Can I get an Amen?!
Sometimes we get to a place in life where we feel the limits of our own power to create or solve a situation, or discover we can't find peace with the emotions within – despite our best efforts.
If we know we have done it all, then...consider prayer.
In fact, if you are doing anything momentous in life/business/relationships... consider prayer. Turns out it is a powerful way to create a very well honed intention for what you want to happen. And every great endeavour or relationship starts with a clearly articulated core desire, right?
From the age of 5 years old, I was raised a Baha'i. Google it. The faith has a degree of structure, including prayer morning and night for kiddies and adults alike, and then add an extra little quick checkin around sunset once you're an adult. I have a great deal of respect for the Baha'i faith. Many of the principles are greatly progressive compared to your average religion; equality of men and women, and racial harmony. Paving the path to world peace is their mission. How wonderful.
But I didn't thrive in it for many complex reasons, and so I left the faith in my early 20's after giving it my best shot. Upon deciding to leave, I ditched the idea of religion altogether. But then in my mid 20's I began to feel that I may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I started recognising my innate spiritual nature and began a quest to find a path of betterment that sat more naturally with me. I yearned for spiritual growth and expansion which felt earned and true.
These days, I call myself a freestyler who prefers 'Disorganised Religion'. I'll bank any insight that passes my internal bullshit filter/integrity test, whether it came from Buddha, Mohammed or the bloke down the street. This has really honed my ability to be critical and judicious when it comes to filtering spiritual ideas and I feel rich harvesting insights from everywhere.
But over the years I have come to recognise that that I am still missing some key benefits that certain aspects of religion offers people.
Community and worshipping together. I went to see a Harlem Gospel Church one of my last visits to New York. I experienced first hand the joyful ecstasy of religious song as sung from the hearts of emancipated, radiant and joyfully free human beings. I was whipped into spiritual ecstacy and sense of oneness with all things through song. It was an unbelievably powerful moment and left an indelible imprint on my life. Apart from going to gospel in Harlem every time I visit New York, I don't think that its likely that I'll get to experience weekly gospel in my life. But then crazier things have happened. Like traveling the world with a ukulele orchestra (which was literally the next best thing). I do very much value the community of Genius You alumni - who are by definition inspiring bravehearts on a quest of discovery and expansion. They plug a fair bit of the gap. But we are yet to do gospel singing together....
Structure and ritual. I miss the structure that religion provided me. As Baha'i's, it was our duty to pray, study the writings, bring oneself to account daily and to look into aspects of ones character that fell short of the standards being held up by the faith and to develop them.
Buuuut - I don't like rules or being told what to do. I was born this way, according to my Mum :-)
So the duty part never sat well with me. But I do love doing things because they are intrinsically great things to do and because I choose them. So initially I rejected all the rituals, but now that I have committed wholeheartedly to the evolution of my inner being I am gradually choosing how to put a structure in place that supports and fast-tracks my personal development. Importantly for me, it is 100% tailored to me and my personal sense of purpose.
The rituals that I have reinstated include mindfulness meditation; to prime my mind, get clear and connect to my source. I also call myself to account daily; I do this by reflecting then writing to capture my insights. I also read writings and inspiration from spiritual traditions and teachers every day to elevate my spirit and keep informing my learning edges. But it is only very recently that I felt moved to start praying. As with most people, this happened because I was experiencing hardship. I am having lean moments while I launch myself as a mentor, and in order to keep me from chucking in the towel and getting a safe office job, I turned to prayer. And it works. The connections and clients are now starting to flow. Why? I wanted to understand that too. So I dissected the aspects of prayer and it makes huge sense to me why it is so effective.
What is prayer?
I've just got theories about why it works. But what I do know with certainty from experience, is that when done well, it actually works. It potentially connects us with God, but I can't confirm that :-)
Perhaps more significantly its a conversation with our highest self. It allows us to jump past all the conditioning and limiting thoughts into the greatest sense of our power and possibility. It instantly changes our Mindset and this has a positive effect on our brain chemistry.
With prayer we acknowledge and feel into our limits. We are mortals, there is a lot we can do to activate the life of our desires, but we can't control how and when things happen. Prayer is opening ourselves up to energetic support from the unseen forces around us. It puts us in a state of supplication, invitation, letting go, beseeching. And this is critical - because you have to let go in order to make space for something new. In this case, we are letting go of our small self in order to let in support from forces greater than us enable our more magnificent life to emerge. Or something like that...
Let the dissection begin. What are prayers parts?
An address. Who are you praying to? What/who are you invoking, and what does this state enable in you? Having someone tangible to receive your parcel of hope - like someone dearly departed - may be easier than praying to an unquantifiable God.
Elevated state - moving from the ordinary to the limitless, most expanded version of ourselves. A state of reverence and expansion. How does it make you feel to call in the attention and focus your special ones, those who connect you with this sense of eternity?
Alignment - Creating the best possible internal conditions, and feeling connected to the source of power we are invoking. Experiencing oneness with all things. (This is a good enough reason to do prayer on its own!)
Acknowledging limits - we accept that which we have control of (our aim, our purpose and mission) and acknowledge that the 'hows' and 'whens' sit outside ourselves.
Gratitude - Seeing the world with grateful eyes. Loving what is, deeply appreciating what dreams have been enabled already.
Love - in prayer we are stepping into a state of love. This is about holding yourself self and your quest in loving regard at the same time as having a heart that is overflowing with awe of the universal forces that are swirling all around and uplifting us. Or something delicious like that...
Committing to see the gifts of the journey - holding a learners mind to these tough experience you are seeking support on, reflecting on them, taking on the insights to expand you.
Wonder - enjoying the great pleasure of communing with greater forces, stepping out of the ordinary of the day to day into the domain of the gods. Heady, hearty stuff.
Trust - holding a sense of peace now that this parcel of hopes and dreams has been deposited, and trusting that everything is unfurling just as it should. This means trusting that the timeframe is perfect, the dropped balls are perfect, the losses are perfect. Because these are your hard-won lessons and your life can't expand without this new found wisdom.
I encourage you to give prayer a crack. I'm not a beside-the-bed kinda person. Besides its the middle of winter in a character New Zealand cottage. The floor is freezing! I like to pray in bed, all tucked up with a hot water bottle as I am going to sleep and just on waking. I find this place so intimate for the purposes of communion with my most excellent self. I really enjoy her company :-)
You can shape your own prayer by closing your eyes and just letting your mind find some ease and stillness. Then begin to welcome in the 'hosts on high' - call in your people, your conduits, your touch points with the unknown forces that be. And start a loving, respectful conversation about your needs and your desire for support. Add a bit of a Ru Paul's "Can I get an AMEN!" at the end and you're good to go. Enjoy the peaceful space you created, and then sit back an allow your cohorts on high time to facilitate your wishes.
My other piece of advice? Don't wait til you really NEED to pray. Do it before you hit rock bottom. (Aaaaaah the benefit of hindsight...) Or do it because you are developing a new business strategy. Or because your in-laws are coming to stay. Or because you yelled at your kid this morning. Or because everything feels perfect and you want to swim in your gratitude for a few precious moments.