Is there a place for prayer within spirituality?

Submitted by Open on Sat, 12/01/2012 - 06:22

A prayer of the soul
Meditation is an accepted tool within spirituality for catalysing our spiritual evolution. It seems prayer is becoming less and less favoured. So is there still a place for prayer on the spiritual journey and if so, what kind? Speaking as a non-religious person, I can say that frequently, I experience a deep upwelling from my soul about a situation or event. I find that by expressing those arising feelings within a meditative, interconnected state, then I can feel my meditative prayer having an organising impact on the field around me. It feels like a powerful way of bringing into being the Right Action of the universe...

Prayer as non-acceptance
For me there is much negative association with the whole idea of prayer and I dare say that goes for many visitors to the Openhand site and the wider spiritual community in general. In the past of course and still today, people pray in churches for all kinds of things: to be spared our suffering perhaps, to spare the suffering of loved ones, or maybe that "God" will change our immediate circumstances to something more favourable. It's really just ego resistant desire...

    "Desire is a judgment of the moment,
    saying 'I judge that outcome is better than this one'.
    It is caused by fear and ignorance,
    not trusting what the universe is unfolding.
    It is like applying the hand brake to a moving car,
    it leads to fate rather than destiny.
    Desire requires effort...
    enlightenment requires lack of all effort."

    Openhand

Of course, this kind of prayer would be totally against the Openhand approach of complete acceptance and at-one-ment with the universe. We see that everything happens of a reason: to invite greater self realisation and that suffering is an attachment to a desired outcome or over identification with a particular experience. Even pain is just an experience, and we can move beyond associated suffering by bringing our focus deep into it and knowing ourselves as the inviolable, eternal presence which is beyond all suffering.

A place for authentic prayer - personal sharing
Having said that, I still find there is a place in my life for prayer, although when it happened for me the first time, I didn't immediately recognise it as such. It felt like an unstoppable uprising from my soul. I remember the day I left my thirteen year marriage...

    "I knew my marriage had come to an end. I was living in the spare room so that at least I might still be close to the kids. But in all honesty, it really wasn't working. Following my awakening, my wife and I discovered we were now simply very different people - poles apart. My heart yearned for freedom.

    Then synchonistically, a flat appeared on the farm where I worked which seemed absolutely perfect. It was out in the countryside in a quiet secluded location, right next to an orchard with birds singing their sweet soul music. The flat was number 3 - the 'trinity' always seemed to do it for me!

    I immediately applied to the landlord only to discover I'd been 'beaten to it'. Someone else had seen it and wanted it first. But that didn't feel right somehow. I got the sense that it was meant for me. You get that feeling sometimes don't you? When something is destined to be?

    So I went into my heart and asked the universe. I could feel a deep upwelling, almost as if I was asking for it. But then something stopped me. It didn't feel right to yearn for something over the interests of someone else. So I found myself instead saying to the universe... "If the flat is meant to be for me, if it is in my higher interests and that of all life, then let it be so. But if the other guy is meant to have it, then I surrender to that too. Let Right Action come into fruition". It felt really wonderful that I was expressing my true feelings, but honouring the path of the other person too. It felt congruent, empowering and at the same time, satisfyingly surrendered.

    Three days later (I just love that number three!), one Saturday morning, my ex-wife and I had a 'bust up'. I wasn't fulfilling her expectations of how to entertain the kids. In a fit of temper, she told me to "get out of the house within a week". I was not unduly concerned, but at the same time, it meant I would have to get myself fairly quickly into gear. Once more, I opened my heart to the universe and felt an upwelling for a resolution to my situation.

    Three hours later, that same Saturday morning, I got a phone call from the farm owner... "You know that flat you were interested in? Well the other guy has just been posted with his company up north. He can't now take it. Would you like it instead?" It was absolute manna from heaven! Later that same day, three hours in fact, I moved happily into my new abode."

Expressing our authentic, creative feelings
So to me now, this is the true meaning of prayer. It's all about noticing our true inner feelings, looking carefully beyond potential desires, and connecting with what is meant to be. We simply feel it as an upwelling.

But when we do feel it, neither am I speaking of sitting placidly by, letting anything take shape. I'm speaking of expressing that upwelling, giving voice and wings to the energy and calling for the Right Action of the universe. In so doing, if we are truly aligned with the natural flow, we unleash an unstoppable force, which will in some way, come into fruition. The unfathomable organising energy of the universe has been invoked...

    "In each moment, seek to read what the energy of the universe
    is inviting you to do...
    then harmonise every thought, feeling and deed around that truth
    expelling all doubt and disbelief in the tremendous organising capability of the universe.
    In so doing, 'Right Action' becomes 'Right Outcome'.

    Openhand

Soulful prayer: an unstoppable force
To me then, this is now the true meaning of prayer. It's not about 'cosmic ordering' anything we want, it's about being a powerful open channel for the naturally divine creative flow. So if you have an authentic upwelling from the soul about some event or circumstance in your life, you might like to give this 'prayer' soulful expression and unleash unstoppable organsing energy into your life...

