Ways to Pray

If the thought of praying makes you itch, read on …

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “prayer?” For some of us, just hearing the word makes us itch! Maybe we remember uncomfortable clothes, hard benches and a pulpit-thumping preacher. Or maybe the musty smell of temple when we just wanted to be free to run in the summer sunshine. Often we haven’t updated our idea of what prayer means, since those early years. Or maybe we’ve never been exposed to prayer at all.

Over the years I’ve tried a number of prayer-forms including Zazen and centering prayer. But it seems that I had an undisciplined mind, or maybe it was my body – sitting still made me feel … itchy!  (In family movies, I was always that blur running across the screen …)

Then a friend of mine had the courage to say, “I have to move when I pray! When I can move, I’m better able to feel my connection to the Divine. When I’m just sitting there, well, I may as well go to sleep.”

What great permission! Contemplative prayer is deep and rich, but it isn’t the only way to pray. Truly there are as many ways to pray as there are names of God. Christine Sine talks about praying in the garden. Brother Jamal Rahman tells about heart-centered prayer. Think of the many artists and musicians you know—which ones are praying as they perform? I know a woman who prayed through an entire Walk-a-thon for cancer research—each step was a prayer to find cancer’s cure. Even play can be a form of prayer, if it opens you, frees you, widens your delight.

So how do you pray? Do you pray by yourself? Or in a group? At night? Or when you wake? (I’m beginning to feel like Dr. Seuss–Do you pray in a box or with a fox? :-)) Do you pray when you’re running—or stretching—or lying beside a creek?

And how do you know you’re praying? Could you be praying sometimes when you don’t even realize it? Or—is it possible—that sometimes when you think you’re praying, you’re not really? You’re just repeating thoughts you have during normal times of the day? Or saying the words without feeling them–without entering into them with your whole soul?

Prayer should be like love—opening your eyes, your senses, and yes, your soul, to a feeling of being alive—at peace—connected—grateful. So what are you doing in your life that makes you feel that way?

And if you’re not—isn’t it time to start?

And if you have no idea where to start—call me.

I would love to pray with you …


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The mind of the day draws no attention to it;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words
Drawing us to listen inward and outward

John O'Donohue, from The Inner History of a Day