Wednesday, December 6, 2006

A Reader's Excellent Comment on Prayer

The anonymous Comment on my December 4 entry is very wise:

“Perhaps ‘prayer’ is actually simply acknowledging the Source and Its power, and seeking to align oneself with that.”

Those words suggest to me that in my analogy of the individual acting as a lens to focus the power of the Source, the individual must be in some sense aligned with the Source. The words also bring to mind the phrase often used in the “I Ching” – that the “superior person” must be “in harmony with Heaven”. It also calls up the idea of “centering”.

The Source and the natural laws of “Heaven” are superior to all human endeavors and cannot be evaded or defied, and yet our chattering monkey-minds regularly scamper far from the path of harmony with Heaven and make it impossible to focus the Source until there is realignment.

The Source can never NOT be where we are, but we can obscure it and become unatuned to it in the same way that clouds can hide the sun, or a puddle which reflects the Moon can be muddied so that the Moon seems to disappear. The Source, the Sun, and the Moon are always there, but our own perceptions can be obscured. That is the greatest sadness and challenge of our human state.

I’m sure I’ve gone beyond what the author of the Comment intended, but I think it all fits together. The subject was prayer, and the Comment suggested “that prayer is simply acknowledging the Source and Its power, and seeking to align oneself with that.” Prayer means many things to many people, but the Comment describes the highest form of prayer, which is probably completely wordless.

I like the saying that prayer is a state of mind rather than a monologue. That also fits with the Comment, in which prayer is a process of seeking change in ourselves which will bring us into alignment with the Source.

Thank you for the Comment, Anonymous .


  1. This is a fascinating discussion.

    'Prayer' can consist of any act from meditation to a plea to a higher power. It is interesting to feel that one must 'command' rather than 'beg' but in my opinion, prayer is any act that seeks 'nearness to God' or 'qurbatan ilallah' as it is stated in Islam.

    To believe that one's desires should be fulfilled by a Higher Being is to be egocentric in the extreme. I think that in this sense, the ultimate prayer of the Christian Christ is to be lauded: 'Thy Will be done'.

    One needn't perceive God as the Old Testament entity or even as anthropomorphic in order to believe in and communicate with the Deity. The idea that one is small and God is infinite, that therefore one is less even than an eyelash upon the face of God and yet intrinsically an integral part of this incredible, unknowable Being provides endless subjects for meditation.

    'Thy Will be done' in this sense would mean that our own tiny insignificant selfish desires should not be fulfilled automatically. That would be tantamount to making us into spoiled little brats. A parent who loves his/her child nonetheless should not satisfy that child's every desire. Instant gratification is not love.

    There are those who say that suffering and pain are a means to greater wisdom and this has been demonstrated in many lives. It is not pleasant but it can be akin to the tempering of steel. As human beings, we are born in a state of transition. We spend our lives growing and learning. Where does that leave God?

    I think that if God is infinite, we cannot begin to comprehend that infinity. Like spoiled children, some of us often rebel against the entire notion of God, either in rage, frustration or a desire to feel superior. Many people and even most religions have tried to reduce God to human terms, an error that is almost as great as that of denying the existence of any higher being. All these motivations stem from our insecurity. Is it not sufficient simply to know that the universe is far greater than our wildest dreams and imaginings but that we are a part of this immense magnificence?

    As far as ritual prayer is concerned, I do believe that ritual serves a vital purpose. It is a matter of creating a 'sacred space', a place that is outside of our ordinary busy lives and all the problems and distractions that besiege us. The prayer mat is one such sacred space. The Sacred Circle is another. Churches and mosques are communal sacred spaces. The act of repetitious ritual prayer is a door to another consciousness. It calms the heart and mind and allows us to achieve the state of being necessary to touch the divine.

    It is interesting to note that beads, sometimes known as 'worry beads' are an almost universal praying device. They are used by Christians (the rosary), by Muslims (the tasbih) and by Buddhists as well as by adherents to other religions. The act of moving one's fingers from bead to bead while repeating a mantra is both a means of relaxation and a 'focus'. Time becomes a necklace to be manipulated, and one's universe becomes at once encapsulated within the circle of the beads and yet expands to embrace the divine.

    The mistake that people make with respect to prayer is in regarding it as an end in itself when it should be perceived as a means to an end. It is AFTER the prayer that one reaches the state of 'nearness' to the Deity...

  2. Yes, I agree with your post, as well as appreciating very much Freyashawk's comment.