Prayer (Reloaded)

So I was working in the Operating Room, fully gowned and gloved, when I suddenly felt this strong urge, a pulling within me to sing. Now I’m well acquainted with this pulling sensation… I feel it occasionally, though usually it is an energetic tug beckoning me to sit in the silence and to allow Spirit to have it’s way with me upon my cushion. But this call to sing–this was something I hadn’t felt since my days as a fundamentalist minister.

Still, I trusted it, because, though I had been limited in my understanding of “God” long ago as a minister, Spirit still loved me enough to commune with me in my ignorance.

So I began to sing…

“Blessed always,

Blessed always

for the arms of God surrounds us

Let our joy be so triumphant

that we rest in God and

Say amen…”

I repeated the stanza about three times and just then three things happened:

The world around me melted into blackness as my eyes sealed themselves shut.

Tears began to trickle down my cheeks, dripping onto my sterile gown which would now be considered contaminated and unusable for surgery.

And the third thing which occurred?

The presence of the One, that Sacred Spirit which is known by many names, shot out of me like a spring under pressure, filling the room.  After an undetermined amount of time, my nurse came into the room to ask me if I needed anything. While I could hear her question very well, I couldn’t bare to answer her. I knew that if I had uttered a mumbling word, all decorum would’ve been lost.  To her credit, the she sensed that something larger than either of us was occurring at that moment… within me–so she quietly stepped out of the operating suit.

It has been said that to sing is to pray twice, yet it begs the question, what exactly is prayer anyway? and what place does it have in the life of nonreligious, yet deeply spiritual people?

Traditional Forms of Prayer

According to the dictionary, prayer is  ” a spoken or unspoken address to God, a deity, or a saint.” something that is wanted or hoped for very much. Synonyms for prayer, as defined by the dictionary are: entreaty, appeal, plea, request, desire, hope, wish, supplication, imploration, petition.*

Keep in mind that the above definition of prayer is western in it’s orientation and as such doesn’t by any means encapsulate what prayer is for humanity at large.  The problem that most of us with a more postmodern approach to spirituality have with traditionally western forms of prayer is that, though they have been purported  to be  powerful spiritual tools,  they’ve proven in many cases to actually be quite dis-empowering… and in this age perhaps  even a little dangerous.

Brought up in the Pentecostal Christian tradition,  for me prayer was audible, emotional and loud! The more emotional energy one could conjure, the more beneficial one’s prayer would be! As you can imagine, this philosophy made for some truly interesting prayer meetings.  I observed the sad results from these meetings however;  that people would leave still feeling unhappy and beat down by the cares of  life. There prayers would be full of deep sobbing.. of pleading. Some even seemed to be fighting in their prayers, trying to convince God of their sincerity by praying with blood, sweat and tears.

The idea of begging and beseeching some reluctant deity for blessings from on high, is immediately disempowering because asking God for things implies that we don’t  already have everything which we need, that WE are in a deficit and that something in the form of some external deity is the only solution to our apparent lack. Such thinking not only displaces us from our divine posts within the Universe, as cocreators with Spirit, manifesting, along with God  those things which are beneficial for ourselves and for the world, but Petitionary prayer also displaces God Itself from It’s place as The Universal Substance from which everything comes into being, to some celestial pimp choosing whom to reward and whom to deny.

The recitation of pre-made petitions in order to move God is a form of prayer practiced in Catholicism and other more orthodox forms of Protestantism, Judaism and Islam-and the goals are the same: to convince God with much travail to do something for you.

The very idea of a God who would require us to ask of Him, rather than connect with It reduces the Infinite to not much more than an egoic genie who so craves the attention  of Mankind that It would sit aloft, with arms folded, waiting for us to ask of it before It would aid us in the hour of our need.

Rethinking Prayer                      

Yet I believe there is a better way. First we have to reload our entire Spiritual Operating System in order to have a more practical, more empirically validated understanding of the goals of prayer… namely “state training”

When I began singing in that operating room, I wasn’t asking god for anything, because I understand that I have already, EVERYTHING  that I require in order to live the life of my dreams. I didn’t come to the Infinite from a place of need, but from a spirit of love, pure and simple. The result was that my state of consciousness began to expand until I could perceive my connection with everyone and everything around me, Including God. 

The more you train yourself to experience these blessed moments of expansion, the more these moments cease to be relegated to short periods of time in your life. Instead they become a normal part of your consciousness. This is what development looks like, so that what used to be experienced as states of consciousness, with practice, inevitably becomes stages of development in your everyday life. You can experience bliss in every moment!

These states which I’m referring to can be accessed in a myriad of ways:

Contemplative Prayer

Centuries ago, Trappist Christian monks developed a form of prayer which seemed to have demonstrable results. They found that by sitting in silence, much like way of  many eastern religious traditions, one could literally merge with God; Feel the connection with the infinite so that one moved from facing God to experiencing It.  The monks observed how this new form of prayer seemed to create a greater sense of peace within both the heart and consequently the life of the practitioner. Prayer then became about merging with one’s divinity as apposed to petitioning a distant God for blessings. This form of Christian mysticism has been lost over the centuries, but are in recent years enjoying a renaissance as those who’ve grown out of Christianity still desire to express their spirituality from a more western orientation.

This is the common thread which binds both eastern and western faiths! Though both eastern and western traditions use different terms and verbiage to describe the Divine and the nature of Man’s relationship with It,  these terms point to the same experiences of the divine.

Affirmative Prayer

Affirmative prayer also differs from petitionary prayer (which is the form of prayer which most westerners practice) in that It approaches the Divine from a position of power rather than of lack. A place of Truth and not a lie. Affirmative prayer utilizes a formula which affirms the Truth in any given situation, so for example, say we were praying for the healing of a loved one, we would:

  • Connect with God by acknowledging It’s omnipresence in the Universe
  • Recognize it’s presence and unity within us
  • Know, meditate upon and speak the truth concerning our loved one’s healing.
  • Offer thanks in advance of the manifestation of healing
  • Release the entire situation to the Universal Law which governs all circumstances.

My Spiritual Practice

While I  no longer  consider myself  Christian, there are things about the faith which still holds great value for me… namely the idea of communing with the Divine in a way which recognizes that God, while not anthropomorphic, does have human qualities and personality and as such can be communicated with in human terms!

Although the bulk of my spiritual practice involves forms of Buddhist and Hindu meditation, I also practice a more integral form of prayer which honors all the perspectives which the major religions utilize to address God.

In Judaism, God is not spoken to, rather spoken about in the 3rd person. In Christianity, God is spoken to in 2nd person. And in eastern traditions, The Infinite is experienced as the Self in the 1st person.

Thus, in my prayer time, I touch in on all three perspectives of God starting from the furthest point, 3rd person, to the closest point, the 1st person, experiencing the Divine as me! It is a beautiful and vibrant way of communing with the Divine and one that I believe can breath new life and relevance into your spiritual practice!

Michael

*Prayer definition from bing.com

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2 Responses to Prayer (Reloaded)

  1. Jan Sparks says:

    Love this Michael…..it has been such a pleasure getting to know and share with you. Your Spirit is palpable. I cherish the times enveloped in your loving energy field….Namaste.
    Jan S;

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