Prayer is our connection to God. Prayer is an inner movement of the soul, the spirit of God within, which reaches “outward” beyond ourselves. The “outward” movement does not mean out into the heavens, the skies above, though it can, but a movement which yearns to meet the Divine Face to Face. This means ‘anywhere’ in any time or space. Prayer is experiencing an intimacy with the Holy One, the Unified Force of Creation and Love. Prayer offers creativity to the mind and heart.
There are many methods or paths of prayer, and each can link us to the Holy One.
These methods or paths may include Centering Prayer, Body Prayer, Breath Prayer, Lectio Divina, music and dance, praying with Icons, Confessional prayer, waling prayer, prayer of Examen, praying for health and happiness for others and fasting.
In prayer guides us to realize that there is ‘something beyond us’. Prayer at its best, with sincere and honest intention holds us in a place and time in which we enter into sanctuary. Prayer can guide us to meet our day and nights in hope and reverence. Prayer can lead us into a state whereby we may meet God face to face.
When we pray alone, we can be brutally honest with ourselves as there is only the Holy One, God who may ‘sense’ or ‘hear’ us. But we hear ourselves. When we hear ourselves in prayer, we cannot take our words back. Our cries for help and our words of gratitude are ‘out there’.
In prayer, we can use a hushed voice, a loud voice or simply sit or walk in silence. We can use physical movement as a prayer such as walking or dancing. Sitting quietly with the intention of coming close to the Holy One can be beautiful and hushed and frustrating and irreverent. It can be heartbreaking when we feel or sense that we have not visited the ‘beyond’ at that moment in time and space.
When we pray alone with honest intention, patience, and slowness we can sense moments of sheer joy, of an indescribable depth of the soul which contain no words, only images in our minds and hearts. We can cry, we can laugh and then it is all gone once again. But we yearn for a moment like that again. We may live for those moments. But, the downside of living only for those moments takes us away from Life, in all its totality. This is the Creation which God has gifted us with. We are meant to be in the world and also not of it! Prayer prepares us for Life.
When we pray, we may experience a restlessness. The mind jumps from one thought to another, disrupting perhaps the movement of the spirit. Do not fear! That is simply human nature and is expected. Simply and slowly return to the pray and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer with others, in spiritual fellowship can be full of meaning and a feleing of great companionship and sharing in the Spirit. Our whole bodies can ‘quake’. We have no control how this occurs. Prayer with others can illumine our hearts and souls. It is as though we might climb a mountain, uncover all the beauty and accompany by our soul friends. A mountain top experience.
Prayer comes to us with all our senses beating. Music moves us, taste brings a memory of being touched by the Divine or human relationships. Trees and leaves, sky and seas, rivers and lakes can offer us a vision of ‘heaven on earth’. We are filled with an energy that is boundless, eternal. Time standstill.
Prayer connects us to God and to people, to the earth and to all of creation from the smallest element to the largest element. Prayer can take us inward and outward. In prayer we might view the invisible and the visible. Something beyond us. Something out of time and space.
Prayer can mislead us if we have expectations of receiving an A on the exam or needing good weather for our picnic, or wanting our team to win the game or our marriage fails. We view God as a person or entity that favors us over others of something else.
Prayer feeds us so that we might live. Live with wholeness of body, mind and soul. Prayer prepares us for life. A life in which we actively and with heartfelt ways announce to the community and the world that life is sacred. Prayer demands our inner attention to the point of joyful exhaustion.
When prayer becomes a daily practice, all that we do and say, and see and hear becomes a prayer. A prayer of thanksgiving. A prayer of sadness. A prayer of encouragement. A blessing. Prayer brings grace. Prayer can bring you beyond doctrine and dogma to Oneness. Prayer can bring stillness to life.
Prayer prepares us to join in the work of justice. Prayer prepares us to become a part of the work of promoting life-giving activities to the community. Life-giving means that we honor life, we hold life dear to the heart, that our thoughts and actions embrace the sanctity of Life and the Life to come. It means to treat the earth with love because love gave earth its birth. Life-giving means that we act in ways where loving-kindness shines in the hearts and the behaviors of all persons.
Prayer transforms us. Prayer is like a small candle flame that illumines not only the space around it, but gives birth to Light in each person who sees and feels the warmth of the flame. Prayer is contagious.
Prayer beckons us. Prayer calls us. Prayer is demanding.
There are many valuable books on prayer. I offer some resources for prayer which I have found instructive. These include Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God by Patricia D. Brown; Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life by Marjorie J. Thompson; Prayer and the Common Life by Georgia Harkness; The Path of Blessing: Experiencing the Energy and Abundance of the Divine by Rabbi Marcia Prager; Going Inside: Learning to Teach Contemplative Prayer to the Imprisoned by Ray Leonardini Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer by Father Thomas Keating, and The Energy of Prayer: How to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice by Thich Nhat Hanh.