by JK Short
Prayer in Culture
Gaining insights and wisdoms from the divine has been part of every culture. In Christianity, in particular Protestant Lutheranism, Martin Luther posited that open communication with God was achieved by direct prayer, without the need of the Church, holy representatives or intercessors to speak on behalf of believers. In the wisdom of the Hindu vedas and the bodhisattvas, the divine is cultivated through deep meditation that can connect one to gurus of ages past. As more and more people move away from religion, yet still seek spiritual fulfillment, people from all walks of life are finding themselves prompted to follow their own spiritual path. Meditative prayer can still be a powerful transformative tool that works to bring peace and deeper connection to life. As John Shelby Spong wrote in his book A New Christianity for a New World: ‘Prayer is…the activity that enables each of us to be givers to and receivers from one another of the deepest meaning of life – a meaning I call God’.
Prayer & Our Desire for Truth
There is power in the written word. But through utterance, there is an undeniable greater strength. It’s as though, by speaking, the cosmic vibration you are sending off into the void is ten-fold that of the material written, or in mental form. Yet still we get bogged down mentally, because old wisdoms seem less relevant in modern life. Many of us wish to move away from the archaic thought structures and old conventions of our ancestors. Like all things, prayer is evolving. So is belief. No longer do we claim to be one faith or another. Former bishop, Shelby Spong, touched on the nature of our desire to seek the truth of our age by calling himself ‘a believer in exile’. The term accentuates and gives voice to what people are feeling: countless truth seekers shy away from authoritarian religion or those who dictate how we ought to behave and live spiritually; and their floating, non-static identity shifts between wanting to believe and trying to find the right medium or expression that gives weight and grounding to what we seek. At the heart of it, all of us seek truth.
Planning for Wellness and Happiness: Why Scheduling Time is Important
Whenever we feel despair or loneliness, or are experiencing deep trouble of the soul, prayer is the way of reconnecting. Often times, those emotions and false beliefs take root because we have disconnected from the greater world and truth around us. Even those that seek a wider view than is offered by a religion can practise meditative prayer. Simply by praying to or from our spiritual centre, sent from our true self or ‘sat nam’, as is talked about in Sikhism, we can bring about the changes in our lives that we are looking for. Far from this notion being a result or expression of individualism, it is a deep sacred practice that acknowledges the truest part of the self that is a microcosm or element of a greater whole and connects you with purpose and meaning. Making time for daily practice of prayer is important to health and wellbeing. In the first chapter of Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking and Health, Dr Caroline Leaf says we are thinking beings and our beliefs, dreams, hopes and thoughts have a great impact on how our brain operates. Added to this, toxic thinking wears it down and, on a physical level, our DNA changes shape and can be reduced in quality of expression, all in accordance to our thoughts and feelings. What we think and believe therefore has a direct effect on our physiology. As Dr Leaf illustrates, ‘The process of thinking and choosing is the most powerful thing in the universe after God, and it is a phenomenal gift from God to be treasured and used properly’. Therefore, choosing what we say or think in prayer is as important as it is in every other intention. In our lives, which are often overcome with competing calls for our personal and professional ambitions, spiritual goal setting is a positive mind technique that can boost performance, centre our being and keep us level in times of distress. If we can make time for management schedules in our professional lives, we can also use them to plan out our personal and spiritual development.
Cultivating Everyday Meditative Prayers
To meditate, you don’t have to sit quietly or attain a deep level of concentration. Meditative prayer doesn’t even have to use many words. It can last one minute or several. By being direct with your intent, carefully wording your prayer or mantra on what it is that you wish to achieve or seek guidance for, you will manifest change. Some examples:
Count the Sound Vibrations
One of the quickest ways to rebalance the mind, attain a sense of calm and prepare the mind to go deeper is through meditating on sound. In this state, whether you are about to have an important professional meeting, leave for a social event or leave for work, even taking a minute or a few seconds to close the eyes and count all the sounds you hear is a way of restarting the mind from a place of groundedness. Perhaps there may only be one or two sounds. Challenge yourself to start again and find double that. This short, directed meditation is so simple, yet it refreshes the brain. This is because it is a little fragment of focused attention that allows the brain space to concentrate on something other than the matter that is giving you stress at that time. The reprieve enables it to re-energise.
Walk into Standing Courage
Ever been anxious before making an important phone call, attending a meeting or an interview? As the book A Guide for the Advanced Soul quotes: ‘Do the thing, then you will have the power’. But sometimes we get worked up about doing the thing. One of the most effective ways to settle yourself, break the inactiveness and begin a task, is by taking three deep breaths. Then void the breath in one long exhalation, for a finger count of three. Say aloud your name. Tell yourself: ‘This is me, I am confident and this is my true self’. Doing this before you open the door or while the phone is ringing makes it more powerful, as you combine your words with will power and action. It prepares you to talk with others from a place of strength, confidence and openness. The more you practise it, the more your actions will come from a centre of power, expressing who you really are and building your confidence.
How to Talk to God
Prayer is a technique. Yogananda realised this. So much so that he set up schools to instruct others. In his work, How You Can Talk with God, Yogananda says, ‘God is consciousness. God is energy. “Talking” means vibrating. In the vibration of His cosmic energy He is talking all the time’. He continues: ‘If you pray strongly enough, those prayer vibrations bring a vibratory response immediately’. Praying often, we clarify intent; and words that define what we are seeking deliver results. That and ending prayers with ‘The Cosmic Sound’. As Yogananda revealed: ‘When I listen to Aum and occasionally ask God to tell me something, that sound of Aum changes into English or Bengali language and gives me precise instructions’.
About the author: JKA SHORT is an Australian writer of English-German background. After graduating with a BA in 2006, he went on to complete a Post-Graduate Diploma in Teaching in 2010. Afterwards, he entered the teaching profession and taught at schools in his home country as well as internationally in North Africa and in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. He recently released his first story collection, Wayfarer, featuring a host of original characters embarking on epic sci-fi adventures.