Did you realize that the word pray comes from the Latin word precare which means to entreat — to implore, to plead, to beg. Our relationship with prayer, in western culture, is based in debasing ourselves before a deity that is inconsistent – at best.
Disclaimer: I was raised with Jewish religious traditions and while I loved the ritual of it, I also felt that the heart of the rituals and prayers were full of possibility but remained empty. As I moved into my 20s and 30s, I re-examined and explored my beliefs about religion, about spirituality, about God. In my 40s, I discovered New Thought spirituality and delved into the different teachers and teachings and discovered I felt most at home there. And in my 50s I became an ordained metaphysical New Thought minister. In many ways, this blog is my ministry.
I want to challenge you over these next few weeks to consider prayer in a new light. And to do that, we need to know where we are starting from. We are most familiar with prayers of:
but most of us are not as familiar with affirmative prayer. This first week we’ll begin with a few definitions and, as I will each week, we’ll end with a prayer.
Please God, I ask you on bended knee to … and then we go on to ask for what it is we want, whether it’s for ourselves or on behalf of someone else. Some of our lists can be quite long — and we ask for money, or love, or a home, or a job, or health. I’ll be honest, I remember prayer for concert tickets because I felt it was the most important experience I could have at that moment. It was many many years ago and I still remember the intensity and the passion that I used in this prayer. (yes, I got the tickets).
Dear God, If you will just do this one thing, I promise to … and then we make the bargain. This is a modern version of a sacrifice, instead of a bullock or a goat or a fine goose, we sacrifice something that’t important to us. We give up chocolate, drinking, our clandestine relationship. We give up things that are important to us – but also things we already know we should have given up anyway. Not many people offer to sacrifice a high paying job, or an amazing relationship. Instead of giving the best – we offer what is imperfect.
I am so grateful, God, for the blessings you have given me. Prayers of gratitude are a step toward affirmative prayer. We do not plead or negotiate, we simply acknowledge all that is good in our lives. In the early 1300s, Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer we ever say in our lives is “Thank You” that will be enough.”
What all three types of prayers above have in common is that they see God – Source, the Essence, Spirit – as something outside of us. There is the Divine and then, across the great, unbridgeable divide, is us – humanity. We are weak, on bended knee and the God we pray to is all-powerful with the ability to give … or withhold … depending on it’s mood. We toss our prayers into an empty abyss and wait … hoping … that we receive a reply.
Affirmative prayer was developed and used by the New Thought movement beginning in the late 1880s. The premise of this type of prayer is that we are not separate from the Divine but that the Essence of Life moves in, as, and through us. We are, in fact, expressions of God with free will and choice. We can choose to be powerful or powerless, we can choose to be mindful or mindless, we can choose to be joyful or joyless.
Affirmative prayer is a process in which we recognize the Divine, its manifold qualities, and we recognize those qualities as already existing in, as, and through ourselves.
If you are not familiar with New Thought or affirmative prayer, I’ve just offered you some very challenging concepts to consider. Next week we’ll start with step 1 of the affirmative prayer process – so this week, I recommend that you spend some time thinking and writing about this post. What appeals to you? What repulses you? What makes you want to argue? What makes you tear up? What feels right in the depths of your heart?
Give yourself the gift of beginning to develop a new relationship with the Divine.
As always, please leave questions or thoughts below in the comments.
This prayer is from Ernest Holmes, founder of the Centers for Spiritual Living.
I turn my thought to Joy, which I now is vibrating through all Life. Through my own being, in my innermost mind and heart, I reach deep into Infinite Being and hear the Song of Gladness that sings through all manifestations of Life. I know that It also sings in me as I give it expression.
I feel the pulse of Life in all the harmony of form around me – in tree and flower and grass, in blue sky and clouds, in the beauty of evening sunset – wherever I look, I hear and feel the underlying joyous note that Life sings and that comes to its culmination in Spirit made manifest through each being.
Now, deep within my innermost being, I attune myself to Divine Consciousness that I truly am. I permit the perfect idea of me to manifest, to flow forth into expression. I know that I, a perfect expression of the Essence of Life, cannot contain grief, sadness, or inharmony. I know that in my true Self — I Am Joy, I Am the Essence of Life.
My life is buoyant, vivacious, sparkling, free. It contains all good. It is Unity, Perfection, Love. And so I know that nothing can make me – the Real Me – sad or dejected or heavy-hearted.
And so it is.
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