The first time someone told me that a class I was taking would include information about how to pray, I was pretty dismissive. Good grief, I don’t need instructions about how to pray! Can we talk about something useful?! I thought.
Boy, was I wrong.
Thankfully, I have a commitment to being open to what the moment is presenting me with. Sometimes I am more successful at this feat than at others, but luckily, despite my misgivings, I was able to set aside some of my annoyance and to absorb my teachers lesson.
This lesson opened up a whole new world for me; one that has continued to unfold in more wonderful ways than I could have ever imagined. I have been thoroughly awed and humbled by the power of prayer.
Prayer is certainly a loaded term in our society. If you were raised in a religious household, know people who were, or follow a particular religion yourself, then you likely have some ideas about what it means to pray.
Your ideas might be great, or they might not be serving you, but in either case I have found that it can be helpful to set those ideas aside and look at what prayer actually is in it’s rawest, most fundamental sense. (To that end, if “prayer” is a loaded word for you, consider coming up with a different one!)
Prayer, in it’s purest sense, is an intentional connection with a supportive force that is bigger than your ego. Within that connection, we have an opportunity to “say what we need to say.”
“Saying what we need to say” can look like a lot of things, but basically, you’ve got a line in. Just as if you finally had your beloved grandma from Finland whom you never get to talk to on the line, you can say what it is that you need and want to express.
You can say thank you for specific things, or thank you in general.
You can ask for support in a general way, or for support around specific challenges in your own life, in the lives of others, or for the earth and all beings everywhere.
Prayer is also, perhaps more importantly, about listening. (A conversation where you are doing all of the talking doesn’t allow you to receive anything form the other person. It’s the same way with prayer.)
There are a lot of rituals and beliefs associated with prayer, and some of them are fantastic. Some of them are not. How can you tell the difference?
By noticing how they make you feel.
The process of praying should feel good. The energy that you are plugging into should feel good. The way your structure the “conversation” should feel good. With any luck, your prayer should leave you feeling at least a little more connected, supported and nourished than you felt before the prayer began.
If your prayer feels like a chore, if it feels oppressive, dogmatic, or like you have to fit yourself into a specific system or adhere to a code that doesn’t feel right to you, then it’s not serving you.
The thing is, there is no right or wrong way to pray. There is only your way.
I often see clients who want something to come to fruition, who are struggling to know which way to turn, or who feel isolated or lost. When I ask these clients if they have been praying, the answer is usually something along the lines of “Well, no; it never even occurred to me”.
If we want to create change, experience healing or receive a blessing, we have to actually take the time to ask. If we want to know what the Universe has to say to us, we have to be willing to take the time to really listen.
Prayer matters. It matters for us on a personal level, it matters for those we love, and it matters for the entire planet. When you pray you are taking time to consciously shape the energy that you offer out into the Universe, which helps to heal all beings everywhere.
This is an important time to pray. I encourage you to pray for yourself, your family, your loved ones, for those you don’t even know and for the earth itself in ways that feel meaningful to you.
Here is a very basic, general structure for prayer, in case you are looking for one:
- Consider praying in your head, out loud, or writing your prayer down. There are pros and cons to all methods. Sometimes I prefer to pray out load, or write it down, especially if my prayer is going to be a longer one (it helps me to pay attention and stay present). See what works for you.
- Feel that you are connecting to a benevolent or supportive force that is bigger than your ego. Experience the connection in your body, breathe into it, or just know that it is happening.
- Sometimes it helps to create a sweeter energy to start off your prayer by giving thanks for all of the blessings in your life.
- Ask for things that you want or need. In addition to whatever it is that you are asking for, it is also helpful to ask for specific qualities that can unfold within or around you over time, like compassion, strength, freedom or creativity. You can also send vibrations of love and light to yourself, to others or to the earth during this time.
- You might light a candle, burn some sage or some incense, or even burn the paper you wrote your prayer on. This is a symbol of the energy of the prayer that you are sending out. As you do this, feel the sincerity of your prayer in your heart.
- Feel, imagine or know that your prayer is well received and deeply understood.
- Listen. You can tune into your heart, your breathing, your environment (especially if you are outdoors) or anything else that helps you to “center.” Tune in and relax as deeply as you can. Allow the Universe to respond to you. Practice openness and trust.
- “Close” your prayer with something to mark the transition back into regular life. It might be chanting an “Om” or saying a sacred word like “Amen”, or simply taking a mindful breath.
Pray regularly. Don’t let self-judgement or dogmatism or fear or anything else get in the the way of accessing your ability to pray, which is your birthright. Pray sincerely in a way that feels good to you, and know that it makes a real difference when you do.
“ Prayer from the heart can achieve what nothing else can in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi