I grew up in a strong Christian home. We said our prayers before dinner and I never went to bed without asking Jesus to forgive me for my sins and thanking him for everything he’d done for me. My family jokes about the time when I was 3 and prayed, “Dear Jesus, thank you for my sins.”
I’m not sure if I was confused or if, perhaps I was so ahead of my time that I actually realized that our “sins” are perfect opportunities to grow and learn. The original meaning of a sin, after all is “separation from God.” And yes, I believe that all of our sins are cause by our belief that we are separate from God, and are therefore the perfect signposts guiding us back home to OURSELVES.
And perhaps that brings me to my point, is prayer creating more separation from God, or more connection? Many people on planet Earth, as we all know, believe that they have found the one and only God and given “him” a name, a physical description, a home in the sky, and even a personality. The may have a great relationship with “him,” but they put him in an awfully limiting box.
For others prayer is a desperate plea to sort out their life. “Dear God, help me to find a boyfriend.” One may not even realize that their prayer comes with a whole bunch of caveats and they are actually saying, “Dear God, help me to find a boyfriend who is at least half way descent looking and doesn’t irritate the crap out of me and actually loves me because I don’t love myself and dog gone it, I need someone to. God? Jesus? Mohammed? Is there anybody out there who can help cause boy do I need it!”
Then there is the New Age, Law of Attraction Prayer. It may go something like, “Dear God, I am going to get that Job. Thank you for getting me that job!” But subconsciously it goes, “Dear God, help me to get that job so that I can afford that new car and so that I can finally not feel like a loser and ask Mary out on a date, and meanwhile I don’t even know if I want that job but I just don’t know what else to do with my life.”
And the attention deficit prayer may go like, “Dear God, thank you for my family, yes Jane was looking a little pale last week. I wonder if she’s pregnant? Gosh I hope she’s not having sex with Rick before they get married. She’s barely eating and it would be such a….. oh yeah, and dear God, thank you for….”
In my personal opinion, prayer is a conversation with our own inner guidance system, with the part of us that makes our hair grow and our heart pump blood. This part of US also makes the trees grow that the rivers flow. Prayer is building a relationship with the part of us that is US, but beyond the mind and beyond the ego.
But I also see that although prayer is always between you and yourSELF, (we’re all one anyway,) I’ve seen work in powerful ways for people, for example strong Christians like my family, who totally believe they are talking to a superior (and even sometimes angry) “man” in the sky, as well as those who have other ideas about prayer. The outcome of prayer doesn’t seem to be due to who you believe you are talking to, but rather how you are talking, (or not talking…)
I’ve come to see that the most useful and delicious ingredient in prayer is…. Drum roll please…. TRUST!!!! Whether you’re talking to a man dressed in white with a beard up in heaven, or an African spirit that is playing drums, or a tree, or YOURSELF, if you have full power TRUST, then miracles can happen and the pray-er feels a sense of relaxation and peace.
It’s as if the “being” you’re praying to is kind of irrelevant, while the energy you show up to the prayer with is the fuel that make the rocket lift off… and that energy is TRUST.
So what is TRUST? In this case, TRUST is the ability to let a force that is more powerful than your little small self take control of your life in a way that you can’t be with your mind and the human limitations. You give up trying to fix everything and figure it all out and say thank you to a Powerful Force in the UNIVERSE (dressed in various outfits that are projections of the mind) for finding the solutions and for making your LIFE HAPPEN.
This, in my opinion is prayer, and I love it! When I was little, (a few years after being thankful for my sins) I started praying for guidance and help. These prayers are incredibly powerful and useful when I am willing to give up my small self’s desires, desperations and authority, and TRUST that all is taken care of. For me this is so infinitely powerful and I am grateful for this beautiful practice I was taught as a child (as well as my sins!)