Layers of Prayer

Last month I spoke of prayer as a spiritual compass with which to navigate life. So why not jump right in with a topic, in this limited space, that folks spend a lifetime exploring? Take a minute to think about how you define prayer and your experience of it. Would you imagine asking God for an indulgence or favor? Or just talking to God or a Higher Power? How would you respond to a question about what types of prayer exist? What would you say to someone who doesn’t know where to begin? We might suggest just talking or thinking. Or referring to prayers written for us that neatly cover about every issue we could come up with, as seen in the Book of Common Prayer. There is the “Lord’s Prayer”, given to us by Jesus as a model for coming to God. We can speak, sing, be silent, even yell. All those approaches are great and valid. The truth is, many of us don’t know where to begin. Just for fun, I would like to point out a concept that may be helpful if you have not experimented with prayer. When Jesus spoke of the greatest commandment as loving God with “heart, soul, mind and strength”, He laid out for us the layered components of a human being. You may want to imagine a seven- layer salad or a lasagna of the spirit! The deepest layer is the heart, which we can imagine as the innermost sanctum. We can think of it as a place within where we meet with God’s presence, beyond words or images. A place that stays peaceful and stable, despite outer activity and turmoil. Next is the soul, which we can say is made up of emotion and personality. Another layer is the mind, which alludes to our thought and intuition. The most surface layer is strength, which, for our purposes, is the physical body or outer layer. In the west, we have been trained to see those layers as separate compartments. Coming full-circle, mind body research in recent years has confirmed that there is an inner intelligence and chemical cascade that inter weaves all our layers so that they speak to each other. This points to what the sages knew in ages past. Not only are we multifaceted creatures, but all our layers communicate. You are probably wondering what this has to do with prayer. The bottom line is that there is more than one way to pray and every aspect of our being has a way to “ask, seek and knock”. I will follow up in the coming months with descriptions and suggestions for each layer. Stay tuned for next month’s article, as we continue our adventures in prayer, exploring praying with our outermost layer, looking at embodied prayer possibilities. You may want to ask yourself what it might look like to engage your body or other tangible objects as vehicles for communicating with your Higher Power. In the meantime, in whatever way you are able, keep asking, seeking and knocking.