Some thoughts on prayer…

Dec 2, 2010 by

I was a member of an organized religion for over 30 years of my life.  In that church we were taught very specifically how to pray, what words to use, what order to pray in, and very importantly, to use the “formal” pronouns of Thee and Thy.  There were also requirements about kneeling, bowing your head and folding your arms.

Because I was an over-achiever in every area of my life, especially religion, I was a good pray-er.  I could rattle off the correct words and phrases and sound uber eloquent.  But personally, prayer was an extremely important part of my life.  I could talk to God, and I could get answers.  Unfortunately, sometimes my answers didn’t make that church too happy.  :)

When the church and I went our separate ways a little over three years ago, I was suddenly faced with the dillema of how to pray.  I mean, I really got it that God doesn’t care how you pray.  There are no requirements for verbiage, order of requests, or closing the prayer in a specific way.  But that left me trying to reinvent how to pray in a way that worked for me.

It has been a long journey over the last three years, and I am assuming I will continue to shift my way of praying depending upon my needs and my “head space” of the moment.

Natives American pray with their prayer pipes.  Praying with a pipe involves ritual, the pipe is loaded very specifically and with great respect. The pipe carrier prays as the pipe is lit and the entire bowl is smoked as the person prays.  The prayers are believed to be carried to Creator by the smoke.  It is a beautiful, quiet, sacred experience to observe someone praying with a pipe.

Many people across the world pray with repeated prayers.  I had been taught in my previous religious training that repeated prayers could be considered “vain repetitions” and were to be avoided (although interestingly enough, that church also had repeated prayers for certain ceremonies).  But I’ve always been fascinated with repeated prayers.  Maybe it was all the “Ave Marias” I sang in choirs, but there was something delicious about it.

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a man I consider to be very spiritual.  He is a practicing Catholic, although I doubt a very “traditional” one.  I asked him specifically how he prayed, and how he used the repeated prayers of  the rosary.  At the time, I found his answer interesting, but I couldn’t really wrap my head around in. However, today, I am beginning to understand.

He told me that the repeated prayers were like a mantra.  His mind and body were so conditioned to those repeated phrases, that he would immediately go into “prayer mode”.  His body would relax, his mind would quiet, and he felt the deep connection between him and God.  After he got to that place, he would begin his prayer.  Then, after he had unburdened his heart, he would do a short ritual at the end.

The ritual involved the breath.  He said, “I breathe in Jesus, and then I breathe out Jesus to the world.  My breath represents all the love, gratitude, and light that the Christ carries for us all.  I am then filled with Jesus, and I know I have sent that energy into the world.”

So, fast forward to about a month ago.  My sister and I are talking about her upcoming meditation retreat at Spirit Rock, in Northern California.  She explains to me that this meditation is for “Metta”, which means loving-kindness.  ”Metta involves meditating and repeating prayers for yourself, for your loved ones, for your enemies, and the world in general,” she explained.

That was intriguing to me.  If you remember my foray into silent meditation when you just focus on your breath, you know that I struggled to just sit for 5 minutes, much less being able to quiet my mind and focus on my breath.

But last weekend, my sister called me after the retreat.  We spoke for about 2 hours.  I hung on her every word.  She explained to me the life-changing experience of sending love to yourself and to others.  The unraveling of layers and layers of ego-imposed issues, and the opening of the heart to truly love all people blew her mind.

So, after our conversation last Saturday, I started thinking.

What if I could either find or write a prayer that I could repeat that would put me into a quiet, prayer-like state?  What if I could start to employ the concepts of Metta and repeated prayers to connect to God/Creator and my higher self?

I wrote the prayer and I wrote the Metta phrases that resonated with me (I confess to stealing some of my sister’s phrases, because they were just so darned good!).  I even went so far as to find a bracelet I had made with a certain number of beads so I could pray with the “prayer beads” (I’m still undecided about that part, as it really doesn’t fit with Metta… however, I never do anything the normal way)

The first time I prayed, repeating the phrases I (finally) memorized, I truly had a great experience.  As I prayed for myself and for others, my heart was stretched open in love.  I really did find a connection with Source quickly, and deeply.

This is the prayer I wrote, which I repeat over and over until I feel connected. (These are not my Metta phrases)

“Thank you, Mother, Father, for your grace and guidance.

Thank you for family and friends, health and safety.

Thank you for the ever-present abundance

that is reflected in each moment of my life.

May all living beings have peace and safety, health and well-being,

May all their needs be met, and may their hearts be filled with love.”

I know that at any time during the day or night, when I feel the need to connect with Source, I just have to repeat these words in my head a few times, and the energy shifts.  Whether you call this a prayer or a mantra, the result it the same.  It transports me to a place of peace, utterly in the present, and it calms my soul.

Prayer is a deeply personal experience.  No one should tell you how to pray, because it is your communion with Source.  Find the ways that express your light, your love, and your heart, without fear that you will offend God.  For all that God asks is that you are sincere and honest, and that you express the feelings and desires of your heart.

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  1. I have read that a “pipe carrier” is the one in charge of the prayer pipe but let us suppose that someone who is not a pipe carrier is all alone could he or she pray with the prayer pipe even though they are not a pipe carrier if this person was very reverent and very respectful?

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