It may also be renting a room inside our mind.
I remember once a scientist friend telling me he was concerned that my spiritual practise might be catching me up in an illusory world. What if your reliance on an unseen Presence turns out to be a mistake? he asked. What if you are living in some improbable fantasy? What if it turns out you are simply a fool?
He's not alone in his doubts: millions of minds hold similar questions about the authenticity of Spirit; and the efficacy of prayer and meditation. Their concerns all boil down to one question: what if The Presence is not real?
And of course, from the viewpoint of a small self trapped in a material dimension, their question has validity. In a world ruled solely by ego, there is no Presence. There is only separation, suffering, isolation. You don't think our temporal world is driven by suffering? Read the newspapers.
So if the ego were all there is, we would indeed be confined to living briefly in a world of separation. And man's inhumanity to man would be justified. "Life is hard and then you die." as the bumper stickers cheerfully report.
But is the ego world all there is? Not to those who have glimpsed a Further Horizon. Ask anyone who has experienced an answered prayer, a shock of Light, a sudden healing, an invisible Hand on their shoulder. They will look straight at you without hesitation and say: The Truth is True.
Then how do we reconcile these two disparate visions of reality?
"Living between two worlds" is what the mystics call it. There is the apparent material world, the one which we all acknowledge and affirm and walk around in. And then there is the luminous, invisible world that lies beyond it -- the world ruled by "the still, small voice of God." Those who have caught the faint perfume of this unseen Reality do what any sensible seeker must do: learn how to dance between both worlds.
Learning the dance is a little like taking one of those optical illusion tests. You are shown a design and asked what you see. Initially, all you notice is the outline of a vase. Then you are asked to look again, look deeper. You stare at the design for a while, and stare at it, and stare at it. All of a sudden another picture appears: two faces looking into each other's eyes. Ah! you say. Some trick of the retina prevented you from spotting it right away. It's understandable-- when we focus on one image our mind tends to hold that picture firmly in place. But once our eye recognizes another image embedded in that same graphic, we can never "not see it" again. It's there, and that's that.
But there's more. Because it's not just a matter of two disparate worlds at odds with each other and vying for our allegiance. Those who have spent serious time in the Silence come away certain that the world of Spirit is the one that is Real. The one that is causative. The one that is timeless. The one that is not bio-degradable. The one that has power.
They become certain that The Truth is True.
Ramakrishna once said, "There is only one element that all human beings have in common. It is hidden deep in their heart - so many are not aware of it. But it is there. That one element is the yearning to unite with God."
So remember this: when you close your eyes and pray for someone; when you wrap a blanket of Light around a dear one and ask for the Presence to protect and bless and guide him into perfect happiness -- your silent effort is more Real, more Here, more Now, more Heard than you can possibly imagine. Will the person consciously know you are surrounding their being in Light? Probably not. Will the person feel it in the depths of his or her soul? Unquestionably.
Does prayer make a difference? Can The Presence move mountains? Is Spirit real?
It's the only Real thing we've got.