I think that God gave us intelligence & creativity to apply to our life experiences, & we should use them to the fullest. That does not mean we don't need prayer. I think that in any serious attempt to live a spiritual life, prayer is an essential component. The main functions of prayer, it seems to me, are:
- To open ourselves to God's presence, to commune with God.
- To open ourselves to God's guidance to know how to apply our intelligence & creativity.
- To ask for help when we have done all that seems humanly possible.
- To keep current & open the lines of communication between us.
- In times of trouble, to be comforted & encouraged.
- In times of joy, to give thanks & praise.
- And, always to move us into closer relationship to God. We cannot inform the Infinite. We cannot make a deal. We do not move God, we move ourselves.
There are many ways to pray.
- Some people simply read prayers written by others. To me, this is only partially satisfying. I think it can be instructive as to how to pray, can be inspiring & can be comforting, but reading someone's prayer can only take me so far.
- There are quick prayers for sudden moments such as, help, show me the way, lead me. These prayers can quickly move us out of the mire & turn our direction to a more positive place where we can then say a more complete prayer.
- There are deeply felt & spoken &/or written personal prayers of various lengths.
- There is contemplative/centering prayer where we become still so that we can be with God, hearing the wee small voice. This is a sort of meditation practice, in the Christian tradition.
- There are others, I know, but for today I'd like to say these are the most common.
I'd like to write about #3 for a moment. Probably the biggest prayer step I made was to learn Affirmative Prayer & then adapt it in various ways to be a part of my personal practices. So, let me share a bit of this process, based basically on the Lord's Prayer.
- Recognize God - "Our Father who art in heaven." Just as we recognize friends when we see them, we start by recognizing God. We say things we know regarding God, either about or to God.
- Unify with God - We remember that because God is our "Father," we are God's child, precious & at one. We say things that help us remember "My Father & I are one."
- Realize the spiritual Truth - Jesus told us to not judge by appearances, but judge righteous judgment. Looking beyond that which is facing us, what is the spiritual Truth?
- Silence - Be still & know. Listen. Stop the clattering mind. Allow yourself to be with God.
- Give thanks - Allow the thanksgiving within to well up & express how joyous you are to know Oneness & know your prayer is heard.
- Let go & let God - Take a breath, let go so that God can work in our lives. Thy will be done.
This prayer can be said in at least 2 kinds of ways:
- Impersonal: I know there is a God, present everywhere there is to be, including right here, right now. I open myself right now to God's guidance in this situation in my life. (silence....) I am thankful to know that this prayer has been heard & is in the process of being answered. I release this prayer, knowing something amazing is unfolding. May God's will prevail. I seal this with the ancient seal of faith as I say, Amen, Amen & Amen.
- Personal: God, I know You are here, & I know that You are always present everywhere. I cannot go beyond Your care. I need Your guidance today in my life. I do not seem to know what to do, but I know You do. Dear God, I listen (silence.....) Thank You, God, for hearing my prayer & lifting me with Your guidance. I am at peace as I let go & welcome Your perfect work in my life. Your will be done. I seal this prayer with the ancient seal of faith as I say, Amen, Amen & Amen.
Try saying/writing your own prayer. They can be any length, short as the examples above, or pages long. They need to be as long as necessary to shift your awareness & lift you to Truth. We can change our lives by enriching our prayer lives. I know this to be absolutely the Truth.