Several years ago, when I was still working as a pastor, I traveled to California to attend a conference of church leaders. The keynote speaker was a man who had made a name for himself as a director in the movie industry, and one thing he said has stayed with me all these years. He told the clergy gathered there what he thought lay people really want from their pastors: “Teach us how to pray.”
To be honest, I was surprised. Is that really what people wanted to know? How to pray?
His comment struck me not only because of what he said, but how he said it. It was obvious he wasn’t just making a request. He was pleading with us. He truly wanted to know how to pray.
His plea was the same one Jesus’ disciples made. “Teach us how to pray,” those backcountry fishermen said, probably with the same earnestness as our keynote speaker.
Jesus responded by telling them not to be ostentatious. He knew that fancy words, which are nothing but the ego showing off, just get in the way, and if prayer is anything at all, it is definitely not about the ego making an impression. Then, according to the gospel accounts, Jesus offered his disciples a simple prayer that has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer.
I’m pretty sure, though, that when Jesus went off by himself into the Galilean hills to pray, as it seems he was accustomed to doing, he didn’t sit down and recite the Lord’s Prayer. I suspect he didn’t use words at all. Why would he, when he felt such a deep communion with the Reality he knew himself to be part of that language would be completely superfluous, an obstacle even?
I think what the disciples really wanted to know and what that Hollywood director really wanted to know, was how to be able to experience that same kind of deep communion, the experience of the presence of God with them, maybe even in them.
Prayer can seem confusing, especially if the idea of a Divine Being “out there,” separated from humankind and standing apart from the world, makes no sense to us. What is prayer then? To whom or to what are we praying?
I’ve also often wondered how anybody can actually teach another person how to pray. Sure, offering some words to recite is easy enough, but that’s not really what prayer is. It isn’t about formulas or techniques or scripts, but more like an inner orientation.
Despite the challenges, I’m taking the plea from that Hollywood director to heart, and over the coming weeks I’m going to share with you not how you should pray, because you’ll discover that for yourself, but how I pray.
Even though I don’t pray nearly as often as I might, I love to pray. In fact, if I had no other responsibilities, I could probably spend my whole day in prayer. It’s one of the things that makes me feel most alive, most whole, most open, most peaceful, most loving, and if there’s anything I can share that will help you experience that as well, I’m willing to give it a try.
Ed Hamlin says
I am looking forward to this series. This element in your piece, “Prayer can seem confusing, especially if the idea of a Divine Being “out there,” separated from humankind and standing apart from the world, makes no sense to us. What is prayer then? To whom or to what are we praying?” strikes me as a very critical forerunner to learning how to pray.
I would like to see us nail down with a bit more clarity & comprehension “To whom or to what are we praying?”
In John 14:11 Jesus states, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me”. In this age of enlightenment for the masses, many of us these days believe exactly that, that the Father is in us & we are a part of the father or “All there is”, however it is individually expressed. This makes Jesus my brother, just as all the rest of humanity is a part of me as well.
So once again, before I can understand “how to pray”, I need to get clear on who or what is being prayed to. What is the nature of the entity who hears our prayers & furthermore, if we each are performing in the holograph as we have planned to do before our arrival on this plane, why would we pray to change whatever it is that we are experiencing, which we came here to experience & learn in the first place.
As the King of Siam might have said, “Tis a puzzlement!!!”
Patricia Pearce says
Ed, you have expressed so well some of the dilemmas that I think many of us pray-ers do. Given that we, in our limited manifestation, can’t see the whole picture, we really have no way of knowing what’s for the “best” in any given situation. So how shall we pray? And if, in our limitless essence we are one with All, to whom are we praying.
These are some of the puzzlements I’d like to explore in the coming weeks, and I welcome everyone’s wisdom in the conversation.
Thanks for your thoughtful response and questions!
susan wargo says
simply said: i cannot wait for your next post! TY!!!
Patricia Pearce says
Thanks, Susan. Stay tuned for the ride. Even I don’t quite know how this is all going to unfold. I guess you might think of it as Blogging Without a Net 🙂
I LOVED your recent post on noticing as meditation. I use noticing a lot now, particularly when I’m waiting for someone or something, in an uncomfortable place or practicing yoga. Noticing is a wonderful way to get that broad present-ness and to release the grasp of your mind on something temporary.
Looking forward to your perspectives in this series and hope you are well 🙂
Patricia Pearce says
Thanks, Nadia. I’m so glad the “Simply Noticing — A Path to Mindfulness” post was helpful. It’s something that most of us, myself included, can always be reminded of.
I hope you are well too. Your comment prompted me to visit your website, which by the way is quite beautiful. I hope you are finding joy in offering your gifts to the world.