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Heart Beats of Prayer

Prayer can be a means of entering another world

Some months ago, in correspondence  with  a  number  of Christians, I received in their letters descriptions of their methods of prayer. These have left such an impression on me that I have put them  together  here  for  other people’s interest.  

Despite the fact that prayer is an integral part of the Christian life, it still seems that few have clear ideas exactly how one goes about prayer, or what one achieves in its practice.  There are probably even less who realise that there are many types of prayer.  For simplicity, these can be divided into two categories, spoken, and silent prayer.

By spoken prayer is meant any type of prayer where words are used, even if these words are only repeated  mentally,  while  silent prayer is sometimes called meditation, or entering the silence.  One famous Christian summed these types of prayer up excellently by saying, “Prayer is a talking to God

meditation is listening for His answer.”

With this extremely brief definition of prayer, we may be able to better understand the descriptions that follow, and appreciate what the person is saying.

 

THE PRAYER OF SURRENDER

The first type of prayer is that of a man, and I will let him describe it in his own way.

“My  own  favourite  type  of prayer is where I hold in mind the words, ‘Thy will, Lord-not mine.’ I start by mentally handing over my body to God. Starting with my legs, I say inwardly, ‘Here, take them.’  Then the same with my arms, body, neck and head. Having done this, slowly and meaning-fully, with my body, I then turn my thoughts to my heart, and the world of my feelings and thoughts. I offer these, as Jacob offered his son, as a sacrifice, with the thought, ‘Do with them as You will.’ This I really mean, attempting to have no preconceived ideas or hopes as to what will be done.

“Having done this with the individual parts of my body and personality, I then imagine God as an ocean of wisdom, power and love, into which I cast and surrender myself, without hopes or preconceptions; and with as quiet a mind and heart as I can muster, I simply wait on that unseen but infinite presence, to manifest in my being as it will.”

He goes on to say that what he gets from this prayer is a feeling of being connected and directed by God.

Another interesting prayer comes from a man who feels that prayer is a definite power that can be directed into the lives of others.

 

THE PRAYER OF HEALING

“I have always felt that we are the eyes and ears of God, and His hands, too, so that when a human action or thought is offered in His name, it becomes an expression of His Spirit.

“It is because of this that I feel prayer is a definite power to help others.  I have noticed so many times that one can fill a room, a house or even a church with an atmosphere, or a feeling, which then pervades it.  Through prayer, I believe one can fill a human heart with similar feelings, even if that heart isn’t one’s own, and even if it is far separated.

“It occurs too often to be coincidence  that people in despair, hopelessness, or pain, feel the comforting presence of those praying for them.  One friend, whose wife was dying of cancer, in the night, even saw the vague image of a close friend in an attitude of prayer, receiving much love and comfort therefrom.  Needless to say, the friend had, at that moment, been in such an attitude of prayer with her thoughts to God and the sick woman.

“If I were to sum up just how I, or those I know, use prayer for healing, I would say that one has to start by realising one’s limitations. For instance, I do not, cannot, heal others.  I have tried and tried off my own back, without real results. It is only when we realise this and offer ourselves as a channel for God to use, that power, peace and wisdom seem to come into the lives of those we wish to help.

“While in prayer, I simply try to feel as near to God as possible, realise my absolute helplessness, hold in mind those who need help, then mentally say, ‘God, I am without healing, but I ask Your Benediction for them,’ then offer myself as a channel for some.”

Another   wonderful   prayer, although in this case used in an unusual way, we can call “the prayer of thanks.”  It comes from a woman married to a man who was 18 times wounded in the first world war.  Since that time, until now (1968) he has lived in almost constant  pain  and  invalidism. Despite this, he has remained a wonderful Christian, always giving thanks for the few things he has, and simply for the Being of God. Through his example and instruction, his wife, too, has learnt to say,  and  mean,  those  simple words, “Thank you.”  Again, I will allow the lady to tell her own story.

“Last August, I went for the day to Portchester, near Cosham, to see my sister, who had cancer. She had just come from hospital, and was in a very sad state. I had gone down to see if there was any way in which I could help.

“Time came for me to return. I had to pick up the Portsmouth (day trip) coach at Cosham.  As you know, there are certain ‘pull in’ places for them. The traffic was very heavy, and I saw it coming up the road.  At that moment a fire engine and van collided, right on the ‘pull in’ spot

“A traffic cop was on the spot, and the coach was waved on.  I was left.  I immediately panicked. I knew my friend would be gone who had come to look after my husband.  I had very little money, and I simply could not remember a single ‘phone number. I just did not know what to do.

“And then, as clear as a bell, my husband seemed to say to me, ‘Say thank you, you fool, and mean it.”

“I did,  I said over and over again, ‘Thank you, please, for helping me.’  I stood there for one hour, and as it was getting dusk, I began to think of going back to my sister’s house, when up drew a battered car, seemingly full of children. It was our vicar, his wife and family.  I squeezed in, and was back earlier than I would have been in the coach.”

Prayer can be a means of entering another world; a means of making nil of distance, bringing us close to others.  Prayer can also be a way of attempting to understand our Life purpose, and how we may align our individual wishes with the greater purpose of the world.  But to each of us it is something  intimate,  inexplicable, unexplainable, for “more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”

Entering the Silence

There is an ancient Christian book called The Cloud of Unknowing which is probably the best example of this very ancient way of praying. Take the title for instance; the cloud of you enter it takes away all you ability to see where you are going. If you stay in the cloud you will lose any sense of direction. So the first message of enering the silence of the cloud of unknowing is to stop and urges to get anywhere in your attempts to pray – let go of your sense of directing your life. Also it suggests not having any view of where you are going. You simply sit in the cloud.

T. S. Eliot says it all beautifully – “I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

Here is another approach that a man explains:

What finally happened after ten years of intensely trying all sorts of meditation and ‘practices’ I thought that whatever it was – God or Life or whatever – I was making it up by having goals and meditating with goals. So I thought that if IT was real, then I didn’t need to make it happen or visualise the goal. So each day I sat for half an hour as if waiting for a friend. I knew that if my ‘friend’ turned up it would be as real for me as a friend calling my name or tapping me on the shoulder. So I simply sat and waited without expectation.

I did that for quite while, but then when it came it really shook me, not in bad way. It was real, and all I had to do was to give up any effort and surrender to what happened. When it came it really shook me, not in bad way. It was real, and all I had to do was to give up any effort and surrender to what happened. God/Life touched me.

 

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