As we move forward into a new year with a Burning Bowl service this Sunday at Unity in the City (Boston), I find myself thinking of … well …thinking! Specifically, the thinking activities we call prayer and meditation.
I’m sure that all of us have heard that prayer is talking to God, and meditation is listening to God. There’s a sense in which that’s true, I think, but doesn’t it seem to suggest a separation between ‘I’ and God? I know that praying to a God ‘out there’ can certainly work; ultimately there’s no wrong way to pray. But I’ve found it to be rather hit-or-miss. And what am I to think about the misses? That God is saying ‘no’? Or ignoring me altogether?
I think it’s simply that we are giving away our Power through an ego-fed fear that we are insufficient to the purpose at hand. We need to call for back-up! Which inevitably means that our attempts to express that Power will be a bit erratic.
In analyzing my own prayer time recently, I’ve come to believe that there’s a step between meditation and prayer that I haven’t fully considered. The clearest word I’ve found to describe it is contemplation.
I meditate with no specific focus; I step away from my ego mind and feel myself to be the Sprit I truly AM. Now, from this higher perspective of Spirit within, I contemplate ego mind and the mortal manifestations it is expressing. In other words, I calmly observe my life, including any challenges I may be experiencing.
Now comes prayer, which is making a Spirit-inspired choice. Since there is no absence of God anywhere, I can’t ‘send’ Spirit to transform a situation. What I can do is to call upon my innate creative Power to focus Spirit. That’s an inadequate word, but it’s the best I can find to express the activity of prayer. It’s a bit like concentrating light into a laser.
It may seem that adding this third element of contemplation just complicates things. If it seems to be doing that for you, just drop it! For me, I find that the three steps of meditation-contemplation-prayer seem to allow me to relax, try less hard and set about the creative work for which I’m here with greater confidence, and deeper appreciation.