Many of us have lost any feel for the meaning and purpose of prayer. Though most of us, at one point, have probably tried to pray in a desperate plea to get something we cannot otherwise obtain. I know I rejected the whole concept of prayer when I was young and searching to really experience something, versus simply believe what I had been told. The idea that some being out there would hear and respond to my thoughts was just too abstract for me. Now, through the teachings and practices of Yoga, I have come to a much different understanding and experience of it.
begins with acknowledging that our minds have a limited capacity to see who we are, to make sense out of our lives, to know how to wake up and realize the truth, or to even know what to pray for. In a very basic way, prayer is an effort to look beyond the mind, to open our hearts to a wisdom that we cannot find with our thinking. In effect, the mind is quieted by turning our attention beyond it. We have an opportunity to receive the message of our essential spiritual consciousness, to connect with the place within ourselves that is unaffected by the fears and doubts in the mind. Even if we have no concepts, nor words to explain it, we can choose to listen deep within, where we can begin to experience the very ground of our being, where we are connected to all of life.
It is not easy to look beyond the mental level, since we are used to identifying ourselves so completely with the mind and our thoughts. It’s hard to envision that there’s anything better to do than to think harder or ask someone else (which amounts to trying another mind). That’s why we may be more inspired to pray by directing it to a saint or holy person, or any symbol that represents a higher power, a source of wisdom beyond a normal mind. Seeing that light of truth in someone else, or believing in the presence of a higher power and opening ourselves to it, again has the effect of quieting our limited thinking.
When even a little of this inner light is shed on our darkness or confusion, a deeper clarity begins to shine into our awareness. This may be a process that occurs over time or as a flash of insight, but whenever we sincerely open ourselves to the truths behind our pain, we create space for our spiritual nature to emerge. No matter how angry we may be at a foolish person, when we ask for guidance and begin to open our hearts, we can feel a natural compassion arise from within. We may begin to see that our anger is only hurting ourselves and we may see clearly how to correct someone else with love, not revenge, as the impetus behind our words.
I have found it immensely helpful to create my own prayer, which I say regularly as a way of reminding myself of the truth about what I am learning in this life. And when I find myself struggling and groping for answers, I bow my head and open myself with whatever words express my turmoil at that moment. Below is an example of one way to pray that might help prime your pump. Ultimately, the best prayer for you is one that is born from the suffering you experience and your own way of expressing a longing for peace and light.
Please help me remember that the only thing that can really make me happy is to feel that peace, that complete love that is my true nature, so I can be free from clinging to anything outside that brings me only temporary pleasure, and binds me to an endless cycle of desire and disappointment.
Let me remember that I can enjoy everything I do by dwelling in the natural joy of a quiet mind and an open heart, and by taking good care of this body and mind. Let me stay connected to that Presence within, and serve as an instrument of that unconditional Love.