Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of November 9, 2009

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Prayer

(Aspect 10 of 12 of the Path of Right Living)

The tent of prayer shelters us all, as we address the hidden force behind the veil of creation. Even if you do not believe in a Creator, you may still be inclined to prayer, because you know its efficacy, at least in changing your inner state. So in the worst case, we believe there is no God and we pray because it helps us find inner peace. In the best case we know God; we know there is Someone to Whom we pray. In truth, though, very few people know from their own direct experience that God exists. Much more common is an experience deeper than our ordinary awareness that shows the existence of a higher realm or realms, though not of God directly. And from such experiences springs the faith that, at the ultimate height, God does indeed exist, continuously creating this universe. For many others, faith is rooted in a childhood within the culture, doctrine, and ritual of their family religion. Wherever we stand on this wide spectrum of faith, from disbelief to direct certainty, from disregard to devotion, prayer welcomes us on our own terms with its warm embrace.

There are many levels of prayer — all of them valuable. Here we’ll focus on how to move toward the deeper levels of prayer, toward the true worship that opens us to our connection with the Sacred. Please prepare by choosing a prayer, for example the Lord’s Prayer or another formal prayer or a short phrase from your own religion, or one of your own creation. What matters is that the words of the prayer can touch your heart, that you know them by heart, and that they are capable of pulling you toward the Sacred.

Bring yourself into a calm, relaxed state. Begin repeating the prayer inwardly. As you do so, come into contact mentally and emotionally with the meaning of the prayer, with its thrust. Let the prayer both inform your heart on how to feel and guide your mind toward its purpose, toward your purpose in inwardly saying it. Gradually withdraw from actively repeating the prayer into receptively allowing the prayer to repeat itself in you, moving from inner forcefulness into effortlessness, form active prayer into contemplative worship. Remember the Sacred, Whom you address with this prayer. As you become less inwardly-active, invite the Sacred to enter you, to enter your prayer, to say the prayer in you, through you, as you. From your inmost inwardness, open to contact with the Sacred to Whom you pray and Whom you are inviting, imploring to say the prayer in you. After a time stop and be still. Make no effort at all to direct your inner state. Just be and let the prayer session soak into your being. This is a type of communion, sharing our inwardness with the Sacred.

As you practice this deepening prayer, you will see that this approach is open at both ends. We cannot fail at it, because any effort whatsoever to engage in such prayer has its own innate value. It is an act of will by which, in our own small way, we participate in the Great Will, in the Great Purpose of life. We also can never come to an end of such deepening prayer. There is always more service to be offered and further depths to be plumbed through prayer. For those precious moments in which we participate in the Great Purpose by way of prayer, we fulfill own purpose. Our heart and mind find a transcendent satisfaction, both personal and beyond the personal. For in prayer we serve the Sacred in one of the two major ways that human being are meant to serve, the other way being through outer service to other people and to all of life. True satisfaction comes from service, and the service of prayer is essential. It is not for nothing that in some religions communal worship sessions are called services.

In this practice of deepening prayer, we again see the three aspects of will. Our active will chooses to pray, begins and sustains the repetition, and engages in contact with the meaning and purpose of the prayer and its practice. Our receptive will moves us into the effortless and opening qualities of the practice. And the unifying, reconciling will enters on our invitation as the higher, Sacred will deriving from the Great Purpose Itself. The feeling of a sense of the Sacred, of holiness in prayer is the action of our reconciling, harmonizing, unifying will. Bearing within itself some of the qualities of actively praying and of receptively opening toward the Source, this third side of our will reconciles the other two, while serving as our connection with the Higher.

For this week, practice deepening prayer.


     

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