There's no time like the present, and nothing like our present time that urges us to pray for the healing of our world. So much suffering, so many forces beyond our control, sometimes prayer is our only way to send our intention out to the powers that be. At least it's one form that is always available.
More and more people are coming to understand the power of intention to influence reality. How much greater is the power of group intention? Not that we don't still have to pay attention, green up, and get involved actively, but prayer is something that addresses the deeper underlying level.
Deepak Chopra says the universe forms itself around our questions. Prayer is the deep asking that begins a conversation with the intelligence of the universe. It doesn't matter what you call this intelligence: higher mind, God or Goddess, the Force, or a deity by any name - prayer is a unification of mind and heart that arises in the gap between the way things are and the way we know they can be.
Prayer is the part where we speak in the conversation, even if only through our thoughts. Meditation is the listening part of the conversation. Like any meaningful dialog, prayer initiates a resonance that then aligns and draws in other vibrations to increase the possibility of our intention coming into being. Conversations bring us into truth.
We could think of it as analogous to typing a few words into a Google search. Naming the object of our search calls forth a number of choices from an infinite matrix of data. The more specific we are about that naming, the more precise the result, though there is plenty of serendipity if we are open to it. In this way, prayer asks the universe to find the answers in resonance with our quest, drawing them into the mind and reality field of the asker.
But prayer is a little more complex than typing a few words into Google. We are dealing with divine mind after all, and its infinite variations. It's not that it's so difficult to get divine mind to listen, what is difficult is for our prayers to be clear enough to be intelligible. Most often humans want conflicting things; we change our minds, or look only along narrow bandwidths of limited possibilities.
Below are seven stages to effective prayer that can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, within any spiritual framework. They can be seen as a template for harvesting collective consciousness toward our co-creation of a positive future. Action is still required, but action that takes place without proper alignment requires tiresome effort. Action introduced into a prepared matrix becomes joyful and effortless.
Humility begins with what is. It is an admission of the limitations of our personal power, the realization that there are always pathways we cannot see, and that there is a power greater than our mortal powers. Humility is a way of emptying out our mental and emotional constructs that have previously gotten in the way. In 12 step programs, it is the first step: "Humbly admitting we are powerless over our addiction and that there is a greater power that can restore us to health."
Humility relates to chakra one, as it typically takes us downward, toward the earth - a realm that too many spiritual systems have deemed as lowly or inferior. The classic postures of humility are kneeling, prostration, or child's pose. It is the first step in making room for a greater power. Humility brings us into simplicity, into the sacred, and empties the vessel so that it can then be filled.
After humbly emptying yourself for the work, the next step is to align your body, mind, and spirit in such a way that spirit can best move through you. In this step you align with the principles that are important to you, and with the Divine source, in whatever form we have come to understand it.
Attitude is the way we face into a force. Think of a sailboat moving across the sea: the wind may blow in any direction, but how we tack the sail determines the direction we move our boat. Alignment sets our direction. Setting our direction gets the energies moving.
If we are trying to harvest the energy of the sun with a lens, we set the lens at the proper alignment to focus the sun's rays. Alignment focuses our attention the way a flashlight focuses a beam of light to reveal whatever it is trained upon.
My own alignment has to do with opening the axis mundi that runs vertically through the center of each of us, and lining up the chakras. I can do this with body position, visualization, breath, or any of a number of techniques. When my chakras are properly aligned, I become the most effective vessel for channeling energies. For me, aligning myself with my core, brings me into alignment with the core of all living things, and with the creative source of life itself.
Alignment brings us into chakra two, for it begins the process of direction. Alignment is plugging the cord into the wall, tuning the radio to the right frequency, holding the opening of a bottle under the stream of a faucet. It is how we align Self with Other, whether it be another person, deity, force, or environment.
Now that we have emptied our vessel, and oriented ourselves to whatever force we most believe in, we are ready to state our purpose. This can be seen as the goal of the prayer itself, or the larger context in which your prayer is nested. If you are praying for a friend's recovery from illness, what is the greater benefit of that healing? If you are praying for peace in war torn areas of the world, what is the greater vision to which the transformation can be directed? Purpose is the framework formed by consciousness that congeals possibilities into manifestation. If we are filling a vessel with water, is its purpose to water our plants, give someone a drink, or to wash our face? Alignment sets us up to receive. Purpose names the goal. This is the overall intention of the prayer itself. You could call it the asking: "Would you please fill this vessel with water, so that I can bring my friend a drink?"
Most transactions in the universe, be it social, physical, or spiritual, operate on a principle of exchange. If you want something from a store, you offer some money. If you want a favor from a friend, you might offer a favor in return.
In the esoteric literature of the heart chakra, there is a small sub-chakra, called the Anandakanda lotus, in which dwells the Celestial Wishing Tree. This tree is said to bestow even more than is desired, but at the foot of the tree is a small altar, onto which one first makes an offering.
An offering may be our contribution or our sacrifice. We may offer our loyalty, creativity, steadfastness, openness, or dedication. This willingness to contribute creates an openness - think of how you react when someone offers something to you.
However, in the moment of prayer, we can also offer up anything that is NOT part of the prayer itself. If our prayer is to find love, we can offer whatever stands in the way of love. If our prayer is peace, we can release from ourselves whatever parts are holding on to anger or grudges. If we truly erase what stands in the way, we have nothing left but the product of our intentions.
Gratitude is the expression of appreciation before it happens. After letting go of everything that is NOT our vision, we move toward appreciation of everything that IS part of our vision.
We don't have to wait for our vision to be fulfilled to practice this gratitude, for gratitude in advance greases the channels for easy delivery. Think of how you feel when someone asks a favor and tells you how grateful they are before you even do it! Gratitude affirms our belief that that our intention will be fulfilled, and in the best way possible. It opens the channels of reception.
Just as a blueprint shows builders how to arrange the stacks of lumber and materials into a house, the pictures we hold in our minds form an energetic blueprint that constellates the flotsam and jetsam of reality into a form. Our visualizations represent the first step in the descent of energy from the crown chakra moving towards manifestation.
As we focus on our picture of our desired outcome, we must hold it with the openness of a creative vessel. Our vessel gives reality its shape, but the vessel must be empty to receive.
We can ask for all the guidance we want, but if we don't quiet ourselves long enough to receive it, our asking is in vain. So the mirror aspect of our visualization is to create enough emptiness to receive whatever we are asking for. Make room for it!
The realization of our dream is its fulfillment. Can we truly allow this to happen? Can we open ourselves wide enough? Can we let ourselves have it? Can we truly believe it?
Step six, above, is like waiting for someone to ask you to dance. But step Seven, fulfillment, is entering the dance itself, with whatever has been presented to you. It is a co-creation with the Divine, a sweet combination of will and surrender.
Many people block their manifestations at this point, because they do not let themselves get filled up. They're scared to really step into their dream. We must be open to change, open to receive, and open to fulfillment. If all the other steps are done fully, this step should be the easiest, for you have already set up all the coordinates.
May all your prayers be fulfilled in the best possible way. May our prayers for the world be fulfilled where they are most needed.
by Anodea Judith, Ph.D.