Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of September 26, 2016

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Prayer

(Basic Inner Work 7)

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Deuteronomy 6:5

All and any prayer connects us with the Sacred. That is the basic intention behind every prayer, regardless of the type, be it asking for something, praising or thanking God, or contemplating or opening to the Divine. Prayer has an immediate and direct effect on the person who is praying. The mere fact of recognizing a higher power diminishes our egoism and leads us toward true humility. Thus prayer helps purify us, while purity of heart, in turn, enables us to pray more deeply.

The most common type of prayer is petitionary, wherein we ask for something. We might also praise or thank God in the type known as worship. These kinds of prayer usually involve words, whether spoken or chanted aloud, or just rendered as thoughts in our mind.

How can we deepen our prayer? Consider first how much of you is engaged in the prayer. Is it only in your thoughts or on your lips? If you are saying a prayer, are you simultaneously thinking about something else? Is your heart in it? Can you bring your heart into it? So that while you say or think your prayer, you also feel it. Can you bring your body into it? So that while you feel your prayer, and say or think it, you also are fully in contact with your body and including your body in the process of praying. Your thoughts, your emotions, and your body are all praying together, as one.

A further question comes: am I praying or is this prayer happening in me but without me? Am I fully engaged in the prayer? Am I behind it? Am I the one who is praying? Am I here, using all my capacities of body, heart, and mind to pray? Is the prayer fresh in this moment? Or is it just going by habit on its own?

Besides being fully and wholly engaged in the act of praying, we try other types beyond petition and worship. For this, place and direction are key. There are many sacred places conducive to prayer, from certain places in nature, often designated as such by native peoples, to the many houses of worship that we have built. The primary function of all these sacred places is to move us into that most sacred space of all: the temple of inner stillness within each of us. That vast temple is always there and always available, though usually hidden behind our endless thoughts and reactions and sensory impressions. Meditation also helps us find that sacred space. Going into that stillness, we pass through some of the veils separating us from the Sacred.

Yet to cross the next gap, we must go beyond the stillness itself. We work toward opening a direct connection between ourselves and the Sacred. Opening to the Sacred is an act of prayer. This does require full engagement, but does not necessarily require words. Here we immediately confront the issue of where to look, of what direction to open to. Some use one of God's many names as a means of orienting themselves toward the Sacred, an approach that certainly can help. Truly, though, the direction is a mystery. One way to look is into and through our spiritual heart, which encompasses our entire being and opens into the Sacred.

We also look into and through our own most inward core, our I, back behind the one who sees what we see, who does what we do, back behind the one who chooses what we choose, back behind the one who directs and focuses our attention. The reason is that our very own will is a ray of the Divine Will. That connection may be overlooked or ignored or even twisted, but can never be broken. If we delve deeply into ourselves, into our own root, we delve toward the Sacred. In this place and in that direction, our prayer is the act of exploring with heart.

Afterward, we sit quietly for a time, letting our being digest the results.

For this week, please renew your own practice of prayer.


     

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