathy for Teamwork) the Solution-Producers on your team.

• a transitional paragraph describing how you can use empathy for a traditional Design Project (above) and (below) a relational Design Project. 

• Empathy in Relationships:  External and Internal (connections between empathy to understand other people, and metacognitive self-empathy to understand yourself), Empathy plus Kindness (combining a valuable skill and an essential aspect of good character),

Kindness in Action (when you are motivated by a goal of wanting to “make life better” for other people, and covert your goals into beneficial actions) to produce

Beneficial Effects (illustrated by my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life, showing how each of us affects other people – as dramatized in the end-of-movie comparison of lives with & without George Bailey – and our own life is better when we affect others in ways that make their lives better, that help them achieve worthy goals in life.  We can help others enjoy what they do, and (when they “pass it on”) do more actions that benefit others, and more fully develop their whole-person potentials.

Helping Others achieve Their Goals (by helping them more fully develop their whole-person potentials and achieve their goals in life, as in the Michelangelo Phenomenon, a perspective my sister, Caryl Rusbult helped develop)

.  As described in a review article by Rusbult, Finkel, & Kumashiro: "close partners sculpt one another's selves, shaping one another's skills and traits and promoting versus inhibiting one another's goal pursuits... of attaining his or her ideal-self goals."  When feedback helps another person improve, it's formative feedback that helps them “form themselves” into a better person.   Of course, a beneficial shaping-influence can come from a "close partner" and also others, including friends and family, fellow students & team members & co-workers, and teachers & coaches & supervisors.

Goals for Relationships (by helping students improve personally useful ideas & skills and more in their whole lives as whole people.  Our educational goals can include the important life-skill of building better relationships, with empathy & kindness and in other ways.

Golden Rule with Empathy:  For building mutually beneficial relationships, one useful principle-for-life is a Golden Rule with Empathy that combines kindness with empathy, by treating others in ways THEY want to be treated, which may differ from what you would want.*  Treating others this way will be beneficial for them, and also for you (especially in the long run), in a wide variety of situations.   /   But it doesn't really differ, if we look more deeply.  Why?  You want others to empathetically understand you, and then treat you the way you want to be treated.  Other people also want this, so each of us should Seek First to Understand (with Habit 5 in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and then use a Golden Rule, e.g. "Do for others what you want them to do for you."

Empathy for Society:  IOU - Soon, maybe in April 2018, I will write this paragraph, with ideas from/about John Rawls - imagine you are part of a group in Original Position (with Veil of Ignorance, before you're born) that is designing a society that is optimal for all (and you are self-interested in "all" because you don't know "who you will be" when you are born, re: your IQ/EQ multiple intelligences, looks, race, wealth, status, location,...);  in reality, we cannot be "ignorant of our situation" now, but we can use empathy + kindness/compassion.   {article by Richard Beck, Empathy, the Veil of Ignorance, and Justice}

Clever and Kind:  Abraham Heschel wisely said, "When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people."  Teachers can help students, while they are still young, appreciate the value of being truly clever (including skills in creative-and-critical productive thinking to solve problems) and also kind.

Understanding and Respect:  One of my favorite high school teachers helped us improve our understandings with informative debates in our civics class.  After carefully studying an issue, so our understandings of different positions was more accurate and thorough, "usually we recognized that even when we have valid reasons for preferring one position [the teacher's educational goal was not postmodern relativism, it was a logically appropriate humility with confidence that is not too little and not too much], people on other sides of an issue may also have good reasons, both intellectual and ethical, for believing as they do, so we learned respectful attitudes."  This understanding and respect helped us improve our empathetic understanding.



(if a link takes you to another part of this left-side page, in the left-side frame, your browser's Back-Button will bring you back to this overview



Does praying really help you improve?

I'm claiming that God can help people think better, and He does this, especially when we pray for help.  But... is this claim supported by evidence from the Bible, or personal experience (by me or others), or scientific observations?

IOU – Soon, maybe in April 2018, this section (supplementing its introductory summary) will examine this question more deeply, but it will be shorter than it is now.  Until then, below you'll see many of the ideas — in rough-draft form, mainly just "notes to myself" for ideas to develop more coherently later — that will be used.


Biblical Evidence

In the Christian worldview I'm assuming, we believe that God can, and will, help us live more effectively — in our thinking & actions — when we pray.  (in my other page, I ask "does God also help non-Christians?")

responses to "is there evidence" can differ for different kinds of thinking:  for performing and/or learning (to think-and-do better now and, with learning, in our future), and for character vs cognitive.

biblical evidence:  The Bible clearly states that God can-and-does help us in some ways.  For example,

sometimes it seems to be mainly for learning, with long-term transformation -- as in Romans 12:1-2, for improved Christian character.

and for learning plus short-term performing -- as in John 15 (with Jesus as our vine so we can produce fruit with our thoughts-and-actions), Galatians 5:22-23 (fruits of the Spirit), and (especially for thinking now) Paul's prayers in Philippians 1 & Colossians 1, and in other passages.

God can help us improve our thinking for cognitive + affective, for intellectual + emotional.

WHY does God help us? (for what purposes?) -- for goals of God - definitely to help us help Him achieve His own goals --> to help us to LOVE God better, and LOVE people better in our thoughts-and-actions, to improve our character.

