Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of February 11, 2008

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I Pray

(Part 3 of 9 in the Inner Work Series: The Stages of Prayer)

As children we pray because adults teach us to do so. After that we pray by habit, which may continue into responsible age. We may even attend a house of worship by momentum, or because we enjoy the other people socially, or because of social pressures, or because our parents always did, or because we feel guilt if we do not go. To the extent that any of these situations hold true, the prayer is not ours. Though it may touch our heart, it does not come from us. We do not choose to pray; we just go through the motions, be they inner or outer.

The whole arc of our prayer life changes radically when we begin independently and freely choosing to pray, not because we should but because we ourselves actually wish to pray. At that point everything we have learned about prayer, all the external and even internal forms take on new meaning. Or rather our learned prayers lose their lack of meaning as we search for the Truth behind prayer.

Then prayer is no longer merely an external, habitual, or learned act. It originates with me. I take responsibility for my prayer. I am the one praying now. I am the anchor of my end of this communication with God. And because of all that, my prayer is always new, even when a reenactment of a traditional prayer.

We can distinguish degrees in this being the one who is praying. It starts with freely choosing to pray. That grows into being responsible for my prayer, for how and when I pray. Then we begin to see the crucial difference that presence makes in prayer. The depth and power of prayer depends on whether I am here and present as I pray, whether I am praying, whether I fully engage my body, heart and mind in the prayer. Allowing unrelated, intruding thoughts and images to distract me, weakens my prayer. The degree to which I can focus and hold my attention in the prayer, in its meaning and feeling, in the One to Whom I am praying, defines the quality of the prayer.

Beyond attention, we act as the source of our intention in prayer. We take responsibility for the reason for our prayer, be it a need for which we petition, the understanding that prayer is service, or the love born of faith. I am the one who, as I pray, continuously chooses to pray. I am the one making this request of God. I am the one offering my energy to God. I am the one offering my love to God. I am the one seeking to be to closer to God.

For this week, pray from yourself, from your fully engaged self. Be the one praying.


     

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