How do you pray?

Prayer. What is it? How do you do it? How often should you do it?      I have pondered this a lot in my growing up years.

I grew up Catholic. We went to church most Sundays, I attended weekly religious education classes since before 4th grade (though that’s where my memories really begin), I coveted attending Catholic school (the kids seemed smarter!), and I have always – ALWAYS – been spiritual.

There is no question in my mind that there is a higher power out there. The questions come in when we consider how we interpret that higher power. Regardless of the religion (or not) that you study, most religious leaders I have encountered recommend that you pray multiple times a day. Recommendations include morning, mealtime, midday, and evening rituals all accompany prayer.

But what should a prayer look like? The best advice I heard… so many years ago that I can no longer attribute a source… broke prayer down in three ways. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw a shortened version of this the other day.

Prayer should include thanks, an ask, and listening. So, what could that look like?

Thank

The first thing you could consider when praying is simply expressing gratitude. Be thankful for the things you have (material, spiritual, otherwise). Be thankful for being alive. Show and express thanks for those in your life who make your life easy, who challenge you, who support you, who are there to keep you company. Be thankful for where you are and the growth journey you are on. Be thankful for the chance to try again another day. Just be thankful.

Ask

Often when we pray, we want something. Maybe we want help dealing with a situation. Maybe we want more material goods to make our lives more earful. Maybe we want our jobs to feel more secure. There are many things of which we can ask – of self or for someone else. And, prayer is a great space or that asking. 

Listen

A component I think that gets lost in prayer is making time to listen. How are you going to know if your request has been fulfilled? When are you making space to just … listen? I prefer meditation as a sacred spot to engage in listening. I will say we can listen all the time – walking down the street, engaging in household chores, consuming our meals. There is a specific difference, however, when we set time aside to just listen.

You may recall my listening campaign last year where I would just listen to you. I wanted this project because I believe we all need to practice listening. 

Listening is not waiting for the other person to respond. Listening isn’t even touching someone after they’ve said something moving. Listening isn’t nodding aggressively. And, listening certainly isn’t interrupting.

When we listen with our whole body, we bring ourselves back to what the speaker is saying. We show up with love, with compassion. We withhold judgment. We parse our curiosity for another time and we absorb the whole story.

Now do this in conjunction with prayer. Listen with your hold body.

Because I prefer meditation, my listening practice might look like this:

  • Grab my “meditation cushion” (right now it’s a fuzzy blanket)
  • Open my Insights Timer and get ready my desired pre-saved time (I like 5 minutes)
  • Get comfy. For me, this looks like my back against a flat surface, seated on the ground, on my “meditation cushion”
  • Start practicing my circular breathing. I like a four-count rhythm. Breathe in, count to four, and pause. Breathe out, count to four, and pause.
  • I might have a question in mind, if not, I am just practicing being mindful
  • Begin my timer and start my meditation
  • Begin by focusing my thoughts on my breath 
  • Continue noticing any discomfort and simply noticing it, maybe making adjustments as is necessary
  • Quiet my mind and focus on my breath
  • When my mind wanders, I notice it and recenter my focus to my breath
  • The timer goes off
  • I write about what comes up for me

So, how do you pray? Do you include more or fewer steps than I have included? What does your listening session look like?

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