About Prayer as Meditation:
I know we usually think of meditation as the form of cross-legged inner focus that comes from the East – but I am a believer in deep contemplative prayer as the West’s form of “meditation.”
On the Meditation resources page there is a video of Benedictine Monk Laurence Freeman explaining how Jesus’s sermon on the mount can be seen as his instructions for meditation – to be quiet inside and listen to God. St. Francis taught that we should pray without ceasing – he said “We should seek not so much to pray but to become prayer.” To me, prayer is a way of communing with God and praying without ceasing is to keep God in your awareness and your heart at all times. I often will have the deepest spiritual experiences starting with prayer.
When I pray, I don’t think of God up in the sky. God is not far away – God is closer than your very breath. Pray to God or Jesus or Allah or Quan Yin or Rama or to whichever Saint or Master you feel most connected to as if they are right HERE in front of you, INSIDE of you – because they are.
If we pray to God or Christ or Krishna right HERE, and not far away, the experience can be more powerful and tangible. I don’t think it matters to God where you think of Him/Her when you’re praying – the prayers go straight to God’s heart in any case – but the experience on our end is helped by a feeling of closeness. It’s easier for us to hear/feel God or the Saints if we think of them as right here with us and not far away.
Don’t worry about praying with a lot of words – it’s more important to pray with feeling. In fact, I find sometimes too many words can get me more into my head and away from my heart, so I often will just use a few words that help me to focus my prayer, sometimes I’ll repeat the same words over and over like a mantra – for example, “Lord God, please help me be your love and your peace in the world, please show me how I may be your love and your peace, please help me to be your love and your peace in the world…” Or “Mother Father God, please bless my family and heal my child, please bless my family and heal my precious child…” Just find the essence of your prayer and keep it simple.
It is our emotion that gives energy to our prayers – that is why praying with feeling is what makes the biggest difference – both in our experience and in the result of our prayers. Sometimes you don’t even need words – just yearn, love, pull, glorify, praise, call to God with your wordless longing to feel close to God, to love God, to serve God, to have Peace on Earth.
If you are praying for a certain outcome – the healing of a loved one, a new job to support you in life, a new partner or beloved, for peace and healing in your family – then remember that it is the FEELING of the prayer that you are in a sense broadcasting with your heart – energetically as well as simply electromagnetically with the measurable electromagnetic field that extends from your physical heart and broadcasts your emotions into the world around you and in so doing helps to create the world around you. So, once more with FEELING.
GRATITUDE is magical in prayer. Whenever you are feeling God’s Love and Grace the heart naturally prostrates in deep ecstatic gratitude – and even if it’s not deep or ecstatic, just feeling gratitude in your prayers will open your heart and will endear you to the Divine. Not that you are not already endearing to God – God loves you, absolutely, of course. But in prayer there is a certain way that we can open up ourselves to FEEL God’s love more by opening our own hearts by the giving of gratitude.
I know there are certain schools of meditation that teach us not to pray or supplicate ourselves to God, because we are made in God’s image, we are God’s children and entirely deserving of all of God’s riches and there is no need to pray or “beg.” Some of these traditions are very dear to my heart and I can see truth in that also – we already ARE absolutely loved and worthy in our original innocence. And as far as God is concerned I don’t imagine He/She feels a need to have anyone pray or prostrate or make a big fuss. However, I find it absolutely blissful to pray, love, prostrate and praise the Lord God of my Being with all my heart and for me it is a process of purifying my mind and my ego self and finding my identity as Love itself. Just like Bhakti yoga – in adoring the Self you become the Self.
There is also a certain sensation of “pulling on God’s heart strings” in prayer – in our yearning to be close to God, God grants us our wish by removing the veils from our eyes so that we can see/feel God right here in our hearts and in life all around us.
Remember to leave room to also LISTEN – and by listen I also mean FEEL. Prayer is not about us sending requests up to some Infinite God somewhere – it’s about us communing with an all-loving God who cares for us very personally and knows us more intimately than we know ourselves – so part of communion is also opening to receive. Sometimes you might receive in the moment, sometimes you might just feel a calm or an emptiness, sometimes you might just feel a deep yearning or pull to know God and then later when you least expect it, something will just become clear to you.
You can pray inside your own heart with eyes closed or you can pray with your eyes open focusing on an image or a candle or an altar or a stained glass window. You can pray in a church or you can pray at home, you can pray at your desk at work, you can pray on a plane, you can pray in a boat… I think there is an entire Dr. Seuss book about all the different places you can pray. If there isn’t, there ought to be.
When you pray, just as when you meditate or when you do anything for that matter, put your whole self into it. Dive in, be fully present, fully participate with your whole being and that is how you’ll experience the most from it.