    "If it is in my higher interests
    and the higher interests of all life,
    then let it be so"

Let it take shape with meaning, commitment and sense of purpose. Then it's simply the case of recognising the way the energy is flowing and riding the wave. May the force be with you!

Chris

This is a very interesting subject. Well said!

To me there is a 'true prayer of the heart'. This isn't about what we want or deferring responsibility for our actions. It is about taking responsibility for our state of beingness. It involves connecting with the divine flow of consciousness (if we aren't already) and the implicitly trusting the organising power of the universe.

To me the only question I have is 'am I aligned with Higher Consciousness' or 'not'? If I am then the right things happen. If I am not then the right things happen to show me where I am stuck :innocent:

In reply to by Trinity

In general, it seems to me there are three levels of 'prayer,' with possible sub-levels:
Prayer from the lips
Prayer from mind or intellect
Prayer from deep within (this from personal experience).

--The first we mouth, often as parrots do who utter mindless sounds resembling words.
--The second we are taught and learn to repeat, sometimes endlessly. Yet hese repetitions serve to quiet the internal dialogue and focus the mind, often lifting it above self-centered concerns and those of daily life.
--The last one just comes, it bubbles forth quietly from deep within and out into the universe. Unbidden by the conscious mind or the personal will, for better or worse, for good or evil, it will hit its given target and manifest unless the mind or will should quickly interfere to derail or block its expression. We have all heard it, the expression, 'Thought is the Creator.' The 'unbidden prayer' belongs to this category of thought.

Then of course there is the trusting surrender of the spent leaf into the flowing waters of the river. The leaf needn't know how or where to it goes; it trusts, it accepts, it flows, allowing itself to be carried and used, a willing tool at the service of all.

These modes of prayer are and have always been with us, shifting in their prevalence and intensity as human needs and culture dictate.

As for true meditation, it holds one thing in common with all high disciplines: its genuine practice begins only when the preliminary lessons have been thoroughly mastered. True meditation becomes possible only after body and mind, movement and thought have totally ceased and been utterly stilled. Likewise, beyond the entry-level, there are stages and ever deeper stages of meditation accessible only as our readiness makes possible.

It is well to realize that all disciplines have beginnings and middles before their actual practice can begin. A karate master once pointed out that karate practice is open only to those with the black belt around their waist! All others are merely making ready.

Regarding Reality, we differentiate two realms: Relative and Absolute realities. Without over-simplifying, it may be said that our material universe of phenomena and physicality partakes only of 'relative reality' wherein all manifestations are impermanent and changeable, subject to beginnings, middles and endings, to origins, decline and decay, eventual disintegration and non-existence.

On the other hand, we can only surmise and accept on trust, faith or by inference, the existence of the Noumenon, of an Absolute Reality which is permanent and unchangeable, having no beginning, middle or end, and not being subject to origin, decline, decay or disintegration. An Absolute from which all phenomena originate. From this it follows that, from within our present physical material universe, the reality of Absolute Reality is beyond direct access and experience and remains conceptual. Phenomena, the realm of the created, lacks the means to access the Noumenon, the realm of the Creator!

The crux of the issue then is whether sentient beings are mere physical beings and nothing more, or whether sentience and beingness transcend physicality, originating beyond it. So then, IF heaven is within, its proof is also within -- because it isn't without! Reason and logic would adduce and surmise the existence of an intrinsic Absolute. But do not prove it. Nor do any of the Sciences.

This then is where the need to 'make ready' comes in -- make ready to access the realms within and learn to cope with ourselves and the realm without! Seems to me the very nature of the realities we face is pushing us towards self-transcendence and growth. Towards a higher reality and beingness itself.

Once enough of us realize the Oneness we are and the self-betrayals to be undone, we will align ourselves with the work of the Universe and miracles can begin to happen! l

An inspiring post - thank you!

At one point in my life I used visualisations and affirmations to obtain what I thought I needed, I prayed in the traditional sense, then I realised that the Universe knew far better than I could ever possibly know... I realised that I was potentially limiting my opportunities for growth and self-realisation. I acknowledged that some of the great challenges in my life, that I would not consciously choose, were also my greatest gifts. I felt to begin to trust in the profound wisdom of my higher self and that of the Universe. After this realisation, I didn't really feel to pray apart from prayers of gratitude and vague requests of "help me" or "show me!"

Laterally I have been feeling to explore prayer again, however sometimes I am challenged by differentiating between what is an authentic arising and what is desire based. I guess that's were discernment comes in? Thank you for the reminder to add
"If it is in my higher interests and the higher interests of all life, then let it be so"
That feels really useful, particularly if things feel unclear or if there is much energy involved.

Synchronistically, I came across an interesting quote
"Prayer is not about asking, it is about listening" (Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche).
It felt important, though initially I wasn't clear about it's relevance. Now I see that it reflects what you say "It's all about noticing our true inner feelings, looking carefully beyond potential desires, and connecting with what is meant to be. We simply feel it as an upwelling."
It's about listening and seeing what wants to arise or come forth.

