But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray. (Luke 5:15-16)
Prayer as Practice
Prayer in its simplest terms is speaking to God. Prayer is also a conscious effort of will to align one’s awareness with the consciousness of God. Your own understanding of how you engage God, or interact with God, is one of the key starting points on your journey to oneness. How do we speak to someone or something that is beyond understanding? We begin with small steps that work in the same ways that work with human interactions. We start, we stumble, we get the first words out, and then keep going. We may find ourselves asking for help and asking for help for others and from others; we might express rage and anger at the unexplainable and tragic parts of life; we might praise God or deny God. Over time and through effort, prayer brings us mindfully into the present and connects with a very authentic part of our being. Prayer is an important tool of self-discovery, especially in those moments when we are trying to find that most authentic part of ourselves, a part intimately connected to God, the source of life, a part of us that can speak the truth to us about who we are.
This alignment of our consciousness with the consciousness of God also seeks understanding and awareness of universal law, divine order, and all of the ways that a human being might be engaged in relationship with God. Prayer helps us remove the veils that cover or obscure our true identity. Our identity is closely related to our purpose, and consequently prayer helps us discover our unique purpose.
The process of prayer is often a conversation that feels one-sided. Confession, expressing our desire or asking something of God (petition), intercession for others, praise, submission of our will, acceptance of our circumstances, and many other forms of relating to God, can be used and are used in prayer. The primary requirement of effective prayer is authentic, truthful expression that seeks to know and understand God and our relationship to God. This knowledge of God becomes embodied in all of our thoughts, actions, and intentions in life. The conversation of prayer continues beyond the intentional moment of devotion when we maintain a prayerful attitude during our daily activities. The responses to our prayer come throughout our daily lives. The continuous process of prayer overcomes the perception of time as chronological and it helps us rest in the consciousness of the present moment.
Formal prayer uses a specific set of words that are memorized or written in advance of the practice of prayer. The practice of the prayer, repeating the prayer, is done in a measured process. Fast or slow, the process seeks awareness of the word spoken or read and the meaning of the words to the one praying. Though the words may be used repeatedly, the meaning often changes and reflects our present consciousness. We attempt to remain conscious of God throughout the process. Formal prayer can be practiced alone or in a group, but in either situation, the purpose of prayer remains individual attainment of the knowledge of God in all of God’s forms.
Let my prayer come from my innermost being, where truth and love are joined in communication with you, ever-present God. May my words, spoken aloud or in the silence of my heart, seek the highest purpose. Whether alone or with others, may the power of love and truth seek expression through me and in me. May I return to prayer as an act of mindfulness and call on your presence in every moment, just as Jesus taught us to be mindful that you might reveal yourself to us at any moment. Amen.