Prayer and the Intellect
Spirituality is not carried out through or based upon the intellect, but the intellect can be brought to the spiritual life so that it is well grounded. The intellect helps us to consider whether we have lost touch not only with the concrete but also with the truly spiritual and wandered off into the realm of fancy, self-centeredness, or judgmentalism. The intellect is a gift with which we can attempt to ascertain the wisdom of our attitudes and actions. It lets us focus our intent and express ourselves with clarity. Prayer can be used as a request for the greatest and most pure light to be shed into our minds and upon our lives. It can point us to the subtle indicators of what is right and true. It can help us to be more accepting of the obvious that we might otherwise overlook.
Prayer contributes to the stability of a person while deepening the spiritual life. It lets humanity consciously hear and be heard. It can aid in reorienting perspective, organizing thought, and opening the supplicant to Spirit, love, and life. It can teach humility and pave the way to accepting help and guidance. It can make us more committed, disciplined, focused, alert, aware, and sensitive. As a devotional act, it is both a gift from us and a gift to us. It is not necessary to be well educated or to have a broad vocabulary in order to pray, nor is prayer closed to those with such background. Form and tradition can give us recognizable ways to pray so that we need not improvise on every occasion, so that our prayers carry the weight of having been spoken by countless others of the faithful before us, and so that we have access to words or other tools that have been found through time and use to resonate in a special way; but following a set pattern or style is not required. What is asked is that the prayer be sincere and heartfelt.
How might you pray? Your words may be formal or casual without losing reverence, as long as reverence is within your heart. You may find yourself standing, kneeling, sitting, lying down, or in some other position of stillness specially designed to bring your body into alignment and harmony. You may be in motion in some way. You might pray in a house of worship or other communally utilized place, a special room or area in your home, or wherever you happen to find yourself when the need to pray arises. Your prayer may involve speech, movement, symbols, or deliberate stillness and silence, or there may be no intentional outward gesture at all. There might come from you a gift of time, effort, service, resources, a promissory representation of one of these things specifically, or a symbol of giving in general.
Praying can be done at designated times of day, before and after engaging in anything important or meaningful, when guidance is needed, when there is concern over a person or matter, in periods of distress, when gratitude is felt, or simply whenever the urge arises. It is a form of communication that can state a promise or oath, make a request, ask for attention to be drawn to something or someone, express lamentation, cry out in fear or pain, offer apology and regret, give thanks, or sing out the joys of the heart. The answers to a request may include: "Yes," "Yes but with provisions," "Yes to that and also more than you expected," "Yes to part but not all," "Not yet," "Not in the way you imagined," or "No to what you asked for but yes to something that would be better." It is not always necessary to know what to ask for. It can be sufficient to make a general request for aid and to trust that whatever help comes will be for the greatest good. In any case, one should be prepared for answers to come in forms that may or may not seem plain and obvious.
The prayer of greatest trust is one that poses the question, directly or indirectly, "What do you ask of me?" with the full willingness to do what is called for, however challenging it may be. This is not usually about buying the red shirt or the blue shirt. It is about recognizing what you really are responsible for and what your not, acknowledging that you neither know nor control all things. As faith grows, it is a question that can be offered with increasing frequency. This can have a profound effect on your life. Take care, however, that you do not allow your own selfishness or that of others to become the voice to which you listen while deluding yourself that the message is really coming from a higher source. This is an important area for bringing in the influence of reason, even if you come to decide it is best to take a leap of faith.
As few as one or two words can make up the entire body of a prayer. When we are calm and willing to be patient and attentive, those words might be: "I trust." In a moment of overwhelming emotion, we may cry over and over: "I am afraid!" "I am lonely!" "I am sad!" "I am angry!" or: "Thank you!" "Joy!" "Love!" Better that our desperation or passion lead us to call out than that the notion that we need to be wordy keep us silent.
By far, the greatest prayer is one of joy, gratitude, and love, whatever else is included. This type of prayer is appropriate anytime, even in the midst of our greatest fear or deepest sorrow. It brings us actively to the potential to be lifted up even at our seemingly worst times and can be transformative in and of itself. The response from Ultimate Divine Spirit to every prayer is one of love, whether that is the whole message or only an accompanying part.
In turning to prayer, it is always all right to learn, relearn, or learn more. Do not be fearful of prayer, even if it is unfamiliar to you or if you have been away from it for some time. Your view of prayer should not be drawn from the worst images your own mind or the satire and scorn of others can conjure up. If you want the best from prayer, look to your highest and most virtuous hopes. Be patient, not least with yourself, and be heedful of any and all ways in which your answer might come.
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