Prayer is the “yearning of the heart” (Luther) to be near God. This points to a God that we desire to know and be in union with. A God who created us to be in relationship with God, self, and others. God being a community fashions a people in community. Most of us have prayed. Usually in times of stress we pray, we ask for strength to carry on. Even if you are not a spiritual person you have prayed for something you felt lacking, even if it is just a short whispered phrase—a mantra if you will. The feeling or gratitude of prayer is a reaching out to something beyond yourself. It is that something beyond that we reach out to who is God.
Prayer is part of our interactive heart centered relationship with the scared center of life. Our need and desire to pray to something outside of ourselves and our desire for others to pray for or with us and our willingness to pray for and with others gives us a clue that there is something real beyond us. That something beyond is what we commonly call God, but it doesn’t really matter what we call it. As the great philosopher Alan Watts once remarked, you cannot get wet by the word water, it’s the experience of water that gets you wet. Prayer is the experience of the sacred center of life.
Prayer opens our heart, mind, and soul to the presence of God. It’s a plea that the spirit enters our life and empowers us to live as we ought. A way of slowing down and savoring the moment by moment presence of love, grace, hope, and peace. A way of saying that there is more than our petty desires that somehow the source of all that is has embraced us and we want to live within this sphere.
Prayer helps us live a more contented life in the here and now. Ken Wilson says that “prayer is what the brain does or wants to do to transcend the boundaries of the self, to sense a connection with what lies beyond the praying self.” Prayer empowers us to be agents of the Kingdom in a world that would have us live in a certain way. Things happen that we don’t want and often these things pile up on us. Prayer doesn’t make them go away, but helps us to face them in an authentic and spirit centered way.
Prayer is a tool to help us live life wisely.
Regular prayer subverts the self and society. It nurtures humility and compassion. It affirms that we are not the center of the universe. It’s a way of shutting off the busy mind or what the Buddhists call the monkey mind. It calms the soul.
In prayer, it’s important that we stop and listen. Stay still and experience the divine love that surrounds us at all times. Prayer forms us spiritually in the likeness of Christ.
I don’t see prayer as asking for things or trying to get the divine to do something he or she isn’t doing or won’t do. I see prayer more as a way aligning myself with the scared center of life. The scared center of life is the God who wastes nothing and specializes in hugs, kisses, and resurrection. This is the God who is worthy of our worship and service. This is the God I pray to in order to understand and try to align myself with more and more.
I know that many of the things I think, believe, and say are not aligned with “traditional” denominational understandings of Christianity. My intention is not to be the ideal Presbyterian or anything else but to live my one precious life as deeply and authentically as I can following the God I see revealed in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I am not here to conform to anyone’s picture of who I should be but to be me. To be the real me that God created me to be and prayer is one way that helps me do that. The moment that prayer or any other spiritual practice becomes a hindrance and not a help is the moment I give it up and find what will aide me in becoming me. If I must step outside the walls of Christianity in order to follow Christ where he is leading me than so be it.