In Christianity, a superficial understanding of prayer is that it is a beseeching to an outside entity. This idea of prayer is so ingrained in our culture that even people who claim not to be Christian, who replace the word God with the word Universe, still beseech to an outside entity. They say things like, “I’ve asked the Universe to help me with this.”
This superficial understanding of prayer has never worked for me. I’ve always felt “victimy” praying to an outer entity, and always felt like there was something missing with those prayers. The reality is that prayer goes much deeper than simply asking a God separate from us to do something for us. The reality of prayer is that it has the power to change us from the inside out, and when we change, our world changes.
In Science of Mind, Ernest Holmes says that prayer “changes the mind of the one doing the praying.” And in the Bible, it calls us to “pray without ceasing.”
How is one to pray without ceasing? And what is the real power behind prayer? I believe that prayer is a guiding light, not something to be used when we are in need. Prayer is a way of being, not words. The traditional way of praying is a very good start. Now let’s take it a bit further.
If we are called to pray without ceasing, it means we are called to BE prayerful, 24/7. Prayer, in a deeper sense than the beseeching sense, means communion. It means connection. I’m sure you have had times in your life when you felt disconnected. Alone. Lonely. Loneliness is not about a lack of people in our lives. It is about being and feeling disconnected from that beautiful power that exists in this world, that Power that is everywhere present. The reality is we can not be disconnected from It, because It really is everywhere present. We’ve just shut ourselves off from It.
We shut ourselves off from It by judging others. We shut ourselves off from It by hatred. We shut ourselves off from It by putting up walls of defense. We shut ourselves off from It by acting in ways which run counter to our deepest beliefs and values. And when we shut ourselves off from It, It never goes away. It just affirms our way of being, because that, in essence, is what we have been praying for. It always says yes. So we judge and hate and build walls and separate ourselves further from It by separating ourselves from our fellow humans. We live in terms of us and them. And we get lonelier, and sicker, and more and more hateful and judgmental, and we wonder how God could be doing the things he is doing? And then we shut ourselves off from God even more because now we are mad at Him.
I am finding it necessary to take a deep breath now. Breathe. Breathe out that pain and misery born of ignorance, and breathe in relief, and truth, and the love of God.
Because in reality that is really what God is. It is love. That’s all. But that is quite a bit. It covers everything. In some circles there are seven qualities, or attributes, of Spirit that are mentioned. Those attributes are love, light, peace, power, joy and beauty.
I’m going to make an assumption here and assume that you believe that God is indeed everywhere present. Another way of putting it is that there is no place where God is not. No place. You are here. And if there is no place where God is not, then God is in you.
I’m going to make another assumption and assume that you believe that the qualities of God are indeed love, light, peace, power, joy and beauty.
If you believe that there is no place where God is not, and if you believe that the qualities of God are love, light, peace, power, joy and beauty, then you must also believe that YOU are made of love, light, peace, power, joy and beauty. And if you believe in what the Bible says, then you believe that the way to pray is 24/7, without ceasing.
If you believe all that, then the way to pray is to embody those qualities of love, light, peace, power, joy and beauty. All day. Every day. As best as you can. This is the mystical and very deep power of prayer. When we strive to pray like this, prayer does indeed change the mind of the one doing the praying.
In Sanskrit, prayer means seeing oneself as wonderfully made. How much more wonderful can you get than to think of yourself as the essence of love, light, peace, power, joy and beauty?
I am reminded of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. You may know it as the 11th step prayer if you are a 12 stepper. This prayer goes like this:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
The prayer begins with a beseeching to an outside entity, but then, it moves deeper. It asks for us to become peace. It asks for us to become love instead of hatred. It asks for us to forgive instead of perpetuating the offense. It asks for us to bring harmony to discord. It asks for us to speak the truth. What truth? OUR truth! This calls for an extraordinary level of self awareness, which calls for a regular practice of introspection, which is another form of prayer, and the topic of which could be another talk or blog post. Back to the prayer. This prayer calls us to replace our doubts with faith, our despair with hope. It calls for us the Be the light, shining on the darkness of hatred and judgement and bigotry and shame. It calls for us to be joyful. It calls for us to turn away from such self centered and selfish motives as wanting consolation, understanding and love and to turn towards consoling others, loving others and understanding others. And it tells us that when we do this, we find ourselves, our true selves. Thus that old self, that lonely miserable old self, dies, and we reawaken to an eternal life that is filled with so much love, light, peace, power, joy and beauty that we sometimes wonder about it. How can I, a lowly human, be filled with so much love, light, peace, power, joy and beauty?
And here’s the kicker to this prayer: it is in giving that one receives. In Science of Mind we call this the Law of Attraction. This law says that what we give, we receive. I find it somewhat ironic that we are back to where we began, beseeching to an outside entity, only now we have received that which we have asked for, because we have become that which we have asked for.
So go out into the world. BE love, light, peace, power, joy and beauty. Every time you find yourself judging, remember. Every time you find yourself separating yourself from the sunlight of the Spirit by building walls of us and them, tear down those walls. Every time you find yourself hating something or someone, replace that hatred with love. Every time you discover an example of sadness, bring some joy to it. Every time you want to participate in feeding disharmony by choosing a side, instead seek to understand. BE the voice and the example of Spirit in your every action and your every thought. Allow to die a natural death pessimism and negativity, and replace that with optimism and positive thinking.
And watch your life change, which is what a spiritual experience is all about.