Before you search for wisdom in any fortune-telling device – Ouija board, runes, tarot cards, or a crystal ball, you need to put yourself in a receptive space. You may have a ritual that you do. Perhaps you lay out a special tablecloth or piece of embroidery. Then perhaps you add a candle or special stones that have significance to you. Maybe you will light some incense. There are often a couple of deep breaths involved, and perhaps a specific prayer. Then you are in a space inside your head when you are willing to listen to what the universe is trying to tell you.
From “The Isaiah Effect” by Gregg Braden, I’ve learned that prayer isn’t the words. Prayer is the feeling you get from the words. Some people need a lot of set-up and props to get to that feeling. In the Episcopal Church there is a prayer that I like that helps remind me that it is time to focus on God. It is called the Collect for Purity, and it is said very early on in the worship service. Here it is –
“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (From “The Book of Common Prayer” – page 355)
These words, combined with being in a sacred space and seeing the vestments and banners, help me to focus and center my soul on what is about to happen. It helps to put me in a place where I am open God.
Well, at least it used to, until I walked away from church, or, rather, I realized that we collectively were doing church wrong and the priest removed me from my position of authority in that parish. She felt threatened, and rightly so. The more she thinks about it, the more she’ll realize that she’s out of a job. But I digress. I’ve talked about this a lot already.
Even though I don’t go to church, I find I still need to be in that place in my head. I can’t just go from secular to sacred instantly. There needs to be a transition point. There needs to be something like an airlock, or a mudroom, or a vestibule. Something that transitions you from Here to There.
I think part of that is to constantly be in a state of prayer, to constantly be searching for God. I think part of it is seeing that there is no difference between secular and sacred – that everything and everyone and every moment is sacred. It is us who have gone away from God – not the other way around.
I often pray for guidance before reading the Bible. Sometimes I’ll have a specific issue that was concerning me. Should I keep my job? What direction should I go in? How do I deal with this person who is hateful to me? I would simply ask that God speak to me through those words. Perhaps I was echoing Samuel when he said “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10) I would open the Bible and find a section. Sometimes it would be a section I was already working in. Sometimes it would be a new section. Right now I’m in three sections – Nehemiah, Isaiah, and Luke. Tomorrow it might be a Psalm or Leviticus. It doesn’t seem to matter what the section is. It matters that I’m open to what God is trying to tell me.
I’ve started to understand that God is constantly trying to tell us things. God is constantly seeking us. God constantly wants to show us how much we are loved and how important we are. So I’ve started to “Pray without ceasing” as Saint Francis says. I’ve started to try to be in that place all the time. Before work. Before reading any book. Before driving my car. Before creating jewelry. Before writing.
One new thing I’ve been doing is to pray while taking my shower. When I wash my face I’ll pray this way – while touching my eyes I’ll say “May I see You,” then I move to my ears – “may I hear You,” and then I’ll touch my mouth “and constantly speak Your praise.”
When I find I’ve fallen out of that place where I’m open and receptive, I pray again. I want to constantly be in a place where I’m seeking God, and open to what God wants me to learn and do and be.
Often I fall out of that place. I have reminders everywhere. I have prayer bracelets that remind me of specific intentions. I have tattoos to remind me of the many answered prayers that I’ve been blessed with. I have reminders in my locker at work. Instead of getting angry that I’ve fallen, I’m trying to be thankful. I’m trying to see it as a further chance to return to God.
I think prayer is just like exercise – the more you do it, the better you get. The goal with more prayer isn’t to run a triathlon, however. It is to better walk with God. The closer we can walk, the better we can do what God wants us to do.