Meditation vs. Prayer: A Great Debate

Do the gods whose names I'm invoking get anything out of this? Do they even know I'm doing it since it is not their names spoken aloud and thus is not verbally expressed, as it must be for non-omniscient beings to know of it? While I cannot say categorically that they do not know or hear that I'm doing this, I suspect "not" on both counts (and mean no disrespect whatsoever to the gods concerned in terms of their power or knowledge), and I work with that hypothesis in mind most of the time as I do the practice. Do I get something out of doing this, though? Yes, most certainly. I am reminded throughout of my connection to the gods whose names I am invoking, I receive the peace I have been able to establish with them and I summon the strength I've been able to cultivate from my practices involving them when I do this internal mantra repetition. And, that's useful to me in dealing with my everyday life, as well as making certain practices that I perform at other times with these deities more effective and more grounded than they would be otherwise.

So, as I stated at the beginning of this column, prayer and meditation are not mutually exclusive nor in the least in an antagonistic relationship, and the "great debate" between them only consists of those who think they are opposed and those who simply accept the applicability of each and get on with it, most probably. What I do think is useful in making these distinctions, though, is that people who do these two activities be clear what is they happen to be doing when they are doing each one. If you meditate for three hours daily, but never pray at all, it's probably not accurate to say that the gods are getting much out of your practice. If one prays and prays and prays to the gods all the time, but has no meditative practice, it's very likely that the deep internal "soul work" that is stated as an aim in so much of modern Paganism is not actually being engaged with in one's spiritual life. What areas of your practice that involve prayer are actually meditation, and which areas of your practice that involve meditation are actually prayer? Asking these questions and clarifying which one is which in the various situations of your spiritual life might end up making both your prayer and your meditation far more effective.

2/10/2012 5:00:00 AM
  • Pagan
  • Queer I Stand
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Paganism
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    About Alonzo L. Gaskill
    Alonzo L. Gaskill is an author, editor, theologian, lecturer, and professor of World Religions. He holds degrees in philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. He has authored more than two-dozen books and numerous articles on various aspects of religion; with topics ranging from world religions and interfaith dialogue, to scriptural commentaries, texts on symbolism, sacred space, and ritual, and even devotional literature.