Prayer is such a loaded word. Rife with varied images of pious devotees: crouched by the bedside, night-gowned knees uncomfortable on cold hardwood floors; row upon row of Sunday worshipers, heads bowed over thick bound books, surrounded by windows of painted glass depicting stories found on the pages in hand; head east and crowds bow in unison, sending their hearts and prayers towards the Kaaba of holy Mecca.
Prayer can seem confined to the expectations of an ancient lineage that may feel as distant as it may be old.
My relationship to prayer has shifted drastically over the years. Coming from an I-think-we’re-religious-because-we-go-to-church family, I never really connected with the concept. We prayed at the dinner table on “special occasions,” when the whole extended family gathered for holidays, and oftentimes these were prayers of gratitude and recognizing the good fortune of our family.
In my own time I came to know prayer as an angsty teen, panicking over my latest and greatest heartbreak, sobbing to a “God” I only thought of on Sundays, and when shit really hit the fan. Throwing myself with expertly crafted dramatic flair at the foot of my bed when I felt the world was against me. During those moments, prayer was in the form of a presumptuous teenager bossing around a scraggly ancient dude in the sky, who was obviously NOT paying attention to my dire situation.
A couple years ago I found myself in an entirely different type of sobbing mess, and turning to prayer. Huddled under the kitchen table for what felt like the 100th time that month, I kept asking “What is WRONG with me?!” I had been shaken to my core by meeting someone I can only now recognize was a Divine Appointment meant to jolt me awake. (Side note, it worked.) This time though there was no sandal-wearing, No-Shave November champion looking down from the clouds to whom I turned to. I had long since given up on the images imparted to me from my Children’s Bible. I’d given up on the concepts of being religious too.
But here I was, cowering under a table, when I realized I needed FAITH. In what? I had no idea in that moment. Faith had always been besties with prayer, so reaching in that direction felt like pawing through muddy water – trying to separate the silt, knowing full well that their coexistence was no mistake.
So as I regained my footing over the following months (and crawled out from under the table), I began to wade into the muddy pool. Realizing meditation, yoga, and other “woo-y” experiments helped to calm the waters. At one point I heard somewhere the idea that prayer is talking to God; Meditation is listening.
So the conversations began.
I decided it was “The Universe” I would talk to, and The Universe I would listen to. I began to realize the conversation continued outside of moments on my meditation pillow, moments I would come to refer to as “Winks from the Universe.” Those fabulous moments of awareness showing that some kind of higher power is at play.
This is the prayer space I have lived in the past three years, slowly navigating my way through my relationship to Faith, and even coming to an oddly comfortable space with the word God.
Until recently, when in a moment of quiet connection, all other thoughts stopped and I realized that I’ve been praying to a masculine “Universe.” There’s been an inherent “dude energy” to the one I’ve been in conversation with. And while I cannot tell you how I knew this to be true, the moment the feeling stepped forward, I knew I needed something different.
Months of time and space devoted over the past nine months to reconnecting to Pachamama had created a new sense of ease and comfort with the Divine Feminine, the Shakti, as I had never known before. Always intimidated and unsure of what a Motherly figure in the highest sense could be like, I had avoided her.
But now, now she feels like home.
Recent travels abroad where I spent days roaming through a steaming jungle, surrounded by brilliant green life and the food we ate at each meal. Further south I met her again in the heat of the temazcal sweat lodge, and around the sacred ceremony fire. Coming back to the states, she called to me again from the flowers on a hilltop, where I have been in “school” with her ever since.
And most recently, in the stories of the Magdalen. Whisperings of Alchemy, and unconditional Love. She sits on my altar, watching over; maybe it was her voice who offered up the Mother as a new chance for connection and conversation. A new listener of prayers, and a voice of Faith.
It is always changing, this practice of prayer. At least if it is allowed to change, to morph, to adapt with our own evolution. We find new ways of connecting with ourselves, and in turn, the one who witnesses may change too. But only in our thoughts, in our beliefs of the appearance, in the way we reach out through the void, sifting through the mud. It is our choice to engage It, or not, to allow It in, or shut It out
The details of WHO hardly matter. It is perhaps more a question of DO. Do you feel the peace of something greater? Do you find a way to keep this connection through your shifting life experiences, and can you stay in contact, in communication even when you are not desperate – when you can seek the highest questions, not just comfort for the sobbing heap moments.
All of the experiences of the connection are valid, and so often the discourse and disagreements are based on who you turn to to create the conversation.
My prayer is that you have that conversation, that you have that chance to connect. My prayer is that you know there is a someone, a something who listens closely, and speaks to you in Love; without an ounce of judgement if the form you see It as shows Itself to you in the embrace of the great Mother, or as a scraggly bearded dude riding a cloud. This is my prayer for you.