Prayer and meditation are simple pleasures that bring us a sense of calm relief, and help us find our center. The two methods work in beautifully similar ways, but they aren’t the same. I once heard the difference wonderfully articulated: During prayer we talk to our higher power, usually asking for something—when we meditate, our higher power speaks to us.
It’s often said that God, or our higher power, listens to all our prayers, and answers them, but sometimes that answer is “Uh uh.” The more fascinating question, though, is: When we meditate, do we listen? Are we open to messages coming to us through our spiritual conduit, our higher power, our God? Experts in such matters say that our spiritual ears can be opened, but it isn’t going to happen overnight.
In all religions, practitioners are expected to believe that everything they experience is managed by God, and so, praying for your own needs is pretty redundant. Doesn’t God know what you want or need? The Meditation Society explains that learning to pray for others is a sign of spiritual advancement. As you grow, your prayer energy goes to those who need intercession. You don’t clutter God’s day with personal needs.
The Institute for World Peace through Prayer and Meditation quotes retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby: “…any time any one of us prays for another, it places into the universe positive power that no one can quantify, nor should they try to do so. Prayer, however, has value beyond that, since it also helps each of us to escape our own web of self-oriented concerns, making us more whole and more human. Prayer is so much more than adult letters to Santa Claus.”
Turn your thinking to meditation now. The goal is to quiet your busy mind and watch thoughts disappear silently down an untroubled river. You don’t organize your mind or worry about framing anything in words. You’re looking to open your mind, empty it out, and let it become a vessel to receive spiritual bounty. The closer you get to that state, the more centered you become.
Setting the stage for a session of prayer or meditation is pretty similar. We remove distractions and noise. We sit quietly in a sacred place, turning our gaze inward. We learn to silently see ourselves as part of the Universe and to recognize our smallness. In prayer, we form the right spiritual message to send along. In meditation, we listen. If we can let go, stop controlling, and be open, we hear (or even feel) guidance from our spirit world.
When you’re advanced and spiritually mature, you realize that you don’t have to say anything at all in prayer. Talk less. Listen more. Prayer merges with meditation. You become completely quiet, and are truly ready to receive. Both prayer and meditation bring health, de-stress life, and grow your spiritual bounty. As we practice, we focus less on self, more on selflessness. The Buddha, the Dalai Lama and Christ must have known what they were talking about.