Do you pray? Why? I’ve been Christian my whole life and grew up with a good bit of obligation, “should”, and “ought to” when it came to my faith, so for a good bit of time I prayed because I was supposed to. God expected us to pray, so I did. Yet, it was often disconnected, ritualistic, lacked heart, and was basically always centered on my asking for ______ and/or reciting the usual host of superlatives about how amazing God is from rote. Still, there where moments where the Light broke through in my prayers, and now I pray because it’s fantastic and I find it is just an incredible way to live and be in the world.
In this moment I’d boil down the importance of prayer to two related things: (1) Relationship and (2) Joining the Flow of reality. Tying these both together, Meister Eckhart said: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough,” and boy do I agree. The more I live, the more it seems the point of this whole experience is connection, community, and love; which I think means Whoever/Whatever is responsible for this is fundamentally relational. I believe God is the Source of it all and ground of our being, so I approach this interpersonal Creator with a sense of both awe and intimacy.
(I think the posture of the lady in this picture says it all: Wildly, joyfully, and fully alive is what it means to be connected to God, others, the world and in the Flow of reality)
What I mean by this is when we see a beautiful sunset, a moving act of love, a glorious mountain, an incredible rainbow, a fantastic water view, a tender embrace, and so on (all divine encounters in my mind) what do we feel? I don’t know about you, but for me it’s both a sense of something SO big and AMAZING beyond words I want to drop to my knees, AND something so tender and close that it draws me in. In the moments of wonder and awe I hope we all experience, we typically become silent and get lost in the moment. I think a central and often forgotten aspect of prayer is the same. My voice matters, so of course God wants to hear my heart, fears, hopes, desires, pleas, thanks, hurts, and so on … AND the Divine is also our Heavenly Parent, so has amazing, life-giving things to say to us … the key is taking time to stop, get quiet, and listen.
The first time I really listened to God was in high school when I was wrestling with where to go to college. In what I recall was a clear and specific voice, the Creator answered me by saying to go to the school I didn’t plan to choose, yet while it wasn’t my preference that divine guidance came with so much peace that I never questioned it. Now, at least at this point in life, I don’t think we hear God “audibly” like that all that often. In truth, I could count on one hand how many times it’s happened for me. Still, I think listening to our Parent is important and AMAZING for each and every one of us.
Today, based on my experiences I’d say hearing from God is more of bodily experience and less of a mental one. As I lie in savasana, meditation, or contemplation I feel divine peace, joy, and love settle into my bones, wash through my tissues, and fill my mind. Listening to our Source cracks my heart wide open in the most beautiful ways, leading me to not only want to care for and connect with others, but also to have an incredible capacity to do so.
This brings me to how I think prayer shapes and forms us. The flow of reality is love and the energy of the universe is relationship, and when we pray we are connecting with God, others, and the world. Think about it, prayer, by its very nature assumes there is a good, loving, and active Force we can bring our hurts, troubles, requests for wisdom, etc. and the hurts, troubles, requests for wisdom, etc. of other people to. Prayer is about increasing thriving and flourishing for others and us; it’s relational through and through.
As I type this I’m listening to an iTunes playlist I made up and at this moment Christina Aguilera’s hit, “Genie in a Bottle” is playing, which I think is perfect. What I mean by that is I do NOT think God is like a genie in a bottle, who we have rub the right way to get our wish to come true. I point that out because whether you do NOT believe in God, think prayers influence God’s actions, doubt prayers influence God, or whatever, praying is a fantastic practice!
I make the bold claim that praying is a game-changing practice for everyone because of quantum entanglement and the power of our thought lives. Quantum entanglement shows that particles, like electrons, become entangled in such a way that while two entangled particles can be THOUSANDS of miles apart, what happens to one impacts the OTHER. I think we’re all entangled, we’re all connected, so naturally our well wishes for others, our positive thoughts, and so on will affect others for the better. I’m not crazy in thinking this either. For instance, our hearts have an electromagnetic field that projects 7-20 feet away from our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings shape these fields, which in turn enter other people and literally alter their moods. A person near you with positive thoughts and kind feelings will bring you life without a word being spoken, while one with negativity and fear will bring you down. Long story short: Prayers are good vibrations, and science shows good vibes increase goodness for everyone.
Our thoughts shape and form us. We become our thinking. I point this out because it means prayer biases our thoughts, and thus forms our beings toward greater kindness, care, compassion, awe, gratitude, wonder, and love. Since the universe is relational to its core, this means prayer puts us more and more into the flow of reality. It brings us into greater harmony with ourselves, God, and others, and how can that be anything but good?
Grace and peace,