praying hands

Image courtesy of By nuchylee, published on 06 January 2011
Stock Photo – image ID: 10026194/

Prayer has been described as a simple movement towards God—–one that works better when things are kept simple (The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living, Father Thomas Keating, 2005). Keeping things simple resonates with the often repeated 12 step phrase “Keep it simple, stupid (KISS).” I like being reminded to keep things simple without referring to myself as stupid—-I have enough trouble maintaining a healthy self concept as it is!

So, how does one keep prayer simple? Is it done by reading a written prayer so one does not have to think about the correct way to word things? Is it better to use traditional “holy” words? Is it important to try to impress others with the way we pray? My personal answer to the last three questions is “no.” But how do I keep prayer simple?

Well, of course, I don’t have the definitive answer to that question; nor do I claim to be an expert about prayer. I have been praying off and on for over 64 years, and I still consider myself a “prayer novice”. However, I do want to discuss some of my opinions and select ideas shared by Father Thomas Keating about the subject:

  • Prayer is about building relationship with God (defined and perceived by the person who is praying
  • “It [prayer] can be a wordless turning or opening of our awareness to God, whom we know is present.” (Keating, 2005, p. 232),
  •  Sometimes the most effective prayer is just being still and “resting in God” in a private place within ourselves (Keating, 2005, p. 299).
  •  “Contemplative prayer, ….is the opening of mind and heart—our whole being—to God beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. Moved by God’s sustaining grace we open our awareness to God, who we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing—closer than consciousness itself.”(Keating, 2005, p. 280).

Entire books about prayer have been written. So, I had best stop trying to list all of the things about prayer that I think are important. When I was a child I took things literally, and for a long time I thought I was supposed to go into a closet to pray (I had probably heard this in a Sunday school lesson). As I grew, my prayers became more personal, and I moved out of the closet. By the time I graduated from college, I celebrated my oneness with God in prayer in a very personal, hand-in-hand meeting with God in a vision enabled by a one-time only use of LSD. Fortunately, for me, I carried the spiritual lessons learned from that adventure within my soul to fuel my future spiritual growth.

I am not advocating the use of mind altering drugs to build a relationship with God. I have since learned that, as implied above, God was and is within me—-and all I need do is just be still,  and quiet my mind to connect with this sacred part of my being. Drugs are  not needed to connect with the God within me, and they are certainly not needed to share God’s love and message with others.

So, to summarize:  Prayer is about quieting myself and opening my awareness so I can be receptive to God. That means, for me, prayer is as much about listening as it is asking or thanking God for specific things. Prayer is also action. Prayer is almost like dancing with God—-trusting God enough to let God lead so that my  prayer through action can express God’s love and compassion.

Enough about my thoughts on prayer. I hope to hear from some of you about your thoughts on the topic of prayer. Have a blessed day!