Prayer has been one of those many things in my life that I did because someone told me to do it but never really understood the meaning behind it. We prayed before meals and sometimes before we went to bed at night. We prayed in church, but there was never any meaning to it for me. A big part of that was that I had no understanding of God. I saw pictures of other people’s ideas of what God looked like, but I had no clue what God was or why we were praying to God. I’m not going to pretend that I completely understand it now, but I do know that it feels different to me now than it ever has before. Prayers now are more like a conversation with a good friend, or even a part of me that I love and that loves me back unconditionally. Prayers now come from an open heart and an open mind.
That said, there are so many ways to pray that I’m only going to cover a few of them here.
Haha! I’m not sure that’s the right word for them, but that’s what came out when I typed it, so we’re going with it. Preformulated prayers for me are the ones that they teach us at church or that we read from a book. It’s a prayer that has been prayed many times before that has a proven track record. These are not my preferred method because I prefer to pray from the heart. These work for a lot of people, though, and maybe repetition is key? So, let’s look at a couple of examples:
Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
(traditional Matthean version)
I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve recited this prayer in and out of church and have never actually taken the time to look at the words and understand what it’s about. Maybe that’s why these don’t work for me! Heehee! Oops…let’s look at another one that actually has worked for me:
May I be filled with loving-kindness
May I be well
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be happy
I heard this for the first time in a meditation class with Rebecca Carey here in Nashville, who is an amazing little being. Since then, I found it again in Jack Kornfield’s book, A Path with Heart, which is a good read if you haven’t read it yet. This is one that has become a mantra for me when I’m feeling down or anxious. It brings me back into my heart faster than anything else that I’ve found, and that’s the goal for all of this if I haven’t expressed that yet. I use my mala for repetitions and usually by the time I get to the guru bead. If you don’t know what a mala is, it’s the predecessor to a rosary. If you don’t know what either of those are, Google it.
Affirmations when used like this can be a “fake it til you make it” type deal. I AM is the name for God, so affirmations are basically affirming that you possess those God qualities that you desire. They are already inside you. Inside all of us. We just have to align with them. By saying “I AM…”, it is aligning us with those qualities that we desire. My favorite is “I AM light and love.” You can do it with anything, though. Give it a shot in the comments below.
Mantras are basically prayers that you repeat a certain number of times (using a mala or rosary) or for a certain length of time using a timer. They can be in English or any other language that you identify with. There are a lot of really great ones in Sanskrit that yogis use. I’ll list some of my favorites below.
Om Shanti Om
Prayer for Peace
Om Namah Shivaya
Prayer for uniting with the lord of all lords
Om Gum Ganapataya Namaha
Prayer for removing obstacles (also grounding)
Any of the mantras can be chanted or sung as well as spoken. I love music and love the vibrations created when singing, so I personally love this method. It really vibrates with me, and who doesn’t want good vibrations?? There are a lot of kirtans popping up in Nashville, so there might be in your city, too. Kirtans are basically call and response chanting. So, there’s a kirtan leader who will sing, “Om Namah Shivaya,” and the crowd will repeat back, “Om Namah Shivaya” in the same tune as the leader. It’s a lot of fun, builds a lot of energy, and clears a lot of funk out for me personally. If there’s not a kirtan happening near you, you can find recorded versions online. Some of my favorites are Prajna Viera, Krishna Das, Chant Ram (album coming soon!) and Amy Barnes. If you have a favorite Bhakti Yogi kirtani, post it in the comments below.
We’ll see how spunky I’m feeling today, and we will either sing or chant on Facebook Live.
Thank you for joining me on this adventure, and I’m so grateful that I can share these tools with you that I’ve learned. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me in my lifetime!
I bless you with the peace and ease you need in this holiday season.