Approaching Prayer – World Religion Essay
Most of us say we pray regardless if we are religious. This week’s focus is on opening up the subject of prayer. How it sounds, what it means, and why we do it. Prayer comes from the Latin root meaning to plea. Some say that prayer is done by action and just with words.
Some say that prayer requires complete attention and ultimate focus; others believe that prayer is just an on going dialog with God.
Anoushka Shankar is a young musician. Her father is Ravi Shankar, the Hindu spiritual leader of the Beatles. She performs all over the world and recently released a CD entitled Chants of India. It is a collection of Hindu Prayers set to music. Teaching the message of Hinduism is often taught through stories. Using animals or kings, but there is always a moral and often it is delivered in the form of a chant. Shankar believes prayer to be extremely intimate and can be tough to share with other on stage.
Chants are a different kind of a prayer. Hinduism is very tribal, in that there is a god of fire, a god of water. So one simply prays to the thing you are seeking help from. In prayers where the word “Lord” is used each Hindu can choose who or what that means. Shankar chooses to pray to a universal energy and she is less focused on the imagery of the Gods unlike her parents who have a favorite God that they most often pray to.
Chanting is very much about the sound and the vibration that is created by the repetition and manner under which the chant is performed. You don’t really need to know what the sounds mean because the vibration that is created is often time the result. Shankar says English has too many words, it can be creative but not everything can be explained in a word. Because chants are often seeking a vibration she says that a feeling can be better expressed by this type of physical feeling. There is a lot of repetition in mantra. Some are said multiple times to produce a sound and others are simply the more you say it the better it feels.
Stephen Mitchell is a writer and translator. He learned Hebrew to read and translate the original Bible. He insists that prayer does not need to be religious. While reading the book of Joab, he was drawn to the elements of human suffering. He was interested in the idea of there being something beyond good and evil.
Later in his life when he began to experience the text of the Hinduism his perception of God was revolutionized. He could sense the answers to Joab through his study in Hinduism.
“Absolutely unmixed attention is Prayer”, French poet Simone Weil. Thus anyone doing something with great attention is considered prayer. For example some practicing piano draws on the same qualities of prayer. Mitchell also states that someone doing Zen Meditation is praying.
You could say that praise is another mode of prayer. Not because of the longing but because of the appreciation and concentration involved with being in the moment. Praying and falling in love with life can often be compared. Do everything you do with gratitude, live life moment to moment appreciating life. To empty your mind and let your mind be at piece is a wonderful form of prayer.
Bondi is an academic who kept prayer distant from her life until one day when a family crisis drew her to call upon it for peace. She has written beloved no non-sense books about the early mystical Christians. There is no right way to pray, it is important to find your way. The theology of the desert changed Bondi’s thinking about prayer.
You don’t need any reason to begin a pattern of prayer, it is about everyday life. It important to just show up for prayer, often in the way we think it is important to just show for family dinner. We often think that when we pray we have to be fully engaged and extremely focused. The fact is, if prayer is our end of our relationship with God, then we should treat it accordingly. Prayer is like being part of a family, we just need to show up and do the best we can do.
Quote: “If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, before a man prayers for anything else, even his own sole, he must pray for his enemies. Through this action God will hear his prayers”. I think this quote speaks to the enter connectedness that we share with every other person on the planet. I think this also forces you to take a minute and realize that your enemy probably has a good number of the same problems that you have. Why think you are closer to God or closer to the truth then your neighbor, even if they are your enemy.