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How Should You Pray?

There are as many approaches to prayer as there are people in this planet. And, despite what experts say, there is no right and wrong way to pray. One way is to look at prayer as a communication between you and the supreme being. The relationship is similar to that of a father and child. William Carr Peel, in his book, 'What God Does When Men Pray', cites the following distorted approaches to prayer:
  • The Spare Tire Approach - Use prayer for emergency needs. You pray when you are in trouble.
  • The Stained Glass Approach - The prayer requires certain "right" formulas and especially "Thee" and "Thou" of Elizabethan English.
  • The Blue Book Approach - God is perceived as similar to a college professor who grades on the number of pages you fill. The more words, the more apt God is to respond.
  • The Monte Hall Approach - "God, let's make a deal. If you answer my prayer and give me this, I will do this (pay so much to church, donate such and such to church, etc.).
  • The Aladdin's Lamp Approach - The God is seen as a celestial genie. Rub Him the right way, and He'll grant your wish.
  • The Wrestling Match Approach - God is forcefully reminded of His promises and obligations.
There are no hard-and-fast rules, no right or wrong, although some images of God may prove to be more effective than others. Dossey suggests that you begin by clearing away any preconceptions you may have about prayer. "Most people think prayer is this: Talking out loud to a white, male parent figure who prefers to be addressed in English. More Americans have this image of prayer than any other, and it's horribly inadequate.

The style, content, and location of your praying is entirely up to you. You can pray silently or out loud; in the shower, in a hammock, at the ironing board, or in the boardroom. You can invent your own prayer or recite from a book. You can pray in a word, a whisper, a plea, a song. Above all, pray from your heart.

Gandhi, father of India, said of prayer: Prayer is the very core of man's life.

It is either petitional or, in its wider sense, is inward communication. In either case, the ultimate result is the same. Even when it is petitional, the petition should be for the cleansing and purification of the soul, for freeing it from the layers of ignorance and darkness that envelops it.

Prayer is no mere exercise of words or of the ears, it is no mere repetition of empty formula. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. It must be in clear response to the spirit which hungers for it.

Prayer is the only means of bringing orderliness and peace and repose in our daily acts. Take care of the vital things and the other things will take care of themselves.

If you begin your day with prayer, make it so soulful that it may remain with you until the evening. Close the day with prayer so you may have a peaceful night free from dreams and nightmares. Do not worry about the forms of prayer. Let it be any form, it should be such as can put us into communion with the Divine. Only, whatever be the form, let not the spirit wander while the words of prayer run on out of your mouth.

A heartfelt prayer is not a recital with the lips. It is a yearning from within which expresses itself in every word, every act, nay, every thought of man. When an evil thought successfully assails him, he may know that he has offered but a lip service to prayer."

Peel says that "prayer is simply a conversation between a child and his Father - verbal or non-verbal, formal or informal, public or private- concerning the topic of child's choosing. It takes no special training, no specific language, no specific formula, no certain place or posture. No topic is off limits. The child of God can pray anywhere, any place, any time, about anything."

"All types of prayer appear to work," says Jeffrey S. Levin, Ph.D., associate professor of family and community medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. "Some people offer a very directed prayer to a Father God asking that someone be healed. Others send their love or feel empathy for the person who is ill."

Empathy, in fact, is the key element in prayer, say Dr. Levin and Dr. Dossey.

"There has to be caring," says Dr. Dossey. "The desire for recovery has to be genuine, authentic and deeply felt. It has to come from a feeling of love and compassion."

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