In my last post I spoke about prayer, and what it is and what it means and what it might look like. I wanted to follow this up with some more thoughts on ways of praying.
I mean, you can get on your knees and place your hands together, if you really want to. Sometimes that feels like – and is – exactly the right thing to do. In some traditions, that is the way to pray.
But there are other ways into prayer that for some of us, can be more direct, more accessible, less constraining, less… like praying.
Pray With Your body
Prayer can be a dance, a whole body, moving gift of thanks, or praise of wonder, of delight in creation.
Prayer can be tears – of joy, rage, anger, despair. (Indeed, in the Orthodox tradition of Christianity, human tears are considered sacramental).
Prayer can be spending time outside. In nature. In the urban landscape. Among the trees. By water. Wherever it is, there are opportunities to notice, to wonder, to be delighted, to give thanks.
Pray With Your Voice
Prayer can be singing. Hymns or hip-hop, choral, or gospel. The human voice brings with it the gift of prayer and praise, joy and longing, heartbreak and loneliness and everything else. What could be more like prayer?
Prayer can be talking to God. I often ask people what they would like to say to God. And if they don’t believe in God, I ask them – what would you say if you did?
Prayer can simply be telling others what your hopes are. (See talking to God)
Pray With Small Rituals
Prayer can be lighting a candle. Go into a church or a religious building if you wish. Or just light a candle. Light symbolises hope. Light illuminates the darkness.
Prayer can involve the elements. Drop stones or shells into water, tie pieces of cloth to a tree in the wind, plant seeds in the earth, burn pine cones in a fire. Let the intention of your prayers be carried with the gesture.
Prayer can be planting vegetables, or trees, tending the earth, feeding animals, weeding, pruning, mowing, recycling, composting…
Pray With Your Presence or Skill
Prayer can be listening – really listening – to another. A friend, a relative, a stranger. Let your presence be a prayer.
Prayer can be creativity – making art, writing, music, poetry, knitting, origami, cooking. Making things is a beautiful way to offer your gifts as a prayer.
Prayer can be doing something for others – Being of service, to a cause, to your community, neighborhood, town, even in your own home.
Prayer can be anything else that you do with awareness of gratitude, hope, compassion, or in the stillness of contemplation.
Praying – by Mary Oliver
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
Oliver, Mary. 2017. Devotions : The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (New York: Penguin Press, An Imprint Of Penguin Random House Llc)