Prayer as our ancestral heritage
The practice of prayer is a corrective to the busy and ungrounded times we are passing through. Many people think of prayer as ‘asking for things,’ or else as a practice solely undertaken by card-carrying members of the major religions. Well, it’s also a part of our ancestral heritage too and it helps maintain equilibrium as well as expressing gratitude. If you visit traditional cultures anywhere in the world, people pray naturally, in their own idiom, in words and song, silence and dancing. They address the spirits respectfully not with servility. They pray from a place of need to equals. Gratitude is always the mainspring of their prayer, not request.
What is prayer? Prayer is nothing less than the service of love. All love is generated by giving and receiving, and so you can regard prayer as the lungs of love, which breathe in and out. Prayer can involve actions, blessings, stillness, movement, gesture, not just words. It may consist of thanking, praising, upholding, remembering, blessing, communing, remaining in spiritual poise. It is not pleading, bargaining, or black magic. Prayer never weakens or diminishes you. At the most basic level, it is holding the object of your prayer in your heart, witnessing to their full potential and wishing them well – this can be done by everyone, regardless of whether they regard themselves as spiritual or not.
Who am I praying to? Some people have a sense of the divine as a single being, others have a sense of being companioned by allies, spirits or contacts who reveal themselves in many ways. Regard all such beings as messengers for your prayer. By stepping first into communion with these sources of love and help that gladden your own heart, by seeking out connection before anything else, our prayer goes freely where it needs to go. Go first to that strength before you address the need.
What do the ancestors have to do with prayer? Sometimes we pray through or across time: we can also receive prayer that others have made for us. For example, the sacred sites we enjoy visiting were erected by our ancestors for us – their planning and building was a prayer in itself in which we participate. We can draw upon the prayers of our ancestors by praying to them, so that the old ones can reach through to you, past the entangled place where you’ve become enmeshed to send strong spirits to find you and raise up prayers in you. When you’re feeling particularly strong and happy, try also praying for descendants and leaving markers and handholds for them in those times when they need help.
Is it ethical to pray for others? When you pray for others, you are remembering them at times when they are not able to help themselves: but that doesn’t mean that you prescribe, judge or curse them with your words or intentions. US physician, Larry Dossey, wrote a book on prayer and after its reception by certain unboundaried readers, he was forced to write another one, entitled ‘Be Careful What You Pray For.’ If you are uncertain about permission, then you can do the following: ask your spirits to show you what someone is feeling or fearing. Hold them in your heart and asking for what they most need. Then, get out of the way and let the help come. It’s only when we interfere and interpose our own hopes and fears upon people and situations that things get ethically tangled. If someone is dying, praying for their recovery may be a curse, not a blessing.
So how do I pray for others? The best prayer that we can make for others is ‘may a door or window open for them,’ or ‘may x receive the help that s/he needs now.’ A prayer that doesn’t close the possibilities is good. Put love and strength in the cracks and holes like mortar. See the object of your prayer as someone full of the potential that they were born with; awaken their original nature; raise up the sparks of their soul, even though they may be ill, angry or despairing now. Pray as if the subject could hear, see, feel etc. what they needed and be able to receive.
Prayer is like a stone that drops into a pool. The ripples spread until they reach the side of the pool and then they come back towards the epicentre. Like light or electricity, prayer works invisibly. Sense, see and feel the sacred cosmos within you. Stand in the place of your true abiding, in the same place as your spirits & let them do the work while you get out of the way.