Many people in my circles—UU, Pagan, humanist, atheist—have little truck with anything called “prayer.” It smacks to them of superstition, sycophancy, futility, or just bad experiences with religion in general and prayer in particular.
I’m a huge fan of prayer.
So much so, in fact, that my free e-book on this site is called Your Journey Toward Wisdom: A Practice of Prayer. You could argue that the book is about spiritual practice in general. And I’m willing to entertain that argument.
Still, as far as I’m concerned, prayer is where it’s at. Prayer is the center of my spiritual practices, and really, you could also make the argument that all my spiritual practices add up to prayer.
But that depends on what you call “prayer.”
What is Prayer? What does it do?
Prayer is not about changing what is “out there.” At least not directly.
It is about disposing myself to be changed. It is about softening my heart. It is about being open to think, feel, believe, and act differently. To be present differently. It is, as my Islam teacher pointed out, reminding myself who I am as a human being. To stop being forgetful.
So it’s about changing yourself. Yeah, yeah, Catharine, we know. But what’s the larger point?
Prayer brings miracles:
Miracles that are ripples moving out from our thoughts and actions into the world.
Miracles of love, compassion, and healing that go out from our own innermost selves.
But SO WHAT?!
Belief in these miracles requires understanding the interconnectedness of all things.
All things in the Universe.
There is nothing that has happened in the history of the Universe that is not affecting our lives right now.
There is nothing we do that does not circle and spiral out from us into the world, touching everyone and everything there is. The trick is that we have to be ABLE to CHOOSE to BE in such a way as to bring good into the world.
Prayer works miracles because it changes us and we participate in the ever-evolving world.
We Are the Change We Make
As Teresa of Avila said, “God has no hands now but yours.” We ARE the change we make in the world. Whether we will be the change we WANT to see in the world is another matter. It is true, we must act, and act in ways both motivated by and producing hope.
Prayer makes hope-filled action more possible because prayer changes us.
Prayer, in my observation, is a mysterious, circuitous, and foolproof way towards the Catharine I experience as most authentic, ethical, compassionate, and wise. I don’t understand how it works, but it does.
It’s not about throwing yourself at the feet of a god you reject. It’s not about whinging about wanting things to be different when you refuse to do anything about them yourself. (Beware of that!) It’s not even necessarily about acknowledging or communing with a deity at all. It may be “just”—and really, it’s not “just” anything—about communing with your own Deepest, Wisest Self.
So perhaps give some thought to these miracles, eh?
More Spiritual Practice (or Prayer!)
Starting on the first Tuesday in January, I shall be offering a course in spiritual practice (call it prayer if you like, but you needn’t). We shall discuss these matters of prayer in some depth, and also engage concepts of commitment, interior perception/conception in guided meditation, the power of the breath, and methods of sacred reading.
We’ll meet online four times in January, and will have ongoing email throughout the month. All classes will be recorded, and handouts and propmts will be yours to keep.
If you’d like to get a better sense of my angle on prayer/spiritual practice, go ahead and sign up for the newsletter and pick up Your Journey Toward Wisdom: A Practice of Prayer.
Interested in more information about the class? Go to this page and check it out.
Prayer is great. As therapy I pray whatever song I feel like praying. Its excellent for helping old feelings out of your system. Praying speed metal? Check 😀