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What Prayer Means To Me

International Yoga Day. June 21, 2018. Mysore, India

The word pray is defined as addressing a solemn request or expression of thanks to a deity or other object of worship. But many people, myself included, have this distorted view of the word pray and the actual act of praying. I wasn’t expose to any real religious practices growing up. I wasn’t raised in a religious household and only had my Bar Mitzvah because my Grandmother wanted me to. My opinions on praying and prayer were from things that I read, movies that I watched, or from word of mouth accounts from my friends.

What does prayer look like to you? I know for myself, it used to invoke this image of somebody kneeling in a church, a temple, a mosque, or some type of religious building with their eyes closed speaking softly to themselves. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that this isn’t a form of prayer, because it definitely is. What I am trying to say is that I truly believe that it’s not the only form of prayer.

In today’s world we’ve been conditioned, or rather, I have been conditioned, without hesitation, to perceive prayer as this specific type of action or concept. This mentality, for the longest time, kept me close-minded towards the whole idea of praying. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the rooms of recovery, via a rehab facility, where I started to understand the actual meaning of prayer. Where I really started to grasp the driving force and the true essence behind praying.

It wasn’t this stereotypical or cliché act that I had been accustomed to. Instead, it was explained to me that praying could be viewed as a much more relaxed and unconventional experience, completely unique to the individual. Once I understood this, it felt like this wall, this barrier that surrounded me for so many years, had been broken down. This imaginary boundary that kept me stuck was no longer an issue. It’s as if this slight change in perspective opened up a whole new way of thinking that removed this lifelong roadblock and allowed me to start a conversation with my higher power.

And that’s all it is. A conversation. When you strip away all the labels, all the constructs, all the societal pressures surrounding prayer, there is nothing left but the words. Words that stem from our thoughts, that may come from what’s in our hearts, what’s in our heads, or a combination of both. But, it’s extremely important to recognize the real underlying motivation of prayer and the action of praying. It doesn’t have to be something so restrictive that it seems inclusive, and at times, judgmental. Once you shift your mindset away from these outdated thoughts and perceptions and embrace prayer for what it is, a conversation, then and only then, will you free yourself. Then and only then will you no longer accept the longstanding views surrounding prayer.

So, approach prayer with this new found attitude. Truly appreciate it for what it is; a never ending discussion, an open dialogue between you and whatever or whoever you choose to pray to. I choose to pray to my higher power, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow what I believe in and what I hold to be true. You have to do what makes you feel comfortable, what you sincerely believe in. Therefore, don’t get hung up semantics. It doesn’t really matter where you pray or if you follow any particular organized routine or religion. We all don’t have to pray to the same God or the same idea of God, but if you pray, make it genuine. If you pray, make sure you speak with veracity. What matters most is that you remain authentic, express how you feel with brutal honesty, and always be true to yourself. That is what’s most important.

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