When St. Theresa of Avila was asked how she prays, she answered: “I just allow myself to be loved.”
I was inspired by Revolution of the Soul by Seane Corn. She was told to pray and found that she no longer knew how. She was disheartened by the faith of her youth and found that it felt alien and disconnecting. Yes, she was told to pray. She went to her yoga practice and offered her practice to those in need. She prayed with her body, what she knew and was familiar with, to bring a prayerful attitude to her thoughts.
It made me wonder: how do we pray? Maybe we don’t. Maybe we pray but don’t call it prayer.
Maybe you pray each night before bed. Thanking God for a good day, asking God for blessings and strength, acknowledging gratitude for family, health, and wealth.
Maybe you pray each morning, asking God for a good, safe day. A day filled with love and kindness. The courage to walk through the day as Jesus might.
Maybe you bookend the day. Night in gratitude. Mornings in hope and intention.
Maybe you pray before each meal. Thanking God for a healthy meal and a gathering of loved ones and those absent. Maybe you pray and eat in silence.
Maybe you pray as Jesus taught us. Our Father who art in Heaven…
Maybe you need sacred space to feel close to God and you pray in the church. Maybe you need a sacred setting for it to feel real. Maybe you need a token to see or touch, a hanging cross, a cross around your neck, a saint in your garden.
Maybe you walk in prayer. A daily walk of contemplation or time in the woods with yourself, nature, and God around you.
Maybe you find God in poetry. A book. The Book.
Maybe you pray through meditation. Seeking answers and clarity in a silence where God’s voice can be heard.
Maybe your prayer is body based. A prayer of healing and connecting to ourselves and the divinity within.
Maybe you don’t pray. Maybe you miss prayer or would like to pray. Maybe prayer isn’t your thing. Maybe you don’t know how or don’t understand it. Maybe you used to, but not anymore.
Maybe as I mention each of these, you’re feeling “guilt” or “that’s not me” or something else. Maybe you feel guilty because you’re doing it “wrong” or only praying “when things go bad”.
But what is prayer? What is prayer? Is it possible to “do it wrong”? Prayer is energy. Prayer is connecting to a higher vibration. Prayer is connecting to God. Prayer is connecting.
The Ego (our desire to be something) and the physical world (the desire to have things) disconnect us. They connect us to things that don’t exist: a self that is perfect (that’s Ego) and stuff that doesn’t matter…or enough (there is never enough…reach “enough” and there’s always more).
Prayer reconnects us to what matters. Universal connectivity. To something bigger. Divinity. Each other. One another on a deep level. God.
Prayer helps us to acknowledge what it is we truly want. (I told the kids to think of one thing…one thing…what is that one thing that you want bad enough to ask for God tonight?). It brings clarity and wisdom. (and, yes, our childlike side may ask for something superficial or so ‘perfect’ it’s not real…prayer helps us grow and find: what is it that we truly want?). Allow what you want to evolve. And trust me on this: laugh if what you want tonight is a cookie. God knows. Your heart knows. It’ll come…maybe not tonight. Allow for lightness.
Prayer gives us a way to offer back. When we pray for others, it is because we are in a place that we have abundance enough to offer back and connect.
Prayer connects. Even the lately judged: “our thoughts and prayers are with you.” It is a way to connect, and feel empathy, when there is little else that we can do. Truth, of course, truth. Thoughts and prayers are good…and…action when possible.
Prayer in action. Sometimes we pray in unusual ways. We’re not folding our hands and kneeling beside our bed or before a cross, but it is a prayer all the same. I would argue that doing good work in the world for the good of all is a living prayer.
I would argue that we cultivate a living prayer when we do the work to become the best version of ourselves so that we can spread goodness from within. A quote from Seane Corn (yoga teacher): “we change the system by changing the people who keep it alive; beginning with ourselves.” A wise teacher of mine recently said that: Spirituality is Psychology. Self care is not selfish. It is growth. Growth teaches us and then we can teach others from a clear heart and mind.
We live prayer when we see God in all aspects of our lives and appreciate those magical moments of divinity in the details. Divinity in others. Everyone. Especially in those people we find it the hardest (or near impossible) to find divinity in. Divinity in moments. Divinity in the junk.
Even when we “only” pray when things are painful…that’s OK. Pain is soul work. The soul needs adventure and challenge and experiences to grow. Who better to ask for support during painful experiences that grow the soul than God?
Prayer is connecting with full attention. God is Truth. What does that mean? Prayer helps us find it.
To do so, we must look within first. What is our truth? Can we be honest to ourselves? Where is our disharmony? And where does our disharmony contribute to disharmony of others?
The practice is personal prayer/mindfulness. What does truth mean to you? Listen to God’s quiet voice within. Know what you are doing and how you are serving. How you are cultivating harmony within and without. Surrender to doing good. Connect with the God within to connect with the God without. Pray. Listen to answers. Slow down. Listen to answers.
Find the agape: “The love of God operating in the human heart.” A life where it is impossible to separate the life from the prayer.