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The Power of Prayer

Some years ago the pop singer Cat Stevens got into difficulty swimming in the sea. Fearing he would drown, in desperation he prayed: "if you help me God, I'll work for you." A big wave followed, carrying Stevens to safety. Keeping to his word Cat Stevens began a period of study and reflection resulting in his conversion to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam.

Prayer has long been important to humankind and continues to be employed by the billions of followers of organized religion, but what exactly is prayer?

Prayer is similar to, but distinct from, meditation. Both require the focus of the mind, but in prayer we deliberately try to connect to some higher intelligence - let's call it "God" for the purpose of communication of our humble message.

The classic image of prayer is the child kneeling at the foot of their bed, hands clasped, eyes closed and head bowed. Symbolizing respect for a greater power than oneself this is certainly no bad way to pray. But we can also pray walking along the street, waiting for a train, or just about anywhere else we choose.

Tried and tested prayers such as the Christian Lord's Prayer have been provided as models. There is no harm in using these prayers, so long as they are said with feeling and not just robotically repeated from rote learning. Such prayers have been used by so many over so long that they have built an associated energy, which is invoked whenever they are said with true feeling.

Using our own words, alone or in combination with an established prayer, has added potency. One or more periods of meditation or quiet reflection will often reveal the words to be used. Using the same words over time allows them to build an energy of their own, however this applies only when the words are said with feeling. Rote repetition is just a waste of time and energy. Your personal prayer may change over time, and also on an ad hoc basis in response to current circumstances.

Sometimes prayer consists merely of acknowledging the presence of a force superior to ourselves. More often it is a request to that higher power for help. This may be help in the form of guidance, help in making the right choices, or even help in bringing about desired conditions, or material wealth.

There is no harm is asking for material things in our prayers, but such requests should be made alongside our expression of love and thanks to the supreme ultimate and compassion for others, either those known to us, or all living beings in general. A mere shopping list of the latest "must haves" is unlikely to be granted.

In asking for ourselves we should always be willing to give something back. If asking for the success of our latest business venture, our prayer should also be that we provide excellence to our clients.

Prayer alone is unlikely to yield results without conscious effort on our part. It's no use asking for business success unless we're also prepared to work damned hard to create the conditions for that success.

We must remember that this life is but a tiny part of the greater reality. We are here to learn, and while God or Spirit (the names are interchangeable) will make our conditions as comfortable as possible, we will not be allowed to escape our life purpose merely for the asking.

Sometimes our prayers are answered promptly and in the manner envisaged. An example of such a prayer would be Cat Steven's rescue plea. Other prayers receive a delayed, or oblique response. Rather than a prayer for money leading to a check in the next post, it may yield an opportunity, that if worked at, will yield much money over a long period.

Even apparently unanswered prayers do not go unheard. Every prayer creates an energy that is transmitted into the ether and absorbed by the universal consciousness more commonly known as Spirit, or "God".

Unanswered prayers are not evidence of our inability to pray properly, or of the weakness of God. It is useful to employ the Christian imagery of God as a loving father. Good fathers always listen to their children, but they don't necessarily fulfill their every wish. Sometimes the granting of a wish may be detrimental to the child's long-term well-being and progress. Sometimes getting what is prayed for may defeat the purpose of incarnation.

In crisis, even confirmed atheists may pray for deliverance. The real value of prayer is not in making contact with Spirit, since in actuality Spirit is alongside us 24/7. It's real value is setting the path to be followed in our subconscious mind while confirming this desire to the infinite ultimate that is God.

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