What is prayer to you? Growing up Christian, I think my experience of it was pretty normal. It’s words one speaks/thinks to God, generally centered on praise, requests, and gratitude. Interestingly, while in my memories the first two are pretty much all we did, these days I find focusing on thankfulness gets my soul singing … but that’s not the direction I’m going in this blog. 🙂
Paul, an early and significant Christ follower who wrote much of the New Testament, tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17). While I used to think the invitation to continuously pray was a figure of speech, unrealistic, or a hyperbole, now I think it’s not only a doable endeavor, but also one that brings Big Bliss. Key to this is realizing prayer is SO much more than words. In truth, I have a hunch we’re best served when the bulk of our prayers are wordless.
In scripture, poems, memoirs, and more, our relationship with God is frequently portrayed in romantic terms, so it seems fitting to consider a romantic relationship. Isn’t an extraordinary amount of communication between lovers nonverbal or wordless? There’s reassuring touches, massages, encouraging looks, multiple kinds of hugs, sexy smiles, knowing laughs, cuddling, many flavors of kisses, dancing, holding hands, and on and on. Likewise, prayer is simply connection with the Divine (or your word for the Mystery behind Reality), and just like in an amorous relationship, it seems to me the best and most blissful moments of intimacy are often nonverbal or wordless.
What’s this mean though? How does one pray continuously and usually without words? A life of prayer is one of presence and awareness, wherein we choose, practice, and train ourselves to see and feel on all levels the wonder of nature, the magic of life, the light in all beings, the Love within and between us all, the bits of beauty all around us, and so on. But it’s not just that, it’s also opening our senses up to the hurt, sadness, oppression, exclusion, hunger, mistreatment, harm, illness, loss, and injustice in our circles, communities, countries, and globally.
When we do this, we become prayer.
The more we practice being deeply present to and aware of ALL the magic, muck, and mystery of reality with open hearts, the more electrified our lives become.
Another way to say this is prayer is more of a way of beingthan something we do… which leads us to do more good more often, because we’re connected to and in the Flow of Something WAY bigger and beyond ourselves.
I have SO MUCH I’d like to say to flesh out and give examples of what I mean by this all, but for perhaps the first time in my life, I’m going to say less rather than more, so hopefully this makes sense and resonates with you. In my experience, the more I choose to trulysee and reallyfeel the beauty andbrutality in life, the more divine peace, joy, and Love fill me and flow through me. When I’m connected to Source in this way (prayer), not only do I feel vibrantly alive, it becomes easy and natural to give my thoughts, energies, and actions for the thriving and flourishing of others. What are your thoughts and experiences on this? I’d love to hear them!
When this blog was still an idea marinating in my mind I heard an interview of Mary Oliver, and when she read this poem, in my heart I knew it was a fantastic description of prayer and what I’m getting at. So, I leave you with her words (emphasis mine):
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what it is you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
Grace and peace,