Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Giving Up Prayers

A Praying Buddha in my Meditation Garden

A few years ago I decided to give up praying. Well, not exactly - I still pray, but in a very different way than I did in the past.

For most of my life I offered prayers of intercession for my own needs and the needs of others. I prayed that I would get a particular job. I prayed that my son would get into the college he wanted to attend.  I prayed for hundreds and hundreds of friends and parishioners - praying for anything from cures for cancer to good weather for a picnic. 

Then a few years ago, I stopped praying in this way for several reasons.   First of all, my image of God no longer fit into this form of prayer. I don't think of God as a grand heavenly "wish-granter" in the sky- granting the petitions of some people, and either ignoring or denying the requests of others. 

I also stopped sending God my list of petitions because I decided I shouldn't be telling God what to do.  The kind of traditional praying I used to do was, in a large measure, a subtle way in which I was in control and not God - "God, here is my list of things I want done, please grant my requests."

But I stil pray every day, and I still pray for people. I am a committed Christian but the way I pray nowadays has been greatly inspired by the Buddhist tradition. 

I sit in my meditation garden and in silence allow myself to be aware that everything and everyone is all dynamically connected - all dwelling in the Abiding Presence of the God in whom we live and move and have our being.

Then in my mind's eye I lift myself and others into the abiding light of this Holy Presence.  I don't tell this Divine Presence what "I" want to happen, I simply lift people and events into the light. I picture particular faces - faces of people I know who are suffering. I picture victims of disaster - bombings, tornadoes, fires; and as  I lift up these faces into the light, I realize that God wants more for us than we can possibly ask or desire, so nothing more needs to be said. 

A few days ago,  I was reading a book about "Buddhist Christianity" in which the author offered a suggestion for applying a Buddhist prayer practice to Christian prayer. 

In some traditions, Buddhist monks gather for silence and chanting mantras, and at the end of their prayer time they sum it all up by chanting a mantra/prayer that the energy of  "loving-kindnesss" might rest upon all beings. 

This prayer really resonated with me - a very fitting way to end my new way of praying every day:

May all beings have happiness, and the causes of happiness.
May all be free from sorrow, and the causes of sorrow.
May all beings be filled with joy and peace.
May all beings everywhere,
the strong and the weak, the great and the small,
the mean and the powerful, the short and the long:
May all beings everywhere,
seen and unseen,  dwelling far off or nearby,
being or waiting to become:
may all be filled with lasting joy.

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