Understanding Upholding

A while ago, a course participant asked about ‘upholding’ – in the dictionary, it means to confirm, support, or maintain, but among Quakers is often used in a spiritual sense. Sometimes upholding in this sense is very informal, private, invisible; sometimes it’s made visible by focus, as someone holds themself out of discussion or activities in order to give their full attention to upholding the group; sometimes almost everyone present is involved, as when those participating in a meeting for worship for business uphold their clerk.

At the time when the question was asked, I wrote this journal entry as an attempt at an answer.

What does it mean to uphold people? To pray for them – but what is that? To hold them in the Light – perhaps by visualising, or feeling warmth, or connectedness. To love them. To be patient and trust their their connection with the Spirit will work, so I need do nothing, just be there. To have faith in them. To have faith in God. To have faith in them and God together so that they will find their own way to the Source from which I drink.

2 responses to “Understanding Upholding

  1. Yes, and people also need to know they are being prayed for. This has a very good psychological (and sometimes positive physical) outcome. When someone asks for prayers I also get others to pray for that person/group. I always ask the Pendle Hill community, and always inform them of the results of the prayer(s). But prayer is useless without a God who is personal and out there. I know this is not in vogue among Friends at the moment, in fact many think such an idea is a ‘notion’, vague, naive, misguided, even irresponsible. If so, I’m all of these. It’s certainly very childish. And I love that about prayer.

  2. Oh yes, I forgot to say that prayer can also be seen/experienced as ‘tuning in’ to the Presence of Love, aligning oneself with the flow of the Presence. One’s faithfulness is an assent to something great, transcendent, than oneself–a transcendence that is ‘knowing’ and always loving; such a presence can do nothing other than love–‘Gd is not ‘almighty’ in the traditional sense but only in the omnipresence of Love. I find the work of Michael Polanyi very helpful here, but of course many others, and you may find my books “What Love Can Do” and “Stillness” quite helpful–I wrote them for Friends.

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