Pray to Live in Prayer

Pray to Live in Prayer May 4, 2023

Do People Pray?

Yes, they do. A lot of them do.

Skylight and City Square Associates conducted a recent survey, and it turns out that many people in America are praying. I think more people are praying than we might imagine.

The survey was conducted from April 6 to April 17 on a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18-64. It is one of the most in-depth surveys of its kind on prayer.

The results show that folks are praying in all kinds of locations:

Where people pray graphic



For all kinds of reasons.

What we pray for graphic

In all kinds of ways 

Objects Used graphic

What is prayer, after all? Why does anyone do it?

My first experience with any form of extended prayer was as a young boy whose whole reality was teetering on getting a Spirograph from Santa Claus. I was certain that receiving this bonanza of a gift depended entirely on whether I had – on average – been a good enough boy over the previous year.

I see this as prayer in its most basic form because it seems to me that prayer is motivated by desire. If we didn’t want to feel better or want someone else to feel better, or want a deeper connection with the divine, why would we bother? And if this desire is at first selfish – well, why not? We gotta start somewhere!

          Image by thanks for your likes from Pixaby

Is Joy Prayer?

There was a time when this same Spirograph-motivated boy and his two younger sisters went to church every Sunday. Not with my parents. They said it was to expose us to church so that we could make our own choice. I think it was so they could sleep in on Sunday. We lived in the tiny town of Barrington, Nova Scotia, and we had a kind, auntly neighbor who would pick us up in her banana-yellow Nova every Sunday morning. That was the day I had to wear the red sweater my Nana had hand-knitted and a pair of shiny brown shoes from the second-hand store.

We went to a tall white church that stood straight up into a high, narrow steeple with a cross on the top. The old building sat before a graveyard surrounded by knotted old apple trees. People had been walking into this place for over a hundred years. The four of us entered through the massive, ornate brown wooden doors that swung outwards and scuttled around until we found our place on the long wooden benches, hoping to sit next to a friend. At some point, the minister would emerge from the back, surrounded by the all-consuming sound of the pipe organ. He wore a white gown and seemed old and brittle to me, and spoke words in monotone from a big book that he kept looking at.

I was always somewhat in awe of the space itself but certainly wasn’t paying any real attention to the minister other than behaving like an attentive boy, probably to ensure I could get an additional bounty on the coming Christmas.

Besides, once the adult stuff went on for long enough, the children could go downstairs, make noise and marvel at the big books. They were filled with paintings of glorious sun-pierced clouds and the holy people with golden halos flying out of them to enjoy visits with the common cow herders. It looked like a magical time in those books.

What is unclear to me is how I ended up in the choir. I just don’t remember how it happened. There is a missing section in the videotape. It skips from the enthralling art in the Sunday school books to me pulling a white frilly gown over my head and looking down to see my brown shoes peek out at the bottom of the dress. The cloakroom smelled like old wood and mothballs. In my memory, I am standing in the cloakroom, and then I am transported to singing something on the big stage. I don’t recall the walk in between. But what I remember very clearly is this – and if I go there now with my eyes closed, I can still feel it in my body – I remember trying really darn hard, and I think oftentimes failing, not to burst out in laughter as my best friend made faces at me from the pews.

The connection with Sandy, my best friend ever, is what I remember. It was intense. Wanting to look him in the eyes but being afraid to, knowing that it was a serious danger – I was borderline bubbling over with mirth.

And after all the years I have spent being so serious about my spiritual practice, I think that maybe, just maybe, that love between Sandy and me – that was the whole point. That was a real prayer. The longing to connect mixed with fear of being exposed as a human boy unsure of what he was doing in a gown on stage at a church singing words he didn’t understand.

Although I would never have admitted anything like “Looovve, eewwww” back then, I see now that it was love in the form of unconditional friendship between two would-be Tom Sawyers, and the giggles were a big part of it.

Here is a link to more info on my classes and podcasts

Do we really need all the seriousness?

