Prayer vs. Meditation

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven …”

Those were the words my siblings and I spoke every night before bed. It was the beginning of a prayer of supplication (request): Please God, feed me and don’t let anything bad happen to me — typical Catholic fare.

In those days, God for me was a sort of Santa Claus in a white robe — an old guy with a white beard and a checklist of who’s been good and who’s been bad. How else would he know which prayers to answer? Later, I struggled with a more basic question: is prayer heard at all? Many hold this question in their hearts and go mute. I think, over the years, people shy away from prayer because they feel resentful about an authority figure who is obviously holding out on them. I was one of those people.

For me, that changed when I learned to meditate. There are some who say, “when you pray, you speak to God, and when you meditate, God speaks to you.” Maybe so. I do know that when I learned to meditate, I came to a profound realization — a realization that is at the base of almost every religion:

Christianity: Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Judaism: … for the Lord, thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Islam: I am in your own souls! Why see ye not? In every breath of yours, am I.
Buddhist: Every being has the Buddha nature. This is the self.
Hindu: I am the True, the Real, Brahma. That thou art also.

God is within. If we understand this, we also have to know that prayer is instantly heard. This means that making prayer more effective — having what you want — becomes incredibly simple. Once you realize that you are the authority figure, praying becomes something other than supplication to another. It becomes affirmation of Self. So knowing this, why don’t more people pray, and why aren’t more prayers answered?

The truth is, there is a difference between intellectually understanding something and experiencing it. Intellectually, I know that a third glass of wine isn’t good for me, but until I experience the headache I may be tempted to pour …

Intellectually, you can wrap your head around the concept that if God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, then there is nowhere and nothing God is not. And so, yes, you are included in that. Makes perfect sense. But until you experience it, it’s just mood-making. One way to experience the One-ness, the Self, is through meditation. When you close your eyes and allow your mind to drop below Action, below Thought, you touch Being or Pure Consciousness. Having touched that place, prayer becomes simply a statement of how you see your world. You are in control of the wish list.

If you don’t yet meditate, begin to open yourself to the abundance of the ‘all is One’ concept and state: “I AM the divine. I adjust my thinking to include the knowledge that all is One.” Then, pray for what is already rightfully yours.

Here’s the basic difference between meditation and prayer. Meditation is silent and listening, keeping you open to hearing the voice within that names desire. Prayer is that same desire vocalized … and I mean out loud. If you pray silently, your thoughts might wander and you’ll come out of the rumination not sure where you left off or if you even stated your intent! So take action, create your prayer — say it out loud, name your desire, and acknowledge the divine ability within to attain that desire.

Name it in a way that doesn’t indicate lack, but rather confirms what came to you in silent meditation: for instance, don’t say, “I want this in my life” instead say, “I see this in my life.” Here’s the important part: once stated — release the desire — let it wind its way from Pure Consciousness into the world so that it can find a way to manifest.

I also believe that like meditation, which should be practiced regularly, prayer, in order to fully bloom, is best spoken on a regular basis. Oh, and don’t limit the return. When you state your desire, tack this phrase on the end: “or better.” “I see this or better in my life.” No need to limit the universal Self.

Sanora Bartels is an independent teacher of Vedic Meditation working with individuals to sustain balance and achieve success in all areas of life. Her training included a year of study that took her from Los Angeles, California to Rishikesh, India to Flagstaff, Arizona.

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