I had a moment of clarity the other day. I had been working hard on making positive intentions that would guide my life going forward. I realized that these intentions were actually the core of prayer.
A lot of people usually view prayer as a communal religious activity. Many view it as a spiritual practice that is very private. It happens to be both. Liturgical prayer is public and tends to be formulaic, a dialogue between the minister, people gathered, and God. Sometimes public prayer takes the form of individuals adding aloud to the list of intentions.
Private prayer can be as individual as each person’s temperament and personality. Contemplation is a heartfelt reflection on a written word or an event. Meditation focuses on clearing the mind of chatter. Private prayer can also include the recitation of rote formulae, such as the rosary or the use of prayer books. It becomes a kind of mantra.
I’ve discovered that prayer is not simply begging from our Higher Power. We often yell up: “God, help me!” This may be enough in a sudden moment of confusion or danger. It is not enough though. At some point we need to clarify our deepest desire in that moment.
Prayer is being conscious of our deepest intention and mindful in expressing it, in words, in feelings, or in silence. Intention is our personal resolution for us or for a situation to move forward toward resolution. Sometimes resolution takes a circuitous and spiraling path. That’s okay. Intention is an action we take as the first step toward doing what is necessary to bring about the resolution.
When we put our intention “out there” we are mingling our lives more deeply with the consciousness of the universe that is outside of our time and space. For many of us this includes the spirits who have gone before us, angels, and God. By joining in the universal consciousness we are asking all beings to gather their energy to bring about the next good thing in our lives.
Focusing on intention helps me to identify the quality of my prayer. It requires me to be totally honest with myself as a starting point. Is my intention selfish or simply self-caring? Am I intending the best, even for my enemy? Am I expecting a miracle from above, or am I making the miracle come about through my efforts? Am I focused on what I want in this moment or am I trying to control the future? Is my heart pure or am I feeling manipulative?
Prayer from the heart through intentional desire means keeping my prayer short, direct, and clear. And then I just let it go. My intention takes on a life of its own. In trust I believe it will return to me in kind. I can now go about my day, released from fear and stress, believing I am on the right path, until a new intention arises in my heart to redirect me.
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