This week (and next - in the spirit of the season), I'm going to "get religious" on you - just fair warning. :-)  But for those who may intend to tune out, I encourage you to stick with me. Even if you're not a Christian believer, prayer is not as far from your life as you might think. In fact, if you're a practitioner of any kind of meditation - as many people seeking balance in their lives may be - this is really just a form of prayer if you think about it. Both involve mentally focusing on something outside of yourself - something larger to which we are trying to connect. Both seek to achieve peace, health, and well-being in our minds, bodies, and spirits.

But here is where some may think the difference lies - and I'm not sure exactly how this happened, but somehow we seem to have come to think of prayer as asking FOR something. Not that there's anything wrong with asking for help when you need it, and Jesus does say "ask and ye shall receive." Maybe that's where it comes from, but in disregarding the rest of what the Bible says about prayer, we're pretty much throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Not to mention, I'm fairly certain that Jesus wasn't talking about a new Playstation, Jeep, or even a new house. What he was talking about receiving was the presence, peace, and strength of the Lord. And whether or not you call it "God" or not, this is also what most forms of meditation seek to achieve as well. So if you would prefer not to call it "prayer," to call it "meditation," "mindfulness," or something else, that's fine. Either way, it is something that we - all of us seeking to lead a balanced and fulfilled life - need to engage in regularly in some fashion. Engaging in communication with God, the creator, the Great Divine, is what gives us our juice, our own force of creativity and vision, our inspiration to take what we have been given and make something greater out of it - something that will benefit not just ourselves, but others as well. And without that, what are we all doing here?
When Jesus says "pray without ceasing," I'm pretty sure he didn't mean "ask for stuff without ceasing." But too many times, this is what we do - I have certainly been guilty of it myself! In fact, for years I resisted praying, or when I did, I felt awkward and uncomfortable, because I felt I was always asking for things. For one thing, asking for stuff is not something that comes naturally to me (those are my own issues to deal with I suppose), but also, asking for stuff is turning inwards. Asking for stuff is focusing on yourself. It's putting your focus on what you "need," don't have, want more of. Ask any successful person or life coach, and they will tell you that you get more of what you focus on - even if that is lack. The way to actually achieve (and receive) things is to focus OUTWARDS - not inwards. Success "guru" Zig Ziglar says that the way to get more and more of what you want is to help more and more people get what they want. It's the key to any successful business, and, if you think about it, it's also the key to any successful relationship. If we all just go around focused on what we can get from others, not only will we have no friends, but we'll end up being pretty miserable people!

But here's the interesting thing: as I have started learning to pray, I've lost sight of others, even when praying for them! That is to say, I find it empty and unfulfilling to pray for "stuff" for other people. Instead, I've learned that, for me at least, to feel a true opening and connection to the Divine when praying, I need to pray for "the good." Not for specific things, but for the will of God/the Creator to be enacted in the lives of myself and others. When I pray for "the good" of all - in the will of God - that is when I truly feel the juice and joy of what prayer is supposed to be. I am reminded of a great line from a Christian song - "You make all things come together for my (our) good."

So, for me at least, the first step in learning to pray has been figuring out what to pray for. What feels right is not to ask for what I can get, but for what I can give. For how I can serve. For how I can "let my light shine," if we want to get all Biblical about it.  And to ask that all things come together for our/your/my good - whatever that "good" may be in God's eyes.

Now, this may all sound just a bit vague and non-specific. What does that mean exactly, you may ask? It sounds good in theory, but what do we actually say when we pray? I struggled with this literally for years. And when I finally found the answer, it was so simple - and had been there in front of my face all along - as most Truths are. I will share this - the second step - the "how to" - with you next week - it makes learning how to pray a total no-brainer. Any guesses? If you're a Bible-reader, you will know this - it's what Jesus does every time he prays in the Bible. It's also the theme of next week's holiday - and if that's not a dead giveaway I don't know what is. :-)

Have a blessed week, and in the meantime think about what it means to you to "pray without ceasing"!



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