A Day In the Life of Prayer

By: Stephen Levine
Posted: February 24, 2011

What would it be like to awake in a day in a life of love devoted to prayer? What would it be like to find a prayer in the first breath, to hear an expression of your true heart in every breath that followed?

Prayer is an extension from the state of mind that reflects the condition of the heart. It is an expression of what we call “Faith” which on close examination is composed of a process of increasing trust, hope, respect, affirmation, and love.

There as many kinds of prayer as there are aspects to the many-faceted nature of the heart.

Despite the kitsch of nihilism in the bar-room despondency of many modern psychiatrists as long as there is love God is not dead. I refer not to God the Father/Creator but God the highest form of creation. The gods of compassion called by the ten thousand names of Avalokiteshvara, Jesus, Quan Yin and those guided by their emanations, Lama Yeshe, Desmond Tutu, Walt Whitman, Gandhi.

Some beseech the divine, whatever its name or destination, for benefits or intercession in their suffering. Some on bended knee ask for forgiveness, others for revenge. Some for healings, some for a Mercedes Benz. Some for a car that will just start in the morning and a sexual partner to match.

Others’ prayer is contemplation, a listening prayer that quiets the mind for the reception of insight and beatific grace. Some in a profound silence that mirrors the equanimity before the “Big Bang” out of which the world and mind is created.

Some pray an active prayer [not just in the inspiration of a church or mosque or synagogue or any holy site but] in the midst of an active life repeating their name for god beneath the breath, within the breath hundreds of times a day. Gandhi had made this practice so much his own repeating “ Ram” so many tens of thousands of times that when he was assassinated he repeated “Ram” three times as he fell. Some practice this prayer in words transmitted from a respected source as with the ten thousand names of God. Their prayer one of the mantras practiced in every religion from The jesus prayer sometimes swept of ancient guilt, no longer referring to them selves as ‘miserable sinners” but as a calling of the sacred directly into the heart as, “Jesus, Heart Of God, let me see as you see.”

Some employing the delightful and extremely powerful, “ The power of God is within me, the grace of God surrounds me.” Or bridging the gap, “The power of love is within me, the grace of love surrounds me.”

Or some Buddhists, open into contemplative recitation prayer not to some Supreme Being but to one of the Celestial Spirits, to the Bodhisattvas and the reincarnation of Perfect Peace referred to as Maitrey awaited like the Second Coming to pacify the world.

Some in what looks like prayer call some spiritual ancestor or greatly respected predecessor like Chetanya, or the Rabi of Bal?? or the legendary teaches fro the Tales of the Hasidim or the Desert Fathers into their heart so they might reflect their remarkable qualities and commitment.

And in the original worlds of native peoples everywhere a calling for safety to the powers behind Nature.

Or not to any higher power at all but opening into a loving kindness meditation extended out into the world.

And of course many do spiritual practice not just for their own benefit but the good of others. Some in extend such as the loving kindness meditation out to all sentient beings. Or pray for peace in the world. Or the healing, even forgiveness, of others.

As an experiment in such prayer some years ago I prayed for the well being of two people who had a prolonged illness including taking each as the object of a loving kindness meditation.

After a few weeks one took a dramatic turn for the better. The other seemed after some time to improve somewhat.

And just to take the metaphor of prayer [I have heard it said that God is a metaphor for God] a bit more experimental, just to see how high it might reach, I took as the object of prayer a fellow who said he had “the perennial bad luck of the family” which he believed was due to his grandfather’s extraordinary mistreatment of African tribal peoples. I prayed that he might be forgiven by what ever shamanic spirits might be assailing him for his ancestor’s misconduct. And that he might forgive himself for what ever self-imposed “curse” might lie below the level of awareness. I certainly did not know the cause of his difficulties but I did know that prayers for another’s well being can only serve their best interest. Quite to my surprise within a very short time he had a week of the most extraordinary good fortune, he found the love of his life and the job he had been repeatedly refused.

One has to be cautious of the potential for superstition in the power of prayer particularly when it works. Like affirmations, motivated by a desire for another’s well being instead of the benefit of oneself, like offering up the benefits of one’s spiritual endeavors for the good of others does seem to have a particular power to it.

And on the other hand it has become almost a cliché how many spiritual practitioners, even some considered Adepts, believed because of their long run of good fortune that God or the Bodhisattvas or even a powerful deceased teacher would somehow protect them because they were such “good people ” or “so very holy’. But God will not protect us. There is more to love than that.