Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of April 16, 2018

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The Essence of Prayer

(Climbing Jacob's Ladder: 10)

Even within a given religion, we find innumerable forms of prayer. Here we use the term prayer in its broadest sense, to include all types: inner and outer, individual and communal, petitions, chants, repetitions, meditations, contemplations, visualizations, gestures, rituals, and the rest — all aimed at engaging with something higher than our ordinary level. Can we look into this plethora of prayers and find some commonality, find the essence of prayer?

One aspect that immediately suggests itself in this regard is the One to Whom all prayers are directed. Notwithstanding the fact that some prayers address intermediaries, certain saints, angels, spirits, lesser gods, or other subsidiaries, the notion of the One Who stands behind all that is never far away. Thus we see a whole range of levels of prayer, which all ultimately funnel toward the One.

The levels of prayer remind us of the levels of Jacob's Ladder. The fact that Jacob's Ladder is, for us, about climbing, invites us also to climb the levels of prayer. Indeed, each level of prayer corresponds to a rung on Jacob's Ladder.

There are rote prayers, repeated by habit, with no particular attention or heart, and little intention. Nevertheless, even rote prayer creates and maintains a place in us that can ripen into deeper, more meaningful prayer. An example of that is the positive effect of rote prayer in childhood, blossoming into depth of prayer in adulthood.

There are prayers characterized by the sensitive energy, where we are in contact with the words, gestures, and meaning of the prayer. Even if the prayer is a repetition, or even if it does not engage all three of body, heart, and mind, still, we imbue it with the light of sensitive awareness.

Conscious prayer engages us fully. The clarity of our intention gives the prayer its force. Whether we are asking for some particular help, raising our inner or outer voice in heartfelt devotion, or contemplating the glory, we pray with the whole of ourselves. We are here, inwardly, outwardly, and intentionally absorbed in the act of praying.

To pray at the level of the creative energy means to go beyond ourselves. Here there is no praying for me or mine. The entire aim consists of connecting with, opening to, and serving the Sacred. Self-centeredness, no matter how subtle, only stands in the way. This level of prayer requires us to empty ourselves of ourselves, letting go of who we are, to become a particle of and a vessel for the higher. The energies we transform through such prayer form a key part of our service to life and to the Sacred.

At the ultimate level of prayer, we bring our completed, and utterly humble and purified individuality, our very soul, and open to the unity of the whole. The Sacred Mountain of Purpose touches us and, to the extent of our purity, embraces and imbues us with Itself, as we return to our Source and then from and as our Source.

Jacob's Ladder is meant for climbing, and so is prayer. The essence of prayer is to reconnect with the Sacred. Starting from where we are, we engage in prayer to purify our heart and soul, to serve the Sacred, and become able to pray with ever more depth.

For this week, please see where you are on the ladder of prayer and seek the essence of your own prayer practice.

See Also: Prayer and Stages of Prayer


        

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