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Prayer and the Spiritual Journey

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.”                   — Abraham Heshel

Prayer can mean to some, “a conscious contact with God as we understood him,” which is important in one’s recovery or quest toward personal growth.  There are many ways to pray and each of us has a style that uniquely expresses our spirituality.  Meditation or even the singing of a hymn are examples of any number of ways in which people pray.  Once we open ourselves to the Universe and the concept of something out there larger than ourselves, we can get comfortable with our own way of praying.  It may mean leaving past ways behind.  Maybe we’ve been used to prayer that relied only on words.  Perhaps we used to pray for what we wanted, making sure we told God precisely what was best for us and everybody else.  Or maybe we didn’t pray at all because we didn’t know how to, or were afraid.

I remember growing up in the Lutheran church, Missouri synod and having to attend confirmation class every Saturday morning, grades 6 through 8.  I still remember our pastor teaching us “how to pray.”  According to this pastor, we first had to tell God how sorry we were for all of our sins, original (sin that comes along with every human) and those we knew we had committed. Then we were to humbly ask for God’s forgiveness.  Next we had to praise God; tell him how wonderful we knew him to be and how much we loved him.  Finally, we could ask for what we needed, with the understanding that only God knows what is truly best for us.  Lastly, we were to thank God for all he has done for us and that which we hope for him to do in the future.

No other song, no other prayer, no other piece of liturgy is so well-known and loved in my Unitarian Universalism church home as “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade.  In six short lines “Spirit of Life” touches so much that is central one’s need to communicate with our Higher Power: compassion, justice, community, freedom, reverence for nature, and the mystery of life. It finds the common ground held by humanists and theists, pagans and Christians, Buddhists and Jews, gay and straight among us.

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Thankfully, we don’t need to worry about how to pray; the Universe shows us how.  We must however, be willing to move from the everyday world to a place where it is just the Universe and us. It is an exciting part of one’s spiritual journey to develop new ways to pray, trusting our relationship with the Universe to deepen the experience.  What matters most is that we give ourselves to it.  When our prayers are from the heart, we know it, and are at peace.

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Make Every Attempt to Live Life by the Golden Rule

“My life is… a mystery which I do not attempt to understand, as though I were led by the hand in a night where I see nothing, but can fully depend on the Love and Protection of Him who guides me.” – Thomas Merton

When I laugh, God laughs. When I weep, God weeps. When I need, God says, “Yes.”

 

I have come to know that there are many ways to express spirituality and know that the Universe is showing me my way. Spirituality is not defined only as religion. Spirituality is the yearning of the heart toward something larger than ourselves and the wish to leap the chasm that divides us from the infinite to the eternal.

For some, spiritual expression is a shout of gratitude and praise. For others, it is a journey through a desert, darkness or frozen tundra. For still others, it is a search that happens unconsciously, without their really being aware of it. As I continue to grow personally, my progress depends on a spiritual life lived each day and must be true to my spirituality. I must trust it, no matter how difficult the journey. Nothing is too great for the Universe’s unconditional love – not addiction, not fear nor unwillingness. One’s happiness matters to the Universe, who loves us and leads us through life.