Additionally, I am reminded of another type of prayer that naturally arises within me, that of gratitude. Sometimes feelings of love and gratitude spontaneously arise when, for example, I am in nature, sharing with friends, preparing food... feelings of being profoundly blessed. I like to focus on these feelings and express my love and gratitude to the Universe - another powerful form of prayer!

With much love and gratitude , Fiona

Yes indeed - the whole notion of asking for something becomes irrelevant when we're actually aligned to the divine flow - everything that happens has a deeper purpose and it's about understanding what that purpose is.

At the same time, we must remember that we are channels for the divine energy to flow and acts of creativity won't happen unless we take an active part in them - that is our sacred covenant for incarnation.

Sometimes I feel such an upwelling of creative and impactful energy, I just have to let it out. This too is a 'prayer of the divine'. I reminded of an excellent clip from Lord of the Rings which really gets the whole notion of unleashing powerful energies as an upwelling from the soul. "You shall not pass!"...

Thanks Chris, powerful clip.

It speaks to me of Ray 1 (warrior) energy (Seven rays of divine impulse), something I feel it would benefit me to explore deeper and express more fully. Thanks to Gandalf for the mirror!

Perhaps, I can pray for appropriate opportunities to present themselves, if of course it is in my own highest interest and in the highest interest of all life :D

Love, Fiona

Indeed Fiona. It reminds me of an experience I had a while back. I was experiencing a good deal of psychic attack over a protracted period. In fact it felt like most of my home town (Glastonbury) was besieged by Opposing Consciousness.

So I asked for help... "show me!" In response I was drawn to a high spot above the town - Glastonbury Tor - to meditate. I was playing uplifting music on my ipod when "Nessun Dorma" came on by Pavarotti. To me it's a very uplifting and inspiring track.

I felt the energy grow and well up from my base chakra. Feeling to add 'fuel to the fire' by bringing increasing focus to it, suddenly a bolt of energy shot up through my spine and out through my Third Eye. It sent ripples of consciousness through the surrounding field obliterating the negative energy all around. It was a powerful experience.

So what invokes the warrior in you?
And here's the maestro to provide some inspiration...

Heartfelt thanks! Powerful clip too.

What invokes the warrior in me? Great question and gave me lots to watch and explore... some definate invoking methods for me include powerwalking, dancing, singing, music, Openhand meditation movements, projects...

I'm delighted to share that my ipod now has a new playlist entitled "lively" or "life-ly". A very successful trial run of this playlist was conducted yesterday, in conjunction with a walk up to Glastonbury Tor! It was fantastic, on reaching the top surrounded by freezing fog, I felt inspired to dance, move and sing - a wonderful upwelling of joy, gratitude, enthusiasm and warrior energy ensued. A truly wonderful prayer indeed!

What I noticed was that the energy stayed with me as I carried on with my day, even when shopping for potatoes. I see how it can help to give more focus to whatever I'm doing or how I'm being. (Perhaps this is why I find that a walk or Openhand movements are a great way to start my day!)

Thank you for assisting in the unfolding of new awareness and deepening experiences with warrior energy. It feels like I've lots more to learn, other aspects to explore, though am ready to confront and embrace whatever wants to present itself!

With much love and deep appreciation, Fiona

Hi Masabimu,

Thanks for your informed posting - you're welcome on this site :smile:

In many ways I agree with what you're saying about prayer. I especially liked how you defined prayer in three levels: from the lips, from the intellect and from the place of deep meditation. Yes I can see those three varying levels.

You go on to say...

    As for true meditation, it holds one thing in common with all high disciplines: its genuine practice begins only when the preliminary lessons have been thoroughly mastered.

To me, this would depend entirely on what you believe "true meditation" to be. From my perspective, true meditation begins by being the Observer of oneself in all of life's interactions until the Observer becomes pure presence - an enlightened state. In essence, we are then meditating the whole time.

You go onto say...

    "True meditation becomes possible only after body and mind, movement and thought have totally ceased and been utterly stilled."

If there were to be absolute stillness as you describe, then there would be no one or nothing experiencing anything. The absolute that we are, is ALWAYS experienced through some form relativity of "this" and "that". It is a continual flow. Only the ego gets rid of ego.

You also say...

    It is well to realize that all disciplines have beginnings and middles before their actual practice can begin. A karate master once pointed out that karate practice is open only to those with the black belt around their waist! All others are merely making ready.

Interestingly I studied Karate for over twenty five years and about ten of those was teaching students. I found I always learned as much from the students as they learned from me. As Bruce Lee pointed out, I found strict adherence to form was always limiting.

It is not hard to be enlightened. It is not hard to meditate. My observation is that teachers make it hard by thinking there is a particular way of doing something. Our observation here in our work at Openhand is that EACH has their OWN way, and that each has PERFECT aptitude for their own way. And we don't have to be masters to get there. We ALREADY are there when we give up efforting to do or be something we are not.

Open