I had a strange dream. A woman was shaking me by the shoulders asking me frantically “Why do you pray? Why do you pray?” Her face inches from my own, her wild gray hair snaking around her head.
Startled awake, this vivid dream stuck with me all day, and I wondered why I got this message.
So why do we pray? Larry Dussey writes (in the foreword to The Energy of Prayer, by Thich Nhat Hanh) “The urge to pray is universal. We know of no culture past or present in which prayer has not been an important part.”
We pray for help for ourselves and others. For good health and recovery. For financial help. For love. We pray when we are happy and when we are sad. To celebrate and to mourn. We pray for a more spiritual life―to have a relationship with God, Goddess, Buddha, Universe, Spirit, Source.
What is a prayer? Is it a meditation? Begging? Clasped hands and worn knees? Sometimes.
It can also be rosary beads or prayer beads, incense, music or bells, crystal bowls. I love prayer beads! The following is prayer that works well with beads. (from Praying with Sacred Beads, by Joan Hutson)
O my God,
I am aware of Your Sacred Presence.
As I remain in Your radiation of Love,
I praise you for Your wonders of creation.
Your pastel ribbons of dawn (bead one)
Your hillsides of wildflowers opening to the morning sun (bead two)
Your rain-rinsed morning breezes (bead three)
Your blue ocean waves smoothing white beach sands (bead four)
Your autumn winds stripping naked the willow trees (bead 5)
Your snowflakes one by one filling up the woods (bead 6)
Your world under a mantle of white (bead seven)
Your spring winds unlocking the frozen streams (bead eight)
Your dusk shadowing the day (bead 9)
Your stars splintering the night sky (bead ten)
When do we pray? Finding time to pray shouldn’t slow us down. We can pray as we drive to work. I ask to be guided to say the right thing, do the right thing, and to have a great day. Some pray as they work. Many people pray as they lie in bed at night, reviewing the day.
May the day be well and the night be well.
May the midday hour bring happiness too.
In every minute and every second,
May the day and night be well.
By the blessing of the Triple Gem,
May all things be protected and safe.
(from The Energy of Prayer, Thich Nhat Hanh)
But is that enough? Perhaps praying is supposed to be a living thing, like meditation. Like being aware of our thoughts for part of the day. Maybe we’re supposed to BE a prayer. A walking, living, breathing prayer. Maybe every movement and every thought is supposed to be part of a blessing that we offer to the people and animals around us, with each touch we offer having a little bit of ‘sacred’ in it.
Maybe the crazy woman was ME taking a quick trip from the future to shake me out of my satisfied sleep-walking.
Clearly, I have no idea, but there’s a little buzz going on inside me as I write this, and I feel I might be onto something. So my question is–why do YOU pray?