“Teach us how to pray, Lord, teach us how to pray. Teach us how to pray in your healing way.”
An Exploration of Prayer
I first heard these words in a Native American Church ceremony years ago in Northern California. They touched me then and they touch me now. Prayer is one of those words used so frequently by so many with so many different meanings, that it strikes me that often we don’t really know what someone else, or, perhaps, even ourselves, means by it. Certainly it has something to do with some sort of reaching out — or in — to a divine presence, a presence greater than our physical being and individual ego. But what is it beyond that? What does it mean to pray in a healing way as the words of the song speak about?
For many of us, prayer is about “gimmie.” Gimmie this or gimmie that. Gimmie what I desire. Gimmie what I want. Perhaps we all have this kind of relationship to prayer at one time or another, seeking intervention in our lives in a helpful way from a larger power. I know I have. Many of us lose our faith in spirit when these kinds of prayers are not answered. Or, we judge ourselves: we aren’t deserving or Great Spirit feels we are unworthy. And so, we feel guilty or angry. Or that the whole notion of a spiritual entity is just a sham, a belief dreamed up by and for those not hardy enough to face the existential facts of life: you are born, you live, you die. That’s it. Nada mas.
Gratitude and Taking Responsibility for Self in Prayer
Another concern that confuses and perplexes many of us in our prayer life is the question of when to take responsibility for ourselves and go for what we want, asking for spirit’s help in doing so, and when to surrender to the will of the Tao, the will of the Great Mystery. I’ve been exploring this question for many years now, within myself, with family and friends, and with people facing life-threatening illness, loss and the tra vails of grief and mourning. I have no answers. But I do have a sense of what the poet Rilke spoke of when he said that living our questions will lead us towards some kind of soul-serving realizations on insights by which to continue on.
One source of illumination for my prayer life came with my first Native American teacher, who, while helping me prepare for a Vision Quest, told me that prayer was exactly the opposite of what I had thought it to be up to that moment.
He said the purpose of prayer was not to ask for something but to give heartfelt expression of thankfulness for the gifts of life already given in the past and being given in the present moment. “You should come back from the quest exhausted,” he said, “for you have spent your entire time in prayer thanking the Great Spirit for all you have been given.” He continued, “When was the last time you lay on the Earth and thanked your Mother for all her gifts that support your life? When did you last face Father Sun and thank him for all he gives to you? And the trees that make the oxygen you breathe, when did you last thank all these gifts from the Mystery?”
Prayer is for Giving it All Away
“Giving away,” he called it. “That’s what you should be doing,” he said. “Giving away. That’s what prayer is for. To give back to the Creator your thanks for the gifts of creation. It’s not about taking.”
Ever since then, I have endeavored to be thankful in my communion prayers with the Sacred Mystery. I have also been helped by the Hawaiian belief in the three selves, the lower, the middle and the upper self, or the unconscious, conscious and higher consciousness. To make a good prayer in the Huna system, you first call on the conscious mind to go to the lower self and enlistit aid an power to create a surcharge to carry the seed of what is prayed for to the high self, which is the connection point with Creator. Then there is the release with faith and trust, the power of the South, into the Sacred Mystery and giving thanks for the gifts already on their way.
To pray in this way requires clarity, choice, cleaning out any obstructive forces in the mind, such as feelings/beliefs of unworthiness, guilt, fear or limitation, to the intent of the prayer, being able to clear all the channels to the higher self, and having enough power (manna) to set it all in motion. A breakdown in any of these factors and the system doesn’t work. And, of course, before asking, to make sure you are in balance by having given thanks for all the other gifts in your life.
Prayer in this way is about opening your heart to what you are seeking, then opening to Creator’s heart and loving presence and to the field of infinite potential, which is this universe, and becoming an open channel for its expression and creative manifestation. The final step requires surrendering to the Mystery.
Praying for the “Highest Good” vs “Gimmie, Gimmie”
“If what I have prayed for is not for my greatest good, I release it all to you and open to that which is truly for my greatest good, greatest healing and greatest outcome for all involved.” This invocation helps us at tune to the flow of the Tao, higher than our personal wants and desires. Ultimately, this is what prayer is really for, to place our hearts, minds and wills into the Great Spirit’s, so we can be at one with the Divine Presence. serving its will. being a channel for its and wisdom in a healing path to completion.
The opposite of this approach is a greedy grasping for more me, more mine, gimmie, gimmie, take, take. Taken to an extreme, it can be used for dark intent, to hurt others for selfish gain. This is what sorcery is all about. I’ve seen it, it exists, and I’ve had to battle against it for my life in the Andes of Peru and the desert of Mexico. its aid and power to create a surcharge to carry the seeds of what is prayed for to the high self, which is the connection point with Creator. Then there is the release with faith and trust, the power of the South, into the Since everything is connected, while it can produce results in the short run, it eventually comes back to the one who practices in this way and will destroy Sacred Mystery and giving thanks for the gifts already them on their way.
It really is true that what we give or do to others, we give or do to ourselves. If we want peace, healing, light and love in our lives, we must focus our will, intent and actions on opening to these qualities and extending them to self and others. This makes for a good prayer, one that works in my life when I remember to do it — especially in that powerful time of day when Father Sun arrives through the eastern doorway bringing the gift of a new day. This is when we plant the seed for what we want to experience: peace or pain, love or fear, healing or separation. The choice is ours.
Thank you, Great Mystery, Great Goddess, Holy Mother and Holy Father, Great Spirit, You who are beyond names. Thank you for the opportunity in this life to be alive and to discover for ourselves how to pray in a healing way.