As time passed, Christmases came and went, along with the many toys I prayed to receive, and new priorities surfaced. Meditation began to flourish, and a new relationship with prayer started to flower.  It was an internal event of vines wrapping their tendrils around my heart, squeezing me into a different shape. It took its time, and it took me with it. I can thankfully tell you that all the business-like seriousness I brought to my spiritual practice for years eventually fizzled out. It couldn’t sustain itself in the light of joy that broke through and took a seat. I have learned that seriousness is useful up to a point, and then it’s in the way. If we aren’t careful, it will steer us away from the big prize: joy for no apparent reason!

Joy, the great teacher

I teach yoga. I love this practice. If you allow it to happen, it is a beautiful joining of the earth and the divine. One night I was teaching a full class, and a new student was struggling to do the poses correctly, but, against all logic, she was lit up with joy throughout the class. Near the end, I had everyone on the floor breathing deeply and releasing tension in a counter-intuitive pretzel twist pose. Most everyone was quiet, closed eyes, probably having a very nice meditative time, except for this girl. Her eyes were wide open in a sparkle on top of her smile, and she was doing the twist entirely wrong. Her body was hooked and angling off opposite my instruction, but the glow from her face and the twinkle in her eye was unavoidable, and I felt a gentle flash of cloud-to-ground lightning inside me as our eyes met. I stood over her, in curious awe, with logical business hands ready to correct her pose. But I couldn’t. A wiser part of myself wouldn’t allow me to invade the effervescent joy bubble she occupied. I could only enjoy the moment, laugh a little, and say, “Never mind, what you’re doing is perfect.” Something told me she was on to something I had yet to learn.


I attend church every Sunday now, playing guitar and singing in the worship band. For me, singing is the prayer. The worship. I feel more connected to something mysterious that keeps us all joined at the heart than when we all sit, eyes cast downwards, and say the Lord’s Prayer in a low murmur.

I’ve never felt like I am praying very well if the prayer is led by someone else. I always feel like I’m closing my eyes and someone is praying for me. I am not engaged. And frankly, I feel a little foolish.

If I’m not moved to pray, I always feel awkward at church when it is time for everyone to pray on cue.

But when I am alone in meditation, I am there to pray. I am there to do whatever it takes to bring my humanity closer to its absolute dissolution into the divine. I am into it. I have a good time.

Here is a link to my previous post on who can benefit from meditation

Praying Solo is a hit


But praying for others is a home run

I can’t say with certainty that my meditations or prayers have helped anyone else, but I know for certain that they help me. They have shown me a place inside of myself that is not wrapped up in the hurried-up details of life, and that place is always there if I only look in that direction.

I noticed a big difference in how I felt in prayer/meditation and life as soon as I learned to direct my focus toward others. I learned this through Buddhism, but I could have learned that in any spiritual path. It’s not just a Buddhist thing.

Many individuals who have experienced the beauty of following a path that makes sense to them have traversed through the uncertain and often difficult paths that lead to our innermost sanctums. Throughout this journey, they have undertaken it with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose and ultimately realize that we are all fundamentally the same at the core of our being. Our inherent right is to possess an indescribable, infinite well-spring of love and empathy that flows from within us, much like an artesian well. It’s not human, but it’s what makes a human beautiful.

Anyone who has stripped away all that veils their own brilliant essence always comes back with the same report: making the welfare of others a big part of our daily thoughts is not only very rewarding, but it is an essential part of discovering the very source of our continual unconditional happiness.

Here is a link to my Audio Book. Within is a  Seven Limb Prayer in the first session

Pray to stay in prayer?

So how does that link into prayer?

This is my proposition:

It feels good to want something, to hope, even better to want something good for someone else, and better still, to lose yourself in compassion and love for another, wishing fervently that they receive every blessing and live a rich, fulfilled life.

The wish to see everyone in your life open and flourish may or may not bless another person, but it certainly changes us from the inside out. And if we can become beautiful, compassionate people in this hard world of trials and share that with others, isn’t that positively impacting our world? If it isn’t, I don’t know what is.

And getting back to my main point: what if prayer isn’t so much about the future result but about staying in prayer itself? Like the push and pull between Sandy and me in the church or the girl doing all the poses wrong in the yoga class.


                                                                                      Image by dana279 from Pixaby



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