Apparently, everyone is googling prayer right now. Given the unprecedented crisis we are in, it’s not surprising there has been a sudden interest.
What really is prayer?
Prayer is and has been, a unique human behaviour throughout time. Historically we have been taught to pray to a God. To a being or force outside ourselves. To something higher. Someone in control.
To pray has been and is, a part of cultures and religions ancient and current. Traditionally it is an act of kneeling, of bowing down, and calling upon a divine intelligence or creative powers. It has been a deep source of succour. Both humbling and awe inspiring, it enables the individual to lay down the ego and look up to a greater ‘Self’.
I remember as a child, when I first encountered prayer, feeling an immediate and intuitive sense of reverence. It was sacred. Both visceral and ethereal. I experienced a deep synergy: a communion between myself (the body, mind) my being (timeless consciousness), all beings and the infinite (creation, source). I didn’t see these things as separate. I felt them to be the same being expressing itself – in communion. In fact, somehow, I felt prayer was already a natural part of me.
However, it wasn’t long before I began to feel conflicted. When I learned prayer was associated with the notion of sin and the call for forgiveness from ‘God’ – an almighty being who was always watching and who had already deemed all humans to be stained – my praying somehow felt tainted, diminished. It was as if the request was to put my awareness outside myself, somewhere separate. Or that perhaps we should pray because we are wrong, unworthy and incapable. How many of us have felt these same conflictions? And yet, so many of us experience something indescribably sacred through prayer.
My own experience of prayer was both transcendent and inherent– something that ‘I’ have always been. A communion between the seen and unseen realms, of the one infinite being. I felt we, all beings, to be the same in essence – whole, perfect expressions of creation. Yet, the dominant form of prayer I saw in Church seemed to be one based in fear and need. A reach for something outside ourselves. Of course, there are many expressions of prayer – from despair to hope and entreaty to exaltation. But there is also a common thread. Underlying all these expressions is a deep quest to restore meaning and arrive at understanding – something we are all searching for.
The very fact we have limited understanding of ourselves and our existence is perhaps the greatest impetus for prayerful actions. We are but travellers in a vast cosmos, traversing the unknown, making only very small parts of it known for but fleeting moments. And even this, we know to be an illusion. Yes, creation is a mystery. It is this factor the human mind struggles with most. For what we do not know, we fear. We seek to understand, to find answers, and to commune with this mystery – ultimately to make the unknown known, to feel safe. We want to feel sure of our place in the universe and where we are heading.
And so, prayer seems to be something we turn to when we are afraid. Because we are unsure of the way forward. Because we seek to have our hopes restored. To regain a sense of control. But what if prayer can be an act of empowerment rather than a response to fear? Perhaps it’s not just understanding we seek to arrive at, but the resolve of conscious awareness. That which equips us to be fully present, to embrace all that is, and from this, to act, to bring our most enlightened self into the world.
Prayer in these times
It’s understandable that many people are afraid now. Our world is fraught with existential crises. Our life as we have known it has been radically disrupted, irreversibly changed. The future seems uncertain. Without a firm foundation of self-empowerment or self-awareness we can feel overwhelmed in the face of great challenge. It can be difficult to have hope, let alone believe in our own creative power, our inner compass. And so, to find strength, direction, meaning, hope or… a saviour, we turn to prayer.
At a deeper level, prayer is not about someone else, it is about our own state. Prayer is a way of returning to presence: a way of being. Being in the moment, being present, being open. It is a way of learning to be ourselves, to listen inwardly, to open our hearts and minds, to discover truth… Prayer is also a way of communing, whether that be with God – the creative force of life – our soul, or the loved ones in our lives.
Perhaps through prayer, we are seeking the divinity of our own soul; an agency of clarity, of greater consciousness, and to allow its dictate to guide us.
Whatever prayer means to you and to the many unique traditions around the world – one thing is certain, it is a timeless act, and one that defines our common desire for a sacred relationship with our self, creation and each other.
It is also certain that now more than ever, we are in great need of higher wisdom, of clarity and conscious presence. And that, having lost greater meaning, we seek to restore all that is sacred again.
The question is: does that exist somewhere outside of us? Or are we really seeking to restore faith in our own being? Perhaps we seek to salvage our sacred self. To know that we, our self, hold the infinite within. That we are a manifestation of divine intelligence, able to draw upon a limitless resource of love, compassion, truth and power. That deep inside us are the answers… That we are the one we have been seeking. We hold the keys to our future.
Through prayer we can restore sacred connection with ourselves. When we bow our head down, when we quiet the ego for a few moments, we will hear the inner voice again. When we open our hearts, our mind, we will see the sacred truth again.
So, rather than seeking something we do not have, let us use the sacred act of prayer to resurrect the power we have always carried within us.
Let us pray not for a miracle, but to recognise the miraculous power within our very self, and know, that there is great hope. Because the power we seek exists within.
A meditative Prayer
Before you pray, you might like to start with an intention or an enquiry. However, as you begin your prayer session, let those thoughts go and bring your full attention into a surrendering, open and receptive state.
Start with some deep breathing. Release the tension from your body and mind.
Slow and deepen your breathing, As each breath flows in fully and empties out fully, feel yourself centring deeper and deeper into your inner being. With each in-breath you are opening and opening, with each out-breath, you are resting deeper and deeper into your innermost essence. As you breathe in, you are welcoming God, the higher powers of creation to be with you. You are welcoming the higher consciousness of yourself. As you breathe out, you are surrendering your thoughts, you are allowing yourself to rest fully into the moment.
As this centred presence, allow yourself to be fully open, listening. Acknowledge whatever arises within you – even if it seems like it is just the voice of your own thoughts. Just listen. Be fully with yourself. Be fully with the universe. Welcome this moment fully. As you do, acknowledge yourself, acknowledge the moment, acknowledge life.
Notice that you are connected with all existence. You are a part of it, and all is connected with you. As you feel this, notice the creative forces. Creation is a perfect orchestration, and you are this too. Notice that within you is the same creative and intelligent power of wisdom, peace and love. Welcome it. Acknowledge it. Give thanks for this. Now allow yourself to just rest here – being fully present, listening for as long as you like. When you feel a natural completion, take some moments to give thanks.
You might like to spend a few moments afterwards to further reflect on what you felt, heard or experienced. It is also a good opportunity to diarise – allow your thoughts and feelings to flow spontaneously and recognise the wisdom that has arisen from within.
More wisdom from Isira at The Awakening Place
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