When it comes to figuring out how life works there are a myriad of self help books to reach for that suggest certain principles or key truths/ideas that will aid you in your quest for success or fulfilment.
The modern guru is in high demand, a reboot of the snake skin salesman who arrives in town with his magic potions promising to heal what ails you. The deep wounds of the human condition continue to remind us of our unrealised dreams and aspirations, all the while causing us to reach out for easy answers that invariably over promise results.
‘We have over-promised God by making prayer a guarantee for supply and success’
The ancients did not have our advanced methodologies or psychoanalytical theories, they simply had to rely on a primitive trust in the gods, a rather naive belief in some kind of providence that was working things our for the benefit of all. Prayer became a key element in the cultural fabric of life, a conduit that connected the human and divine providing a reassurance of close contact and engagement with the transcendent, and its potential intervention in our existence.
Religion became the so-called sole proprietor of prayer deciphering its mystery to the masses while somehow losing some of the beauty that is hidden in its essence. It became a transactional weapon in the war for human-divine favour, with the clergy claiming the knowledge of the deeper pathway to spirituality. Prayer became an official by-product of the institution, a formulaic prescription for how humans could honour God while advantaging the relationship.
If we are to enter into the beauty of what it means to pray we need to unpack the multi faceted expressions of this ancient practice…
The idea of prayer is not owned by religion, rather it is why religion exists in the first place. Religion can encourage a deeper awareness of prayer but it cannot dictate or coerce its flow of energy within us. Prayer is the innate hidden mystery of our quest for meaning, the deep need for connection with otherness that animates our imagination and inquisitiveness.
Prayer is the more-than-me thing that resonates with our eternal search for understanding and knowledge, the need to know and be known. It is no respecter of religious belief or righteous behaviour, and is not limited to a codified construct of specificity or governed by a certain pattern of practice. It moves in us and through us modulated by the beat of a sacred drum. God is prayer itself, the push and pull of longing and loving that motivates us to respond internally and externally to any given moment that will enhance and enlarge our consciousness.
Prayer is the gift of trust that is given to all of humanity, a reminder that we are all hard-wired to cry out for extra terrestrial assistance of some kind. We all want our needs met even at the most basic and fundamental level. Whether that is selfishly driven by our ego or selflessly inspired by our greater goodness this is the unfolding nature of this spiritual journey.
“Prayer does not change God, but it changes those who pray.” - Soren Kierkegaard
We have all attempted to fashion and formulate certain prayers that we believe accurately describe our immediate need, seemingly making it impossible for the divine to not act on our behalf. Our naivety as a species has turned prayer into a type of lucky rabbits foot that we wave around hoping to change our circumstances. For some, getting our prayers answered has moved away from trust to a carefully crafted art form of linguistic specificity. If we just get the words right backed up by a good attitude and a buoyant faith we are told we can pretty much guarantee a result…or at least we hope so. While prayers are critical to the work of hopefulness in our lives and helpful for our need of ritual and tradition, they cannot be perfectly shaped to work a miracle every time. As much as I pray for good weather or a certain sports game outcomes the gods may not actually care too much about this stuff…LOL
Prayers bind us in community and hold us to a universal idea of spiritual connectedness. They stimulate our sense of belonging and create a place of safety for our experimental and mystical maturation. They are the unifying force that remind us all that we are needy and desperate for a better way of caring for that which feeds into our lives. Offering up our prayers is about exposing our vulnerable humanity to those around us while hoping that a higher power is working things out for our good.
The requests, supplications, intercessions that we offer up are our wishful thinking longing for a change of some kind.
“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” - Mother Teresa
Prayerfulness is what the mystics call unitive consciousness, a place where we discover the ultimate idea of why prayer is crucial for the human condition, the concept of ONENESS. Oneness is an unceasing uninitiated interaction with the divine, that mysteriously moves in and through us. The posture of prayerfulness is one of contemplation and meditation, that which stimulates a greater awareness of God presence. This type of awareness is highlighted in the Genesis story of Jacob where he awakes from a dream realising that the presence of God is interfacing with all of creation at a subatomic level awaiting our conscious awakening. Prayer-fulness is the pursuit of ONENESS, a journey of reconciliation and restoration that repairs the internal breach of trust and tranquility that we were originally endowed with as divine image bearers. We have somehow become bifurcated in our deep connection with the divine, caught up in the busyness of trying to externally please the divine rather internally pleasure the divine. Oneness is the repairer of the breach, the coming together of all things in perfect harmony, the long and awkward journey of interpenetration. Prayerfulness moves us away from a transactional construct to a trans-rational reality of existence, a supra-natural union that brings peace to the human soul.
The starting point of prayerfulness is the “Our father….” prayer, the formulation of an intimate connection that ultimately leads us to the Jesus prayer that St John records in chapter 17 of his gospel…. “That they may be one as we are one…”
Let us pray….