WHY does God help us? (for what purposes?) -- for goals of person - maybe also to help achieve goals of person if these also are goals of God, if human goals are aligned with His goals, with overlaps;  this leads to questions about "prosperity" claims? as in better thinking for an exam, or while writing or speaking, and so on -- basically for improved problem-solving skills in all areas of life, not just obviously "Christian" things.

We believe God can do miracles, so we should expect Him to also do lesser effects, like influencing our thinking.

The Bible describes God affecting situations — like drawing lots for seemingly random but with God controlling the outcome as in Jonah, or Acts1 — and also affecting our thinking.     (my two pages – about Using Prayer for Problem Solving – focus on cognitive effects, but also recognize the situation-effects that occur when God affects a situation in ways that go beyond our thinking-and-actions)


Here is text from the final slide (#26) in the PowerPoint Overview used for my conference talk,

WHETHER – can (does) God help us improve?

some reasons (by using prayer-ideas in this talk) to say YES:

if you pay attention to your PROCESS of Problem Solving;

if PRAYER → God does provide useful insights;

if just “pausing to relax-etc” is naturally refreshing;

if placebo effect (you expect improving, so you get it).


We should logically evaluate different kinds of evidence:  biblical, traditional, experiential, scientific.


• different kinds of evidence,

• about different kinds of WHAT-improvements
(e.g. stronger biblical claims for some [character, love] than for others)
(e.g. stronger scientific evidence for some [physical] than others [cognitive]),

• using different kinds of prayer and/or meditation,

• by people with different worldviews,

• for different ages of people (e.g. students),

• in different educational contexts (private vs public,…);  and

• a Person (God) decides His person-specific responses to prayer.


Scientific Evidence

In addition to the Biblical Evidence above, do we also have relevant observations from scientific research?

In research, our evaluations-and-conclusions would be complicated due to interactions involving several kinds of factors:

• maybe Holy Spirit really does provide "extra" spiritual help, in addition to...

• the benefits of just paying attention to Problem-Solving Process by asking "what is the best use of my time?" (to choose PS-objective) and "have I done adequate creative generation of options? and critical evaluation of options?" and "what can I learn from my experience(s) that will help me do better in the future?" and so on.*

• observations that some techniques that involve just "taking time to relax" do seem to produce benefits, as in "mindfulness" research of Richard Davidson from U of WI) — but these techniques have roots in eastern religions (Hindu, Buddhist) so when they are used in education (especially in public schools) there is controversy about "separation of church and state." due to these religious connections.

• the benefits of just expecting improved thinking, of a simple faith in whatever you're doing. (whether or not it's faith in God -- this placebo effect is a common factor-that-causes confusion in psychology research)


miscellaneous extra ideas for me to think about, and maybe use:

fields that could be affected, or used -- psychology/counseling, education, pastoral

maybe... ask God for help in learning aimed at better performing, as in mental rehearsal of physical/verbal actions, or studying with intention to remember, or helping us "think on our feet in real time" during an important meeting, etc.

transforming our attitudes -- like Inner Smile (peaceful confidence in self, God) of Verbal Aikido? (it's non-Christian, but with some useful concepts) -- or Michael Green (from Berkeley) in a Christian book, asks reader to imagine self as filled cup, and ask "when I'm jostled, what spills out?"  /  definition of Christian joy -- faith/trust in what God has done, is doing, will do (as in Philippians 4:4,6-7)


Mike Safford - Growth in Prayer



IOU – Here, in this purple IOU-box, are some IDEAS that might be used later, to Revise/Supplement this Web-Page Overview:

pr-list (overview) to avoid misunderstandings

everything - phil 4:6

paying att

link to slides in prayer.htm/ppt

ex 17:11 -- god wants us to acknowledge he is pwrfl and able/willing to influence results, honors our requests (no guarantees)

problem solving = making things better = improving

edu for life (

my time-values / do prayer

quote from balance.htm in mc-pr2 ?

put some of hum+div into yellow?

mc/slide19 some into yelo?

HOW - options for prayer

+ Steve Gregg -- old and new, with quotes and links

faith -- ask in faith for self + others

{for example, a link to "2slides(09-10)" will open the PowerPoint Outline in its own new window, so [to prevent having too many windows open] you can close it after each new link-opening}

{ppslide} {slide} {2slides} {2ppslides}



(for each person list for self [detls] and for others -- bible [@ my list, M12,E17]

@ my experience-page, with categs [internal with thoughts/timings, external with bikes-etc]


and here is a "cut" (made after the conference because it then was non-useful) from my talk-page:  If you will be at the conference, I encourage you to study the Detailed Outline(s) before January 27.  Why?  Because your pre-studying will help you get more out of my talk if you decide to participate in it, and we can have a better discussion about the ideas – mine and yours – informally between the sessions.


IOU – Last week was unexpectedly busy, so I didn't have time to revise this overview in the ways I want, using ideas that were stimulated during my writing of a 1-Page Overview for my “church testimonial” on May 20.  But late tomorrow night (May 21) it will be better.  Most of the overview will remain similar to what's here now, but there will be some changes to improve it.


May 20 - things to do:

[mc-pr] process of prayer,


[travel] Boston Sports Museum,





If you want to discuss any of these ideas,
you can contact me, <crusbult@wisc.edu> ;
Craig Rusbult, Ph.D. - my life on a road less traveled
Page-URL is https://educationforproblemsolving.net/design-thinking/mc-pr2.htm
Copyright © 1978-2019 by Craig Rusbult.  All Rights Reserved.
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