These paragraphs are excerpted with some revisions from our book There Is A Way.
On hearing the words Let us pray commanded from a high pulpit, each of us dutifully kneels, bows our head, and … what? What is it we think we are doing in prayer?
Clearly, prayer is an essential link between this world and all that is not of this world, between ourselves and whatever it is we really are, between ourselves and God.
But prayer is more than just a direct line to God to call His attention to our perceived problems and to thank Him for their relief. After all, from God’s point of view, none of that is necessary. God is no doubt Omniscient, and as such, knows our needs before and better than we do. And certainly He does not depend on us for an evaluation of His performance.
Perhaps prayer is better understood as a recognition on our part that there is a Source beyond us which is not of this world but on which we are dependent for everything, and from which everything comes. Even more, prayer is the deliberate, considered decision to put into action that recognition.
Thus, it is in prayer that we acknowledge the limitations of the physical, the enormity of the spiritual, and behave accordingly. In prayer, we acknowledge What Is.
Prayer, then, is not just the words we utter to God while on our knees. Truly effective prayer is more about the way we speak to God, and why.
From God’s point of view, our most effective prayer may very well be not what we say to Him at all, but what we say to everyone else, and how. That is, as God sees it, perhaps our truest prayer is most clearly reflected in the way we live our lives.
Seen that way, prayer is an affirmation to God, reflected in our every breath, that we are seekers, straining to overcome the obstacles and temptations of the separative ego and to reach the high ground of Sight.
In a word, prayer is itself a spiritual path or a way.
Someone once observed that along the way we should strive to learn to want from life exactly what comes from it. Not wish for more of this or a happier that, but rather realize that our circumstances as they are at this moment represent just what we need in order to accomplish some special aspect of our own growth. Perceived thusly, we recognize our lives as a curriculum, designed by the Teacher, specifically for us as seekers. Just so, we say, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow”. But perhaps we would do better to restate that, “Praise God from Whom all flows, and all that flows is blessing”. Imagine if we could live with that sentiment as our cornerstone, welcoming every experience, even those we find distasteful, confident that within them lies a lesson for us, some guidance over an obstacle in our way.
To be sure, our minds, like their computer offspring, are linear, and can accommodate only one thought at a time. It is difficult for us to tend, for example, to our daily chores, and at the same time to have in mind an awareness that everything we do, however menial or passing it may seem, bears directly on our progress along the way, and simultaneously to remember that all our actions and all our reactions, whatever their nature, are being constantly communicated directly to God, Who perceives them as reflections of us.
And so, naturally, we set aside times and establish exercises which will ensure that at least during certain prescribed periods we will seek that awareness and perform that remembrance. At first, these intervals may be simply a few moments once a week, when we withdraw our energies from all else, and focus our attention within, thanking God for ourselves and our lives. Over time, we will increase the frequency and length of these periods. And, of course, our methods will vary from person to person and even from day to day. But whatever we do, and however we do it, these private moments between ourselves and God are prayer. And the more we take a prayerful approach to our lives, to everyone and everything in our lives, the more powerful and meaningful our prayer becomes.
Until finally, we discover that living and prayer are one and the same activity, that prayer is a way of life, a way of living, and that life itself is communion.
Let us pray. Constantly.
Lord, teach us to pray.
Call upon Me, and I will answer you.
Koran XL 61
Surely we may with reverence say that,
in a true and deep sense,
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